Open Music Annotations

FWF Project: Towards Interdisciplinary, Computer-assisted Analysis of Musical Interpretation: Herbert von Karajan

A Study of Herbert von Karajan

Project Characteristic

Analysis of Musical Interpretation: Herbert von Karajan is a three-year research project (June 2017 - June 2020) funded by the Austrian Science Fund (Fond zur Förderung der wissenschaftlichen Forschung, FWF, Project Number P 29840-G26). Headed by the Project Leader, Peter Revers (University of Music and Performing Arts Graz), it comprises an inter-disciplinary team of scholars (including several doctoral students) with a particular focus on musicology and computational perception.

Scientific Aim

The project sets out to accomplish a data-driven study in musical interpretation, connecting information from human analyses of a number of performances by Karajan, with algorithmically derived data spanning several decades of recordings. Although the project is conceived as a case study on Karajan, we wish to demonstrate the promise of data-intensive, interdisciplinary approaches to musicological studies of expressive performance, and help in establishing this as a new open standard approach in empirical musicology.

Innovative aspects

Our approach goes beyond already existing projects (e.g. the “Mazurka Project” as the first large scale project of this sort) in that we focus for the first time exclusively on orchestral music conducted by a specific performance artist. In addition to musicological and computational research results, the project has access to a unique collection of largely unpublished music and extra-musical sources (hosted by the Eliette and Herbert von Karajan Institute, Salzburg). 


First of all, we focus on a comparative analysis of Karajan’s interpretations of the same composition from different time periods, following by a comparative analyses of tempi, articulation and orchestral balance in selected performances of orchestral works by Karajan and other contemporary conductors (using tools like Sonic Visualiser to pinpoint and visualize musically relevant passages and performance characteristics). Secondly, we concentrate on the aesthetic perception of a specific “Karajan profile” as conductor and media-artist.  Moreover, we seek to develop some new methods for aligning performances to scores, and performances to alternative perfor­mances, to support performance (timing) analysis and comparative analysis of recordings. 

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