The Tonal Diffusion Model

Abstract

Pitch-class distributions are of central relevance in music information retrieval, computational musicology and various other fields, such as music perception and cognition. However, despite their structure being closely related to the cognitively and musically relevant properties of a piece, many existing approaches treat pitch-class distributions as fixed templates. In this paper, we introduce the Tonal Diffusion Model, which provides a more structured and interpretable statistical model of pitch-class distributions by incorporating geometric and algebraic structures known from music theory as well as insights from music cognition. Our model explains the pitch-class distributions of musical pieces by assuming tones to be generated through a latent cognitive process on the Tonnetz, a well-established representation for harmonic relations. Specifically, we assume that all tones in a piece are generated by taking a sequence of interval steps on the Tonnetz starting from a unique tonal origin. We provide a description in terms of a Bayesian generative model and show how the latent variables and parameters can be efficiently inferred. The model is quantitatively evaluated on a corpus of 248 pieces from the Baroque, Classical, and Romantic era and describes the empirical pitch-class distributions more accurately than conventional template-based models. On three concrete musical examples, we demonstrate that our model captures relevant harmonic characteristics of the pieces in a compact and interpretable way, also reflecting stylistic aspects of the respective epoch.

Publication
Transactions of the International Society of Music Information Retrieval, 3(1), 153-164
Fabian C. Moss
Fabian C. Moss
Research Fellow in Cultural Analytics

Fabian C. Moss is a Research Fellow in Cultural Analytics at University of Amsterdam (UvA). He was born in Cologne, Germany, and studied Mathematics and Educational Studies at University of Cologne, and Music Education (Major Piano) and Musicology at Hochschule für Musik und Tanz, Köln. He obtained is PhD in Digital Humanities from École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL). Working with large symbolic datasets of musical scores and harmonic annotations, he is primarily interested in Computational Music Analysis, Music Theory, Music Cognition, and their mutual relationship.

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