Characterizing and Interpreting Music Expressivity through Rhythm and Loudness Simplices

Paul Lascabettes*, Elaine Chew, Isabelle Bloch

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference paperpeer-review

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Characterizing and interpreting expressivity in performed music remains an open problem. In this paper, we ex- plore the novel representation of recorded performances of triple time music using a 2-simplex, a graphical rep- resentation used to visualize three-interval rhythms. We analyze the MazurkaBL dataset, which contains beat-level tempo and loudness data of over 2000 recorded perfor- mances of 46 Chopin Mazurkas. Mazurkas’ triple time lends themselves well to the 2-simplex; the expressive fea- tures of each three-beat bar map directly to unique points in the 2-simplex. We extend the rhythm simplex designed for beat durations to the representation of loudness. Each recorded performance is thus reduced to a set of points in 2-simplices based on beat-level duration or loudness. We provide the transformation to convert three-interval in- formation to points in the 2-simplex; prove that inter-beat intervals and tempo representations in the 2-simplex are equivalent when timing variations are small; and, explain how smoothing the data impacts the coordinates of the points in the simplex. We demonstrate that the use of sim- plices can facilitate the analysis and interpretation of ex- pressive music features; the method enables the identifying of bars with notable expressive variations such as temporal suspensions that form tipping points, and characterizing of performance regularity.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the International Computer Music Conference
Place of PublicationShenzhen, China
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2023
EventInternational Computer Music Conference - The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shenzhen, China
Duration: 15 Oct 202320 Oct 2023
Conference number: 47


ConferenceInternational Computer Music Conference
Abbreviated titleICMC 2023
Internet address


  • music representation
  • expressivity
  • expressive music performance
  • computational analysis
  • rhythm simplex
  • chronotopological map


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