Song Lyrics 1: Counting Words

This is the first of a series of articles about analysing text data. The statistical music historian might be interested in many sorts of text – from lists and catalogues through to complex ‘free format’ writing in tweets, record reviews, composer biographies, or encyclopedias. For these articles I will consider a dataset of song lyrics, taken from the LyricWiki website.

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What’s in a name?

Many datasets of composers tell us relatively little about them, so we sometimes have to guess details from the information available – such as the composer’s name. Forenames, for example, are often a good indicator of gender, as described in this previous article. Titles – associated with the church, aristocracy or royalty – can also reveal gender, and tell us about occupation or social class. This article looks at what names can tell us about nationality – based on a recent attempt to identify Italian composers among the many obscure and unknown names listed in the British Library’s music catalogue.

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