Computational timbre and tonal system similarity analysis of the music of Northern Myanmar-based Kachin compared to Xinjiang-based Uyghur ethnic groups

Rolf Bader, Michael Blaß, Jonas Franke

The music of Northern Myanmar Kachin ethnic group is compared to the music of western China, Xijiang based Uyghur music, using timbre and pitch feature extraction and machine learning. Although separated by Tibet, the muqam tradition of Xinjiang might be found in Kachin music due to myths of Kachin origin, as well as linguistic similarities, e.g., the Kachin term 'makan' for a musical piece. Extractions were performed using the apollon and COMSAR (Computational Music and Sound Archiving) frameworks, on which the Ethnographic Sound Recordings Archive (ESRA) is based, using ethnographic recordings from ESRA next to additional pieces. In terms of pitch, tonal systems were compared using Kohonen self-organizing map (SOM), which clearly clusters Kachin and Uyghur musical pieces. This is mainly caused by the Xinjiang muqam music showing just fifth and fourth, while Kachin pieces tend to have a higher fifth and fourth, next to other dissimilarities. Also, the timbre features of spectral centroid and spectral sharpness standard deviation clearly tells Uyghur from Kachin pieces, where Uyghur music shows much larger deviations. Although more features will be compared in the future, like rhythm or melody, these already strong findings might introduce an alternative comparison methodology of ethnic groups beyond traditional linguistic definitions.

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