Grad's innovation helps to identify music

Theocharis Photo: Maria Lironi

By Maria Lironi

How do you find music when it has no description or label attached to it? The answer may lay in research conducted by Anthony Theocharis and his computer science professor George Tzanetakis, who are designing computer systems to classify music.

“If you have a library of music—maybe it’s UVic’s library, or maybe your iTunes library—and you added a new bunch of CDs yesterday, and today you want to find all of the electric guitar recordings or all of the reggae music; but you don’t know which tracks are which yet; wouldn’t it be nice if the computer could tell you which ones were reggae or guitar?” asks Theocharis. There’s no perfect solution yet, but he’s working on it.

Problems like this are currently getting attention from all the big search engine companies. If Theocharis can find a good enough solution, his future will be bright indeed.

Not that it isn’t already. In 2009, he won the top prize in BCNET’s Broadband Innovation Challenge for a related project¾a music tagging computer application geared toward audio engineers and radio stations. It trains each computer on a peer-to-peer network to tag and search through audio clips based on all the other tags and audio clips entered by anyone using the network. Theocharis also won a NSERC research grant for his work. He also worked throughout his degree and played in Versa, a band formed with his classmates (

When he convocates this month, it will be with distinction in a combined degree in computer science and music. “The music and computer science degree is one of UVic’s hidden gems,” he says. “It’s demanding but it can be surprisingly flexible. I’ve got to study with professional musicians, recording engineers, and computer scientists.”

Right now Theocharis is taking his masters in computer science and when he graduates—some 20 months from now—he’d like to own a small software company.

Tzanetakis has no doubt he’ll be able to attain that dream. “Anthony is a very promising young guy and I’m happy to have him as a grad student,” says Tzanetakis. “I thought he’d escape UVic but he stayed and that’s pretty nice for me.”

“I’ve had wonderful months of success at UVic where everything was amazing and interesting and I’ve also had the most frustrating months of my life,” says Theocharis. “I’ve had every grade from A+ to F … but would I do it all again? Yes.”

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