A Comparative Analysis of Cretan Folk Songs Using Computers

This project is a comparative study of the ‘musical language’ of Cretan folk songs. There is a wide variety of musical forms on the island, such as wedding songs, many kinds of dances, laments, lullabies, ‘kondylies’, ‘rizitika’ and so on. In addition, every part of Crete has each own musical mode of expression. The study was facilitated by the use of computerised systems for mechanical learning and new algorithms for the unearthing of musical insights, adapted to the structures of Greek folk music, in particular that of Crete. This is the first attempt to study such melodies in a purely theoretical and comparative way, and the first time that new symbolic representations and analogous exploratory methodologies have been used in the field of Greek folk music.

The project was in four stages. First, songs were recorded in Crete, and others were collected from musical archives (such as the Amaryiannaki), other studies, and published sources. Then a means of classification (a MIDI archive) was created, placing the songs in categories and sub-categories according to their place of origin, and musical and symbolic forms. The second stage involved the development of special musical representations appropriate to Cretan modes of musical expression, focusing on factors such as rhythm, melody, spacing, musical structure etc. During the third stage, experiments were carried out using computers to discover the archetypes that distinguish every form of musical expression, as well as archetypes that can be discerned in all kinds of Cretan music. These are melodic phrases, motifs or structures which recur much more frequently than expected in every form of musical expression. At the fourth stage, there was a musicological evaluation of results from the statistical analysis, which led to the pin-pointing of elements common to all forms of music, regardless of their specific structure.

The project was partially funded by the 3rd International Conference of Music and Artificial Intelligence (ICMAI `11), to be held in Rethymnon, Crete, in 2011; the computerised analysis of folk music will be a special subject.


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