A Data Science Analysis Finds Beethoven's Style In His String Quartets

What is it that makes Beethoven sound like Beethoven? Fans of his music can recognize his style, and music theorists have thoroughly studied his pieces, but data scientists in Switzerland have now taken this one step further. They used data science techniques to systematically look at the musical signatures of Beethoven’s string quartets.

Classical music, like Beethoven’s, is encoded in a very structured way. There is a defined set of available notes that can be combined in various combinations to form chords or melodies. Western music theory puts some limitations on the combinations that are allowed. If you regularly listen to classical, pop or rock music, you intuitively know some of these rules, even if you’ve never explicitly learned them. Besides the overarching music theory shared between all these styles, they also each have their own specific sets of commonly used chords, chord progressions, instruments, dynamics or melodies.

To get even more specific, each composer has their own unique characteristic style as well. Some pieces are just “typical Beethoven” or “typical Mozart”, and composers can get inspired by each other’s styles as well. This isn’t just true for classical music either. Many bands, from The Beatles to Green Day, all have their own characteristic sounds.

Because music is so systematic, the patterns that make up these unique sounds can be defined as combinations of data, and these can be studied using some of the same statistical methods that scientists would use to analyse other datasets.

Source: www.forbes.com

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