Traditional Brazilian music

A research group of the Musikwissenschaftlichen Instituts der Universität Hamburg under supervision of Prof. Dr. Tiago de Oliveira Pinto consisting of the following participants:
Dinara Burnasheva, Andrea Eichenberg, Hannes Leuschner, Christoph Dobberstein, Christian Koehn, Henning Albrecht, Florian Heinrich, Gunnar Kornagel, Marcos Lege, Simon Glücklich und Simon Nußbruch.

The Music Etnolology Research Group of Music in Recôncavo of Bahia, Brasil is continously adding content to their web-site:

Smot chanting style of Cambodia

Buddhism, Animism, and Entertainment in Cambodian Melismatic Chanting smot – History and Tonal System


The Cambodian Buddhist Chanting style smot is highly elaborated in terms of melismas and therefore unique to this area of Southeast Asia. As the style in its most sophisticated form needs extensive vocal training and precise knowledge of the correct ornaments to present, monasteries give smot training courses running over years with final exams finding the best singers. The musical parameters like the tonal system or performance style is discussed in relation between measurements and the musical concepts of infor- mants. Here both, the pure tone Western and the equal Cambodian tuning exist side-by- side even within one piece. The melodies and melismas of smot are fixed and therefore little improvisation is normally done which is different from most chanting styles where the pitches and length of sections may be caused by semantic reference e.g. to mental visualizations (Chong 2011). Still in the follow of dharma, the Buddhist doctrine, this chanting is for enlightening and healing the minds of listeners and therefore can also and indeed is often sung by layman people, too. As literature about the existence of smot is known from times before the Red Khmer regime from 1975-1978 and only a few sources are available today, a fieldwork in 2010 was to determine if this chanting is still used. Indeed it was found to be vividly alive and recordings could be done in several monasteries. Cambodian Buddhism is known to have strong elements from Hindu and animistic traditions and also the Khmer Rouge seem to have taken over not only prac- tices of Buddhist performances but also of musical and lyrical styles. This could explain the survival of smot as a musical form rather than a Buddhist doctrine. As the style is not often performed in public but rather at monastic ceremonies or in private healing or cremation contexts it is much less known to the Western world compared to other chanting styles.


Soundfiles of different phrases


Sara-Panh Phrase 1

Sara-Panh Phrase 2

Sara-Panh Phrase 14

Read more in the following paper by Rolf Bader:

Paper – Loudness War

The terms “Loudness War“, “Level War“ and “Loudness Race” describe the phenomenon of a constantly growing loudness of CDs containing popular music in the last two decades. The expression “war” indicates that these terms not only describe the phenomenon itself, but also the negative side effects of increasing loudness. The terms have their origin in web forums, professional journals and books concerning mastering and audio technology, where the topic is heavily discussed since approximately 1999. Those threads and articles show that there is awareness for the issue both in the professional audio industry and among “ordinary music listeners”.

Read more in the following paper by Arne v. Ruschkowsky:

Loudness – Introduction

The problem of sensation and perception of loudness has to be re-examined in regard of musical stimuli. In psychoacoustics, measurement and scaling of loudness has been pursued on the basis of sounds such as pure tones or notched noise which have little if anything to do with music. As recent reports on hearing loss caused by very loud sound as is met with in discotheques and rock concerts amply demonstrate, conventional approaches to measuring loudness levels are probably outdated because being based on inappropriate models such as the dB(A) scale which fails to cover essentials of, for example, Techno music. Sensation and perception of loudness must be considered in regard of real music such as found in contemporary musical idioms (e.g., drum & bass, Techno) which implies that psychoacoustics criteria and parameters most of which have been established long ago, and before advanced audio technology became widespread, need to be revised.



Paper – Subjective audibility of MP3-compression artefacts in practical application

By: Hendrik Böhne, René Gröger, David Hammerschmidt, Robin Helm, David Hoga, Julian Kraus, Jakob Rösch, Christian Sussek

This paper aims to assess the audibility of potential quality loss in MP3-compressed files compared to CD quality files (WAV-files), as well as the influence of listening habits on qulatity evaluation. For this study, samples of various musical genres were processed in different MP3 compression rates (48 kbit/s to 256 kbit/s). 21 listeners participated in an A/B comparison task judging random combinations of either CD quality files to compressed files or compressed files among each other. We investigated whether trained listeners notice differences between the files and whether they prefer CD quality or MP3 quality. The results show that each participant notices differences in files compressed at the lowest rate 48 kbit/s. Differences in files at 128 kbit/s and higher cannot be noticed within the majority of listeners. At 96 kbit/s the majority at least notices differences between the MP3 and the WAV-files. Still some subjects judge the MP3 versions as sounding better. Additionally, differences appeared in terms of media use of participants. Subjects who only consume compressed formats were much less able to tell compressed from the uncompressed music than subjects who still listen to uncompressed CDs. So the exclusive use of compressed media seems to lead both, to a decrease in sound perception ability, as well as to a tendency to favour the compressed music over the uncompressed music.



