Bell Shape Embodying Zhongyong: The Pitch Histogram of Traditional Chinese Anhemitonic Pentatonic Folk Songs

Hui Liu, Kun Jiang, Hugo Gamboa, Tingting Xue, Tanja Schultz

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Abstract

As an essential subset of Chinese music, traditional Chinese folk songs frequently apply the anhemitonic pentatonic scale. In music education and demonstration, the Chinese anhemitonic pentatonic mode is usually introduced theoretically, supplemented by music appreciation, and a non-Chinese-speaking audience often lacks a perceptual understanding. We discovered that traditional Chinese anhemitonic pentatonic folk songs could be identified intuitively according to their distinctive bell-shaped pitch distribution in different types of pitch histograms, reflecting the Chinese characteristics of Zhongyong (the doctrine of the mean). Applying pitch distribution to the demonstration of the Chinese anhemitonic pentatonic folk songs, exemplified by a considerable number of instances, allows the audience to understand the culture behind the music from a new perspective by creating an auditory and visual association. We have also made preliminary attempts to feature and model the observations and implemented pilot classifiers to provide references for machine learning in music information retrieval (MIR). To the best of our knowledge, this article is the first MIR study to use various pitch histograms on traditional Chinese anhemitonic pentatonic folk songs, demonstrating that, based on cultural understanding, lightweight statistical approaches can progress cultural diversity in music education, computational musicology, and MIR.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8343
Number of pages20
JournalApplied Sciences (Switzerland)
Volume12
Issue number16
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2022

Keywords

  • anhemitonic pentatonic
  • Chinese music
  • computational musicology
  • machine learning
  • merged pitch histogram
  • music education
  • music information retrieval
  • pentatonic
  • pitch distribution
  • pitch histogram

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