Faculty Profile: Michael Cuthbert

How a self-described “Navy brat” and “geek” grew up to become a renowned and innovative music historian.

How a self-described “Navy brat” and “geek” grew up to become a renowned and innovative music historian.

By MIT OpenCourseWare

Michael Cuthbert, MIT Associate Professor of Music, already has a long list of academic honors to his name, but his talent for creatively combining his two greatest interests—music and computers—may be his most impressive accomplishment. “As a child, my two instruments were a clarinet and a Commodore 64 computer,” he says. “The geek in me has always been on the lookout for new ways to connect them.”

He’s managed to bring both together with remarkable results through his groundbreaking research into 14th- and 15th-century European music, powered by an open-source software package that he designed, called music21. This program—freely available and used by thousands—allows him to analyze the inner mechanics of music and spot historically important trends with an unprecedented depth, breadth, and speed. By allowing any musical historian to spot patterns across musical works that may span hundreds of years and millions of notes, Cuthbert’s music21 has made a substantial contribution to the field of quantitative musical research, which he simply calls “listening faster.”

Read this article

Latest News

September 14, 2020
A presentation of The Fisher Center at Bard's 2020-2021 season of virtual and interactive works
The Fisher Center at Bard begins its 2020-2021 season of virtual and interactive works-focusing on healing and transformation in troubled times-with a Live Arts Bard (...
June 18, 2020
                                  Sue-Ellen Hershman-Tcherepnin, was named a Commonwealth Heroine by the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women. Here she...
May 29, 2020
Each person sings one note, explains the professor behind the idea, Eran Egozy
  By Grace Griffin Globe Correspondent,Updated May 21, 2020, 3:19 p.m. Though Massachusetts Institute of Technology has postponed its in-person commencement ceremony,...
May 26, 2020
College Students Colonize the Divided Romania of ‘Mad Forest’
  In a livestream production of Caryl Churchill’s 1990 tale of riot-torn Bucharest, quarantined Bard acting students grapple with revolution. Revolution has come to...