Making Computers Listen to Music

Pranit Chand, October 29, 2019

As a computer science enthusiast, it’s always a fun time to learn more about it from my peers. In my quest I came across a presentation by Nick Creel ’20 (he/him/his), who is also my Computer Science tutor. Last summer, Nick had the opportunity to work at a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) at the University of Rochester, and this was the topic of his presentation. His particular REU was titled “Computational Methods for Understanding Music, Media and Minds,” an interdisciplinary research opportunity involving the fields of computer science and music.

In his presentation, Nick said that he was working to “make computers listen to music, using various algorithm techniques.” He applied some tools called computer audition and audio discourse alignment to make that happen, using data from sheet music and live performances. Practically speaking, while artists are playing live music, a computer can change the light settings according to the notes that are being played using these tools. This seemed intriguing, but what really excited me was Nick’s REU experience.

As Nick explained, REUs are much more independent and project-based than working in a classroom, and take place in a multi-faceted setting. Usually you are picking up on work done by your predecessors, hence challenging your best learning abilities. His experience includes working with graduate students, but there is no hierarchy in such a working environment and everyone is treated equally. Everyone faces the same hurdles and challenges that they need to overcome.

Nick’s advice to people like me, who are looking for REUs, was to start looking early. He also believes that you should be applying to a field that you are passionate about, and one where you could stay dedicated. Nick said that his academics at Marlboro were a huge benefit for him while he was at the lab. He asserted that Marlboro’s encouragement for independent learning assisted him a lot, giving him a slight advantage over his peers, not to mention the excellent support provided by Marlboro faculty. After learning from Nick’s experience, I am looking forward to investigating REUs aligned with my own interests soon.




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  • Nick describes computer audition and audio discourse alignment.

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