New Projects with RISM's Music Incipts

Monday, February 4, 2019

If you use RISM’s catalog, you know that the music incipits are one of the things that make RISM stand out among other music projects and catalogs: the ability to see–and search for–the first few notes of a composition. In the Advanced Search, you can search by note name or use the on-screen piano to search for notes or intervals that appear anywhere in our over 1.7 million music incipits.

Our data are freely available as open data under a Creative Commons 3.0 license (CC-BY), which means the data can be used for free in other projects. Here are a few external projects that focus on music incipits.

Jacek Salamon has built a tool, launched at the end of 2018, for RISM’s music incipits that searches for melodic similarity and also offers a search by rhythm. His Incipit Search Engine orders results by similarity, and the rhythmic search can help you quickly narrow down your choices and search efficiently. You can also listen to the resulting incipits. The source code is available for free, and this article explains more about what’s running behind the search.

The IncipitSearch is also a new project and it is being developed at the Academy of Sciences and Literature in Mainz (the same academy that finances RISM) and it incorporates incipits from three data pools so far: RISM, Italy’s Servizio Bibliotecario Nazionale (SBN), and the Gluck-Gesamtausgabe. Since all three of these use the Plaine & Easie Code for encoding the incipits, searching across these projects can be done uniformly.

Finally, we’ll mention an older project, already familiar to many, that also searches melodic similarity but in a different way: the RISM search by Utrecht University also is able to retrieve melodies that are variants of the query melody.

We are always happy to see our data used in other projects and hope that these tools can help you explore RISM’s data using different approaches.

To close, a few articles from the field of music information retrieval (MIR) have come out recently that focus on the RISM music incipits:

  • Calvo-Zaragoza, Jorge and David Rizo. “End-to-End Neural Optical Music Recognition of Monophonic Scores.” Applied Sciences 8, no. 4 (2018): article 606. Available online.
  • Calvo-Zaragoza, Jorge and David Rizo. “Camera-PrIMuS: Neural End-to-End Optical Music Recognition on Realistic Monophonic Scores.” 19th International Society for Music Information Retrieval Conference, Paris, France, 2018. Available online.
  • Zitellini, Rodolfo, Geert-Jan Giezeman, Frans Wiering, and Laurent Pugin. “Incipit Melodic Similarity Matching in Muscat.” 19th International Society for Music Information Retrieval Conference, Paris, France, 2018. Abstract available here.

Image: Sample search on

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