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Was Parsons right? An experiment in usability of music representations for melody-based music retrieval

By Alexandra Uitdenbogerd and Yaw Wah Yap


In 1975 Parsons developed his dictionary of musical themes based on a simple contour representation. The motivation was that people with little training in music would be able to identify pieces of music. We decided to test whether people of various levels of musical skill could indeed make use of a text representation to describe a simple melody query. The results indicate that the task is beyond those who are unmusical, and that a scale numeric representation is easier than a contour one for those of moderate musical skill. Further, a common error when using the scale representation still yields a more accurate contour representation than if a user is asked to enter a contour query. We observed an average query length of about seven symbols for the retrieval task.

Topics: Perception and Cognition, IR Systems and Algorithms
Publisher: Johns Hopkins University
Year: 2003
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Provided by: JScholarship
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