9 February 2018, PhD defense, Berit Janssen
On February 9th, 1 p.m. in the Aula of the University of Amsterdam, Berit Janssen will defend her dissertation, “Retained or Lost in Transmission? Analyzing and Predicting Stability of Dutch Folk Songs”. She was a Ph.D. candidate at the Meertens Institute as part of the Computational Humanities group project “Tunes & Tales”. Through her promotor Henkjan Honing she was also part of the Music Cognition Group at the ILLC.
The dissertation’s goal is to investigate the transmission of Dutch folk songs: which parts of melodies change, and which remain stable? The dissertation thereby contributes to understanding an important part of Dutch cultural heritage. The research question was approached through theories and methods from the humanities, information science and psychology.
For her research Berit Janssen compared melodies computationally. She tested hypotheses which might help explain why specific parts of a melody are stable, or resistant to change. These hypotheses concern the length, the number of repetitions and position of parts of a melody, as well as the melodic expectations created by the melodic material. The results show that indeed stability can be predicted to some extent through the proposed hypotheses, and contributes to understanding the retention and transmission of cultural heritage. There are also other factors of cultural transmission which cannot be investigated with the proposed methods, which provides interesting perspectives for future research.