A computational study on outliers in world music
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The comparative analysis of world music cultures has been the focus of several ethnomusicological studies in the last century. With the advances of Music Information Retrieval and the increased accessibility of sound archives, large-scale analysis of world music with computational tools is today feasible. We investigate music similarity in a corpus of 8200 recordings of folk and traditional music from 137 countries around the world. In particular, we aim to identify music recordings that are most distinct compared to the rest of our corpus. We refer to these recordings as ‘outliers’. We use signal processing tools to extract music information from audio recordings, data mining to quantify similarity and detect outliers, and spatial statistics to account for geographical correlation. Our findings suggest that Botswana is the country with the most distinct recordings in the corpus and China is the country with the most distinct recordings when considering spatial correlation. Our analysis includes a comparison of musical attributes and styles that contribute to the ‘uniqueness’ of the music of each country.