Further thoughts on Composers’ Star Signs

Aquarius symbol 3Virgo symbol 3Following this previous article, a friend got in touch to thank me for disproving some astrological ‘nonsense’. I replied that I had not disproved anything – I had just failed to find supporting evidence – but it did get me wondering about the nature of the conclusions that can be drawn from this sort of analysis.

Suppose, for the sake of argument, that people born under Aquarius do show a significantly higher propensity to become composers than those born under Virgo. Consider these three possible explanations… Continue reading →

Encyclopedia of Women Composers

I have just taken delivery of a good ex-library copy of the weighty two-volume ‘International Encyclopedia of Women Composers’ by Aaron I Cohen,1 which will be useful for some research I am doing (as well as for writing some materials to accompany a series of concerts by the excellent Bristol Ensemble next year). The encyclopedia weights about 3½kg, has almost 1,200 pages, and lists 6,196 women composers spanning all continents and over four millennia. Each entry includes brief biographical details, lists of works, and references for further reading. Continue reading →

Pick a composer, any composer

jackmac34 / Pixabay

Often in statistical analysis we need to select things at random. For example, if it is impractical to work with a complete dataset, the only option might be to use a random sample. The science of statistics tells us how to analyse a sample in order to reach conclusions about the entire dataset, and gives us ways to calculate margins of error based on the size of the sample. But I digress.

So, how might we pick a random composer? Continue reading →

British Composers as seen by Hofmeister

The gentleman pictured to the right is Welsh composer Henry Brinley Richards.1 Although he is little-known today, his piano nocturne ‘Marie’ Opus.60 was the most published British musical work in Germany in the nineteenth century. German music lovers could purchase ‘Marie’ in its original form or in various arrangements in an impressive 34 separate publications from 27 different publishers between 1861 and 1877.2

That conclusion comes from an analysis of Hofmeister’s Monatsberichte – a monthly listing of music publications appearing in the German market, compiled by Leipzig music publisher Friedrich Hofmeister from 1829 onwards. The Monatsberichte up to the end of the nineteenth century are available as an online database, listing about a third of a million publications from over 36,000 composers. This article is about the British composers and their works that appear in Hofmeister’s listings. Continue reading →

The Semantic Web vs Tidy Data

I have recently been trying to collect data from the Listening Experience Database (LED) in order to put together a proposal for a conference paper. The LED is a nicely constructed database using linked open data and a structure based on something called the ‘Semantic Web’. Rather than traditional databases that have a hierarchical ‘tree’ structure, the Semantic Web concept is a true ‘network’, where anything can be linked to anything else. The LED, for example, includes links to data on a number of other databases. Have a look at the LED and follow a few links and you will see what this means – a very rich and flexible means of linking data together. Continue reading →

Collecting Data

Radial Bookshelves 2Finding a great dataset is all very well, but the next step is working out how to get the data onto your computer so that you can start playing with it. Datasets come in many forms, and there are different ways of collecting the data. In this article I will use some examples from the list of datasets in this previous article on women composers.

There are three main approaches to collecting data: read it and type it in, download it, or ‘scrape’ it. Continue reading →

Types of Investigation

Infographic and Statistic Vector PackIn what ways can statistical techniques be used to investigate topics in historical musicology? I think there are four main approaches – hypothesis testing, quantification, modelling and exploration. Their use depends on the topic, the data, and the type of question you are trying to answer.

These four types often overlap. It is hard to do modelling without some exploration and quantification, for example. Also, after you have spent so long collecting the data, cleaning it, and getting it into a form for statistical analysis, why not squeeze the most out of it and do some general exploration after testing your hypotheses? Continue reading →