Musical Encephalography

Musical electroencephalography is a well established field of research helping to understand the processing of musical information about tone and pitch, timbre or musical thought. This quite young field can help us to understand inner musical relations as well as cross-modal interactions between sound and music and vision, movement and thinking. The EEG group at the institute is investigating problems in this area.

a) Timbre Research

Musical timbre is known to be multidimensional. The comparison between aspects of sounds and reactions of the brain can give more detailed insight into our representation and understanding of timber in our minds. Several aspects of sound are tried to connect to different brain regions and behaviour there. Among others, the most interesting are brightness of sound, openness, speed of attack or loudness. The results here are then compared to psychological tests of Multidimensional Scaling Analysis (MDS) of musical sounds, which use sounds precisely constructed by Physical Modelling techniques (FDM, FEM, ect.) of musical instruments.

b) Music and inspiration

Musical inspiration is a complex field. A musical thought is put into music which then shows the changed ‘way of thinking’ of adjacent musical phrases. This thought is often before the change of musical performance and output. Time-dependent EEG analysis show the connections between thoughts and musical activity. These are found with musicians performing free improvisation pieces. Here a spontaneous musical thought is transferred to musical phrases. Also connections between movements of the players body, musical tones and musical ideas can be found. The question in which way a thought is applied to which change of texture can give detailed analysis, where really ‘new’ ideas are applied, where just phrases are played which are automatically ‘in the fingers’ and where a longer phrase shows up to start, have its climax and stop again.



Music and inspiration research conducted at the Institute in 2009
Music and inspiration research conducted at the Institute in 2009

Microphone Array Techniques

Microphone Array Technics are capable to measure

* Transient and static sound field measurement
* Measurement of vibration of structures and air columns by backpropagation of sound field variables
* Description of radiation of instrument in space using backpropagated sound field
* Source detection
* Surface description
* Binaural calculation of diffusion of musical instruments
* Determination of psychoacoustic parameters of musical instrument sound field radiation

The aims of the measurements are:

* Detection of decisive parameters for musical instrument sounds
* Psychoacoustic relation between sound and tone quality depending upon musical instrument radiation behaviour
* Suggestions of simplified models for instrument and music performance in terms of
* loudspeakers
* room acoustis
* instrument building

The Acoustic Camera used at our Institute is developed here. It consists of a 128 channel device with simultaneous and synchronized digital data transfer rate of 48 kHz samplerate. The array has 128 microphones ordered in a matrix array. Additional configurations of arrays will be built.

The software is built at the Institute, too. The algorithms used are

* Nearfield Acoustic Holography (NAH) and Statistical Optimized Nearfield Acoustic Holography (SONAH)
* Beam forming
* Helmholtz-Least-Square method (HELS)
* Multipole-Radiators
* Minimum Energy method (used here)

Additional methods are developed suiting the special needs for musical instrument research.

* Methods for time-dependent transient measurement with solutions for each sample time point
* Methods taking the high number of microphones into consideration to formulate a high precision special solution


Sufi duff frame drum

The following image shows the measurements of a Sufi frame drum in
comparison to a Finite Element solution.

Octopole of a Sufi Duff Frame-Drum: left: measured, middle: FEM solution, right: picture of drum. From: Bader, R.: Reconstruction of radiating sound fields using minimim energy method. J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 127(1), 300-308, 2010
Octopole of a Sufi Duff Frame-Drum: left: measured, middle: FEM solution, right: picture of drum.
From: Bader, R.: Reconstruction of radiating sound fields using minimim energy method. J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 127(1), 300-308, 2010


Numerous other musical instruments were measured, including:

* Classical guitars
* violins
* Trumpets
* Saxophones and clarinet
* Human voice
* Flutes
* Guitar amplifiers
* Studio monitors

