Why Classical Music Needs Hackathons

The Eliette and Herbert von Karajan Institute and the MIT Music Department are hosting a Classical Music Hackathon in Boston, October 21–23.

Matthias Röder
Sep 2, 2016 · 2 min read


Copyright: Siegfried Lauterwasser Karajan®-Photo Archive.

It is widely known that Herbert von Karajan was involved in various music technology innovations, most notably in the development of the Compact Disc (CD). But few people know that he also had a deep interest in the effects of music on the human psyche and body. To better understand how musical performances move human beings is perhaps the most fundamental question that any professional musician could ask. Herbert von Karajan, as was so often the case with him, went one step further and established a research institute for experimental music psychology at the University of Salzburg in 1968 to investigate this topic from a scientific perspective. In doing so, he helped propel a new kind of research, one that is focused on the intersection of neurology, medicine and music.

Today, with the advent of artificial intelligence and large-scale data science, we are able to gain an even deeper understanding of the actual patterns that are hidden in every musical performance. With that knowledge in sight, the ultimate goal is to build an artificial intelligence system that understands all aspects of musical performances. Such a system could assist students in learning an instrument; it could help music lovers to better understand what they are hearing; and it would ultimately get us one step closer to understanding human creativity, one of the big mysteries of our existence.

At the Karajan-Institute, we believe that such a goal can only be reached when lots of brilliant minds work together. This is why we have started the Classical Music Hack Day series three years ago; to build a network of researchers, data scientists and musicologists, who are all interested in linking technology and creativity.

This October, we will be bringing the Classical Music Hack Day to the United States. In my opinion there could hardly be any better partner than my collaborator Michael S. Cuthbert of the Music Department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). His department offers the ideal environment for innovation, creativity and rigorous scientific methods as it is home to a fantastic group of music researchers, as well as brilliant students from various technical fields who have a deep love for music.

If you would like to be part of this new and exciting journey, please visit the Karajan Classical Music Hackathon at MIT Music and Theater Arts, which we will host from October 21–23 at the MIT Music Library. You can register for free here.

The author is the CEO of the Eliette and Herbert von Karajan Institute in Salzburg. He has studied music performance at the University Mozarteum and received a PhD in music from Harvard University.

Matthias Röder

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CEO of @karajanmusic / Founder of @karajantech and @classichackday / #Media #Music