• Harmalysis: A language for the annotation of roman numerals in symbolic music representations

    Néstor Nápoles López
    Ichiro Fujinaga
    Elsa De Luca (see profile) , Julia Flanders
    Music Encoding Initiative
    Music, Digital humanities
    Item Type:
    Conference proceeding
    Conf. Title:
    Music Encoding Conference 2020
    Conf. Org.:
    Tisch Library, Tufts University
    Conf. Loc.:
    Conf. Date:
    26-29 May 2020
    mei, Music encoding
    Permanent URL:
    High-quality annotations of harmonic analysis are scarce. Furthermore, the existing data usually follows different conventions for spelling scale degrees, inversions, and special chords (e.g., cadential six-four). There have been efforts for standardizing the notation of harmonic analysis annotations, however, these have not been very successful because: 1) there are few software tools able to parse such notations 2) as a consequence, researchers have not adopted the suggested notations and it is more frequent to find a different notation with every new dataset. We attempt to mitigate the limitations of existing notations through the definition of a new language for harmonic analysis, which we call harmalysis. This language 1) provides a notation that adjusts as much as possible to the way in which researchers have annotated roman numerals in existing datasets, 2) formalizes the resulting notation into a consistent and extensible context-free grammar, 3) uses the context-free grammar to generate tools that are able to parse and validate annotations in the syntax of the language. We make the formal definition of the language, a context-free grammar described in the Extended Backus-Naur Form (EBNF), available as an open-source repository. Within the same repository, we make available tools for parsing annotations in the harmalysis language. The tools allow the users to extract high-level semantic information from their annotations (e.g., local key, root of the chord, inversion, added intervals, whether the chord is tonicizing another key or not, etc.) and to validate the correctness of a given annotation according to the grammar of the proposed language.
    The MEC 2020 conference was originally to be hosted at Tisch Library and Lilly Music Library of Tufts University on the Medford, MA campus. It is co-sponsored with the Department of Music at Tufts, Digital Scholarship Group at Northeastern University Library, and MIT Digital Humanities.
    Last Updated:
    4 years ago


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