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The South African College of Music and Electrical Engineering working in perfect harmony

When Andrew Bailey, project manager at UCT's Research Contracts and Innovation servicesDepartment (RC&I), contacted the South African College of Music’s (SACM) Senior Lecturer Theo Herbst to ask if he was interested in collaborating on a project to develop a music transcription, he leapt at the opportunity.

The inventor was Dr Paul Cavalier, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Electrical Engineering, who had come up with a music application - or signal analysis method - to track and isolate signatures within music. The idea came to him during an evening out at the now-closed Tagore’s in Observatory, Cape Town.

“I remember sitting there, listening to jazz,” says Cavalier.

“I started having thoughts about the dynamics of musical notes, how they are shaped, and how they play. It was completely unexpected.”

Based on his current geophysics research, which enables the recognition of geophysical “signatures”, Cavalier decided to attempt the same process with musical instruments. He headed home and began testing his theory, finding enough encouraging results to spur on his patent signal analysis method.

Fortunately for Cavalier, Herbst immediately said yes to a collaboration between the two departments on the UCT Pre-Seed funded project. Together, with Herbst as advisor and Cavalier as principal researcher, they began testing an application that tracks the “evolution” of an isolated musical note.

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