Collaborating with PRAISE project

While discussing the social music analysis widget idea, Christophe Rhodes suggested talking to another research project which is currently underway with Goldsmiths as the lead technical partner, PRAISE (Practice and peRformance Analysis Inspiring Social Education).

They are exploring ways of improving peer learning in music performance and one of their key outputs so far has been a software system called Music Circle. It's a Web application which allows users to upload recordings of themselves playing music they are learning (or improvisations) and then allows their friends to select and make comments on parts of those recordings. It presents a user interface which includes a waveform representation of the recording along with commentary timelines below it, quite similar to SoundCloud's timed comments. Each timeline belongs to one user engaged in the conversation and shows the ranges on which they have commented. As well as textual comments, users can upload further recordings along with their comment, allowing for demonstrations of suggested performance techniques, for example.

Christophe had clearly seen the relationship between Music Circle and the widget idea we have been developing. So we went along to their lab to see their demos and to talk about our ideas. As well as showing us some of the new features they're working on, including motion capture of gesture to help analyse players' performance technique, we also talked about the potential for us to collaborate on the system and get a single application which fits both our requirements.

The key differences between our two requirements are that we want to allow users the abilitiy to comment on musical works rather than just specific performances. Similarly, we will want to allow users to comment on published recordings of works. As a result of this, we'll need to hook in to databases of music, whereas the PRAISE team source music from their users. We would also like users to be able to link their identity to other representations of themselves online, such as their LinkedIn or Twitter profile. We would like to be able to embed the commenting system and music rendering into other sites, whereas PRAISE see Music Circle as more of a self-contained social network.

Our colleagues at PRAISE expressed an interest in having federated login from other account providers (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook). They also described some of their future technical directions for the Music Circle code, particularly de-coupling the existing template-style PHP implementation into a clearly separated JavaScript UI and an HTTP API, and caching JSON representations of the comment threads for each track. We've agreed to spend some time on implementing the federated login and to investigate the relatively new provisions in PostgreSQL for storing JSON encoded data.

It's great to find this kind of synergy between two Goldsmiths Computing-hosted research projects and to have an opportunity to do some collaborative development work.

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