Analyzing musical structure and performance—a statistical approach

Jan Beran, Guerino Mazzola

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Musical performance theory and the theory of musical structure in general is a rapidly developing field of musicology that has wide practical implications. Due to the complex nature of music, statistics is likely to play an important role. In spite of this, up to the present, applications of statistical methods to music have been rare and mostly limited to a formal confirmation of results obtained by other methods. The present paper introduces a statistical approach to the analysis of metric, melodic and harmonic structures of a score and their inuence on musical performance. Examples by Schumann, Webern and Bach illustrate the proposed method of numerical encoding and hierarchical decomposition of score information. Application to performance data is exemplified by the analysis of tempo data for Schumann’s “Träumerei” op. 15/7. The paper demonstrates why statistics should play a major active part in performance research. The results obtained here are only a starting point and should, hopefully, stimulate a fruitful discussion between statisticians, musicologists, computer scientists and other researchers interested in the area.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)47-79
Number of pages33
JournalStatistical Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright 2017 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Bandwidth
  • Cluster analysis
  • Hierarchial smoothing
  • Kernel smoothing
  • Music
  • Musical analysis
  • Musicology
  • Performance theory
  • Regression
  • Tempo


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