Pachet and Aucouturiers Timbre Similarity Work
Annotated Bibliography with Hyperlinks
Rebecca Fiebrink
Created 5 March 2005

Aucouturier, J., and F. Pachet. 2002a. Finding songs that sound the same. Proceedings of the First IEEE Benelux Workshop on Model Based Processing and Coding of Audio, 9198.

Both 2002 papers outline the initial timbre similarity measure and its implementation in the context of CUIDADO. The authors make a case for global timbre similarity as a useful measure and distinguish this work from other research. The basic algorithm is explained: a set of Mel Frequency Cepstral Coefficients (MFCCs) is computed for each frame of the music and modeled using Gaussian Mixture Models. Similarity between the GMMs for two songs is computed using sampling. These two papers evaluate the results positively: the system rates songs by the same artist and within the same genre as generally timbrally similar. Other matches made by the system, such as Beethoven and The Beatles, are classified as interesting, in that they reveal aspects of similarity that are not available from metadata. They demonstrate the systems usefulness in nearest-neighbor song searching and in playlist generation. This paper is a recommended read for anyone interested in starting to learn about timbre similarity.

Available online (accessed 5 March 2005):

. 2002b. Music similarity measures: Whats the use? Proceedings of the International Conference on Music Information Retrieval.

This paper describes the same initial timbre similarity implementation as 2000a. More details are provided regarding objective system evaluation. Furthermore, the concept of interestingness is better defined, with stress on the importance of implementing a measure that can lead users to an experience of aha! I found the authors quantification of aha! a bit odd, but the discussion regarding giving users control over the degree of experimentation they desire from a system seemed to be quite relevant. 

Available online (accessed 4 March 2005):

. 2004a. Improving timbre similarity: How highs the sky? Journal of Negative Results in Speech and Audio Sciences 1 (1).

This paper offers an in-depth examination of many attempts to improve on the 2002 system. The effects of changing parameters such as the audio sample rate, number of MFCCs, number of GMM components, distance sample rate, and window size are discussed, and optimal parameter values are chosen. Earth Movers Distance is examined as an alternative to sampling. A variety of front-end processing techniques are explored. Some improvement was made, but the results suggest a ceiling on possible accuracy of timbre similarity measures using the given framework.

This paper presented a very good discussion of the difficulties inherent in testing similarity systems, particularly in the absence of ground truth. I felt like this offered a more honest appraisal of the systems capabilities than the 2002 papers. The authors provide meticulous discussion of the details of their work. This is a useful paper as a follow-up from 2002a and a must-read for anyone hoping to implement improved timbre similarity measures. 

Available online (accessed 4 March 2005):

. 2004b. Tools and architecture for the evaluation of similarity measures: Case study of timbre similarity. Proceedings of the International Conference on Music Information Retrieval.

This paper presents the same work as 2004a. The focus is somewhat more on using the Music Browser system as a tool. This paper is recommended over 2004a for anyone interested in building music browsing systems, while 2004a is recommended for those more interested in technical details of timbre similarity measurement.

Available online (accessed 4 March 2005):

Pachet, F., A. La Burthe, A. Zils, and J. Aucouturier. 2004. Popular music access: The Sony music browser. Journal of the American Society for Information Science 55 (12): 103744.

This paper discusses the Sony Music Browser, a project developed within CUIDADO. It discusses electronic music distribution in general and the importance of integrating information about high-level musical percepts with existing metadata and collaborative filtering techniques. This is a very good read for anyone interested in online music access, as it hits on issues relating to both technology and human factors. 

Available online (accessed 4 March 2005):

Pampalk, E., S. Dixon, and G. Widmer. 2003. On the evaluation of perceptual similarity measures for music. Proceedings of the 6th International Conference on Digital Audio Effects, 6-12.

This paper reviews five music similarity measures (not necessarily timbre-specific), of which Aucouturier and Pachets 2002 system is one. The authors note that this system performs relatively slowly though otherwise relatively well. Interestingly, the authors point out that the 2002 system incorporates dynamic level into similarity judgments through its use of the first MFCC. This paper doesnt offer any significant new insights into Aucouturier and Pachets work, but it is helpful to situate their work among similar studies.

Available online (accessed 4 March 2005):

Vinet, H., P. Herrera, and F. Pachet. 2002. The CUIDADO project. Proceedings of the International Conference on Music Information Retrieval.

This paper offers an overview of the European CUIDADO project, which stands for Content-based Unified Interfaces and Descriptors for Audio/music Databases Available Online. The Music Browser used by Aucouturier and Pachet is one component of CUIDADO. This is good background reading for anyone wanting to learn more about the Music Browser or the Sound Palette.

Available online (accessed 4 March 2005):


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