Joho the Blog[topicmaps] RAMline - a musical timeline - Joho the Blog

[topicmaps] RAMline – a musical timeline

Three musicians from the Royal Academcy of Music — Antony Pitts, Hannah Riddell, and John Drinkwater — talk about using topic maps to organize music. They begin with a snippet of Bach’s “A Musical Offering,” which always strikes me as extraordinarily modern, as well as of course exquisitely beautiful. [Caution: I’m live-blogging and thus only capturing a little of what’s being said, plus making mistakes, writing poorly, etc.]

Anthony talks about one day in the life of the Academy. He zooms in on more and more detail, eventually showing a messy sketch of a small stretch of time, including the works and musicians being discussed and performed, with “A Musical Offering” at the center. It’s a mess. Now he shows a cleaner version that sorts by scores, sounds, ideas and opinions. But the musical work doesn’t exist in any one of those boxes, he says. The music moves from inspiration to notation to interpretation to reception. There are distinct boundaries between them. Anthony treats those as rows and adds columns for creating, capturing, connecting and communicating.

Ultimately, they show a timeline — RAMline — divided into seven rows: idea, composer, score, performer, sound, audience and history. It is fed from a topic map, allowing multiple visualizations.

Anthony shows the ontology. [Pardon me if I don’t try to capture it :)]

Hannah teaches a course on assessing the way music is documented. Students create their own RAMlines, like a CV. “The logic of the topic map has transcended language barriers,” and led them to unexpected conclusions. One student (Laurie) did a map of Bach’s cello suites, tracking versions, arrangements, and publications. Another student has a RAMline of Chopin Scherzo #4, tracking the recordings, etc.

The project is at the end of Phs 1: an internal working model. In phase 3, it goes open access. [Yay!] They hope it will be largest online music knowledge base.

Steve Pepper adds that topic maps started out as a way to capture musical information

7 Responses to “[topicmaps] RAMline – a musical timeline”

  1. It’s “Antony” rather than “Anthony” – otherwise, very accurate live-blogging! And the version of Bach’s Musical Offering was indeed pretty modern: it was Anton Webern’s arrangement/transcription and-at-the-same-time new work.
    It was inspiring to go on stage after your keynote [good metaphor]…

  2. Aha! Thanks. It was lovely, even in that short snippet.

    And I’ll fix your name.

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  4. […] of musical time: the historical, the functional, and musical time itself.”; David Weinberger blogged about this work recently. Also MIPS / Institute for Bioinformatics and Systems Biology who “attempt to […]

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  6. Hi David,

    You might be interested in this iPhone app released 1 October 2009 in the App Store: musicGPS – “captures the soundtrack of your life – wherever you go”.
    A full press release is here:


  7. Hey! Thanx for this beautiful place of the Inet!!

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