El­ton’s Baroque-it man

Re­search gives mod­ern mu­sic an an­cient twist

BBC Music Magazine - - THE FULL SCORE -

How might Beethoven have played, say, ‘Stair­way to Heaven’? What would ‘Hey Jude’ have sounded like in the hands of Mozart? Re­searchers at Birm­ing­ham City Univer­sity say that they may have the so­lu­tion to such seem­ingly unan­swer­able ques­tions thanks to a new sys­tem that can an­a­lyse the play­ing style of one mu­si­cian and ap­ply it to a song writ­ten by an­other – even if the two lived decades apart. The sys­tem has been de­vel­oped by analysing hours of record­ings of mu­si­cians for their qual­ity of tone, note lengths, stylis­tic quirks etc, then de­vel­op­ing an al­go­rithm that cal­cu­lates how those play­ers might have per­formed other pieces. ‘It could be used to demon­strate how clas­si­cal mu­si­cians like Mozart and Beethoven may have played con­tem­po­rary pieces,’ prom­ises the univer­sity, prompt­ing im­ages of Prog Baroque and Jun­gle Byrd but, cru­cially, stop­ping short of re­veal­ing how the play­ing of mu­si­cians who lived be­fore the era of recorded sound can be an­a­lysed. Un­less the re­searchers have a re­mark­able se­cret up their sleeves? Then we re­ally will have a story…

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