Research Highlights

An Empirical Approach to Sub-Genre Classification in Hip-Hop's Golden Age (student project)

Collage of hip-hop album covers from the '80s and '90s.Ben Duinker's doctoral research in Music Theory focuses on hip-hop. Denis Martin, doctoral student in Sound Recording, deals with critical listening strategies in audio. Partway through their Ph.D. programs, they are working together to research questions around the meaning of an artist's "sound," what factors lead us to assert that different artists have "the same sound" and whether the term "sound" is, in this context, qualifiable and/or quantifiable as a sum of its identifiable parameters. Sharing an interest in rhythm, they have focused their research on hip-hop.

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Live Expression “in situ”: Musical and Audiovisual Performance and Reception

The Music Multimedia Room, Schulich School of MusicThe Multimedia Room at the Schulich School of Music at McGill University is a 7,000 cubic-metre, sound-isolated box-inside-a-box that can simulate the acoustics of just about any performance venue in the world. The Salle Claude Champagne at the Faculté de Musique at the Université de Montréal is a superb concert hall, iconic to music in Quebec. New funding obtained in 2015 from the Canada Foundation for Innovation, with matching funds from the Quebec Government and McGill University, will transform these two exceptional spaces into the world's leading facility for studying live performance, movement of sound in space, and distributed performance in which members of an ensemble are geographically separated but performing simultaneously. Both spaces will be retrofitted with equipment to measure and manipulate the acoustics of the spaces as well as a grid of cameras and microphones to monitor the reactions of the performers and audience members. In these two interconnected spaces, researchers from the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Music Media and Technology (CIRMMT) will help develop virtual acoustics to simulate concert environments and other technologies for audio recording, film, television, distance education, and multi-media artworks, while neuroscientists and psychologists will also be able to study the ways in which large numbers of performers coordinate their actions, as well as the factors that lead listeners to perceive the sounds of different instruments as blended or distinct in orchestral works.


The Music of Dialect: A Compositional Tribute to Newfoundland (student project)

Dory on the water in Fogo, NewfoundlandSchulich School of Music students Steve Cowan (DMus, Guitar Performance) and Jason Noble (PhD, Composition) grew up in Newfoundland and have a deep fondness for the province’s culture. This research-creation project pays tribute to their home province and its people, focusing on two of the province’s richest and most distinct cultural treasures: its dialects and its folksongs. They toured the island recording interviews with residents of various regions in 2015, with the aim of using these interviews as source material for a new composition.

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The Orchestration and Perception Project

Computer-aided orchestration screenshotMost orchestration treatises contain little of what may truly be called "theory" of orchestration. However, results from timbre perception and auditory scene analysis provide a solid basis for theorizing about many techniques of orchestration involving the perceptual characterization of the sounds of musical instruments, the conditions under which perceptual fusion and timbral blend occur, how timbral similarities and differences contribute to different types of musical textures, and how large-scale orchestral gestures maintain perceptual cohesion and have an emotional impact. This project also involves the development and commercialization of an orchestral simulation environment, which has become an essential tool for exploring orchestration perception and pedagogy through re-orchestrations.


This project brings together researchers from the Schulich School of Music's Music Technology, Composition, and Music Theory areas with partners from other universities and research centres in Europe.  Graduate and undergraduate students participate in research and development efforts in the project.

Co-investigators include:

  • Stephen McAdams, McGill University
  • Denys Bouliane, McGill University
  • John Rea, McGill University
  • Jonathan Wild, McGill University
  • Philippe Esling, IRCAM-Centre Pompidou and Université Pierre et Marie Curie (Paris 6)
  • Carlos Agon, IRCAM-Centre Pompidou and Université Pierre et Marie Curie (Paris 6)
  • Eric Daubresse, Haute École de Musique de Genève
  • Michael Jarrell, Haute École de Musique de Genève

For a full list of collaborators, visit the project Orchestration and Perception website.

Project Goals

Project goals include:

  • Establishing a relational database of score and treatise analyses of orchestral devices related to perceptual grouping
  • Conducting listening experiments on these orchestral devices to determine their perceptual bases
  • Developing a high-quality computer-aided orchestral rendering environment for pedagogical and research purposes
  • Contributing knowledge derived from perceptual experiments and perception-oriented music analyses to the development of computer-aided orchestration environments
  • Tracing the historical evolution of conceptions of orchestration and perception

For more information, please contact stephen.mcadams [at] (Stephen McAdams).


Single Interface for Music Score Searching and Analysis (SIMSSA)

Old manuscriptA thousand years of print and manuscript music sits on the shelves of libraries and museums around the globe. While on-line digitization programs are opening these collections to a global audience, digital images are only the beginning of true accessibility, since the musical content of these images cannot be searched by computer. The goal of the Single Interface for Music Score Searching and Analysis project (SIMSSA) is to teach computers to recognize the musical symbols in these images and assemble the data on a single website, making it possible to search and analyze online musical scores for the first time. Users will be able to consult millions of musical works in the blink of an eye, a task that would previously have required many lifetimes. SIMSSA will create a 21st-century architecture for processing music documents, transforming vast music collections into symbolic representations that can be searched, studied, analysed, and performed anywhere in the world.


This project brings together researchers from the Schulich School of Music's Composition, Musicology, Music Theory, Music Technology areas with partners from other universities, libraries, museums and organizations around the world.  Postdoctoral fellows and numerous undergraduate and graduate students participate in the research and development of SIMSSA.

Co-Investigators include:

  • Jennifer Bain, Dalhousie University
  • Julie Cumming, McGill University
  • Katherine Helsen, University of Western Ontario
  • Debra Lacoste, Conrad Grebel University College
  • Audrey Laplante, Université de Montréal, École de bibliothéconomie et des sciences de l’information
  • Cynthia Leive, McGill University, McGill Library and Collections
  • Cory McKay, Marianopolis College
  • Laurent Pugin, Répertoire International des Sources Musicales (Switzerland)
  • Jesse Rodin, Stanford University
  • René Rusch, McGill University
  • Peter Schubert, McGill University
  • George Tzanetakis, University of Victoria
  • Jonathan Wild, McGill University

​For a complete list of collaborators, visit the SIMSSA website.

Project Goals

Project goals include:

  • Creation of a 21st-century architecture for processing music documents
  • Transformation of symbolic representations into searchable data
  • Search and analysis tools for large digital music collections
  • Public access to musical data that can be studied, analyzed, and performed

For more information, please contact ichiro.fujinaga [at] (Ichiro Fujinaga).


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