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[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

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