Acoustic of the Hamburg Star-Club

The ‚Star-Club’ of Hamburg is one of the best known places for live music which ever existed. Opened in April, 1962, the ‚Star-Club’ saw rock’n’roll greats from the Beatles to Jimi Hendrix, and from Little Richard to The Nice and Yes before the venue was closed as a live music hall on december 31st, 1969.
After the building had been badly damaged by a fire in 1983, it was completely torn down in 1985. Musicians who had played the ‚Star-Club’, and had lauded the venue for its great sound and atmosphere, said that one of the most important places in regard to the history of rock music had been destroyed with no chanceever to reconstruct it. The chance to reconstruct the actual room acoustics came when we talked to musicians who had been on stage in the ‚Star-Club’, and who gave us many valuable informations in addition to source material found in archives. We attempted to reconstruct the ‚Star-Club’ in every known detail with the aid of the Odeon Room Acoustics software (version 9.1), where the ‚Star-Club’ was modelled in 3D and so a sound reconstruction was possible. At the same time, we recorded music which had been
actually performed in the ‚Star-Club’, making use of vintage instruments and amplifiers, in a dry (almost reverberation-free) studio environment. The recordings can be played back in a virtual Star-Club which comes close to the original venue in regard of room acosutics. Thereby the ‚sound’ of the music as it was performed during the heydays of beat and early rock music can be reconstructed within certain limits. The experimental work we did in the field of applied room acoustics and auralisation could be similarly done for other famous rock music venues (e.g., the Cavern club of Liverpool).

Model of the Star-Club

The following pictures show a 3D-model of the original Star-Club

Simulation Results

In the following pictures one can see the results of the simulation.


The following sound examples are an auralisation at different positions of the

The song is a specially recorded version of I saw her standing there by the Beatles.
Artist: “Napalm-Duo”


Drums only – Dry

Drums only – At the bar

Drums only – In the audience

Complete song – At the bar

Complete song – In the audience

Introduction to Physical Modeling

In recent years, many techniques for modelling musical instruments have been proposed, each one offering certain advantages, yet also entailing certain restrictions. In result, specific techniques are suited to deal with different problems. Techniques most widely used include:

• Finite-Element Methods (FEM). Here the geometry can be modelled to any desired precision quite easily and stationary solutions like the static buckling of violin or guitar bodies or piano sound boards can be modelled as well as eigenvalues calculations can be performed. Still, the transient calculations which are crucial for musical instruments (operating as transiently vibrating bodies) are very time-consuming and sometimes not quite accurate in higher frequency regions.

• Finite-Difference-Methods (FDM) are suited very well for transient calculations and – when formulated explicitly – are much faster than FEM models. On the other hand, it is not that easy with FDM to cover all details of the geometry. • Waveguide Methods. These methods are working in real time and are based upon the d’Alembert solution of the wave equation. Still they only show the basic behaviour of musical instruments and so lack some of the sound fluctuations associated with musical instrument behaviour.

• Lattice-Boltzmann Methods (LBM). This method is probably the most suitable for simulating flow dynamics of blown musical instruments. However, it is very slow in regard of calculation time.

The inclusion of the complete geometry of musical instruments in the model is deemed necessary. Musical instruments in fact have many degrees of freedom and so show a wide range of different behaviour under all possible playing conditions. Played notes (sound recordings) of all possible pitches have to be used for a complete judgement of the instrument quality. This implies that instruments have to be played hard and soft, and have to be tested with many styles of music. To get a concise picture of the functioning of musical instruments, and of how geometrical or material changes can influence their sound, the whole instrument body has to be considered as a compound structure.

Once this holistic approach is accepted, one would wish to have a fast or even real-time solution for simulating musical instruments with the complete geometry involved. This indeed would secure a big step forward in music production as well as in instrument building. Appropriate real-time algorithms could be used in synthesizers, sequencer software or VST-plug-ins, allowing practically infinite sound creations to be used in whatever music and other media productions today. Also instrument builders would be able to listen to the sound of their violins, guitars ect. before actually making an instrument by hand. Instead, they could perform changes in the geometry of an instrument (or certain parts thereof) with the computer, and then decide which model sounded best before starting to build the instrument according to the data obtained from the computer model.

Mathematical and computational methods for achieving this goal would be ray-tracing, geometry strain, or statistical methods. In sum, investigations in the direction outlined here certainly are of interest in regard of musical instrument acoustics. They seem also to be promising also with respect to improvements which can be of practical and economic relevance.