Musiplectics: Computational Assessment of the Complexity of Music Scores
In the Western classical tradition, musicians play music from notated sheet music, called a score. When playing music from a score, a musician translates its visual symbols into sequences of instrument-specific physical motions. Hence, a music score’s overall complexity represents a sum of the cognitive and mechanical acuity required for its performance. For a given instrument, different notes, intervals, articulations, dynamics, key signatures, and tempo represent dissimilar levels of difficulty, which vary depending on the performer’s proficiency. Individual musicians embrace this tenet, but may disagree about the degrees of difficulty.
This paper introduces musiplectics (music + plectics, Greek for the study of complexity), a systematic and objective approach to computational assessment of the complexity of a music score for any instrument. Musiplectics defines computing paradigms for automatically and accurately calculating the complexity of playing a music score on a given instrument. The core concept codifies a two-phase process. First, music experts rank the relative difficulty of individual musical components (e.g., notes, intervals, dynamics, etc.) for different playing proficiencies and instruments. Second, a computing engine automatically applies this ranking to music scores and calculates their respective complexity. As a proof-of-concept of musiplectics, we present an automated, Web-based application called Musical Complexity Scoring (MCS) for music educators and performers. Musiplectics can engender the creation of practical computing tools for objective and expeditious assessment of a music score’s suitability for the abilities of intended performers.
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