Center Strikes the Right Chord, Blending Research with Industry and Performance

The Georgia Tech Center for Music Technology (GTCMT) has hit the right chord by blending research with technology that meets industry needs while creating tools for new and memorable performances.

Parag Chordia
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Parag Chordia, director of the Music Intelligence Group, sings into his mobile app LaDiDa, a reverse karaoke mobile technology that was commercialized with assistance from Venture Lab. 

According to Chordia, the state-of-the-art algorithms analyze the pitch and structure of the vocal input to compose a matching accompaniment.

LaDiDa has been a top 10 music app in the iTunes app store for the past six months (as of December 2010) and its demo videos have received over 55 million views.

The center, launched in November 2008, has attracted funding in excess of $3 million, primarily from National Science Foundation grants, but also from sponsored research industry partners such as Google and Turner Broadcasting.

“I think we are in a unique position here at Georgia Tech,” said Gil Weinberg, director of the Center for Music Technology.  “ We are fortunate that engineering, technology transfer and funding are all in the DNA of the Institute.  Georgia Tech has an appreciation for the type of research we are doing and entrepreneurship is encouraged.  We really have the freedom and encouragement from the administration.”

The center has already had two companies launched from technologies developed from its research.  Zoozbeat and LaDiDa are mobile apps that utilize different technology to allow the public easier access to the music creation process.

“LaDiDa, a reverse karaoke mobile technology developed by the Music Intelligence Group, was commercialized with assistance from Venture Lab," said Parag Chordia, director of the Music Intelligence Group. "The state-of-the-art algorithms analyze the pitch and structure of the vocal input to compose a matching accompaniment. LaDiDa has been a top 10 music app in the iTunes app store for the past six months and its demo videos have received over 55 million views."

“Zoozbeat allows users to create their own music through intuitive gestures, and has been downloaded more than 1.5 million times,” said Weinberg. “Our algorithm analyzes users’ gestures and maps them to different musical instruments, melodies and rhythms, allowing novices to participate a meaningful musical creation experience.  In partnership with the Coca-Cola Company, we also developed “ZOOZbeat Sprite,” which allows users to easily remix popular hip-hop songs.”

Weinberg has also put GTCMT at the forefront of the cutting-edge research field of robotic musicianship.  His latest marimba-playing robot, Shimon, can listen to and analyze melodic music and improvise with human players, providing visual and social cues to its co-players and audiences.  Shimon has been invited to dozens of concerts world wide and was featured in Georgia Tech’s fall 2010 public service announcement (available at  http://www.gatech.edu/music/).

Weinberg has been invited to present Shimon and other research from the GTCMT at the 41st annual meeting of  the World Economic Forum in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, in January 2011.

The center is not only focused on advancing engineering and innovation, but also the arts. Researchers are very proud of the performances that have integrated technology with professional musicians.

"Our research on using technology to link together composers, performers and audiences in new ways has led to exciting collaborations with musicians, ranging from members of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra to cutting-edge DJs to laptop orchestras,” said music professor Jason Freeman. “We've also engaged new arts audiences that help us to shape these musical experiences, including readers of the New York Times and listeners of National Public Radio. And we've taken the experience of musical performance beyond the concert hall: onto the Internet and mobile phones and into urban communities."

Along with these public performances, the center is also teaming up with local schools to provide a musical education experience for elementary school children.

"We've been collaborating with the Woodruff Arts Center and Atlanta Public Schools to develop a new curriculum for general music education built upon technologies developed at the Center for Music Technology,” said Freeman. “We've already conducted a pilot program as a summer camp and are currently integrating it into music classes at Jean Childs Young Middle School."

Even though the center has only been in existence for two years, it has been very successful in building partnerships with researchers from across campus, including collaborative projects from five of the six colleges  (Architecture, Computing, Engineering, Sciences and the Liberal Arts). The interdisciplinary research ranges from collaborations with the School of Music’s ensembles to nanotechnology research.

Two new projects on the horizon are research on musical applications for the Kindle and the music intelligence lab’s research on creativity. As the center celebrates its second anniversary, it will continue to compose its own song as researchers pursue new paths of discovery.

We’re trying to pave the way and be first in the most exciting research areas in the field of music technology,” said Weinberg.  “We’ll keep looking for innovative ways to enhance music expression and creativity with technology.”

This winter, the center hosts the Margaret Guthman Musical Instrument Competition and an experimental performance from acclaimed artist Laurie Anderson. Contemporary music ensemble-in-residence Sonic Generator also brings another lineup of mind-expanding and technologically-driven performances beginning January 24 at the Woodruff Arts Center. Get the event details.