[Smt-talk] Identifying a composer's hand using statistics

Charles J. Smith cjsmith at buffalo.edu
Wed Dec 1 21:44:55 PST 2010

Interesting question, Dmitri, with a lot of possible answers.

Surely one of the most notorious is the well-known organ Toccata &  
Fugue in D minor, often claimed to be by J. S. Bach, an authorship  
that is surely questionable on many grounds—and has been questioned.  
What does seem clear is that it was originally a piece for solo  
violin, but "by whom" is the question—not to mention who did the  

Charles Smith

PS And I can't resist imagining the now late and always great Leslie  
Nielson reading this post, and responding, of course, "don't call me  

> Hi Everyone,
> I have a student -- a physics grad. student, actually, with a strong  
> music background -- who was interested in using statistical analysis  
> to do authorial identification, somewhat in the way people have done  
> with literary texts.
> Question: can anyone think of an interesting piece -- say from the  
> Renaissance onward -- where (1) authorship is uncertain and (2) the  
> composer *might* be someone very well known (so that there is a  
> substantial body of work to compare it to)?
> For instance, I know there is some disagreement about Magnus Es Tu,  
> Domine, which is often attributed to Josquin.
> In any case, I'd like this to be more than an academic exercise, so  
> it would be great to choose some piece where there's substantial  
> doubt.
> Thanks!
> DT
> Dmitri Tymoczko
> Associate Professor of Music
> 310 Woolworth Center
> Princeton, NJ 08544-1007
> (609) 258-4255 (ph), (609) 258-6793 (fax)
> http://music.princeton.edu/~dmitri
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Charles J. Smith
Slee Chair of Music Theory & Chair of the Department
Department of Music, 220 Baird Hall
University at Buffalo
Buffalo, NY 14260
716-645-0639 [direct line]
716-645-3824 [fax]
cjsmith at buffalo.edu

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