ISMIR 2017 in Suzhou, China

Ye Wang kicking off ISMIR 2017

I’m back in Singapore after spending the past week at the International Society for Music Information Retrieval (ISMIR ’17) in Suzhou, China. And for the second year in a row, I was a scientific program chair. This means that I was responsible for running peer-review process for 230 submissions, setting the program schedule, organizing panels, and giving out awards.

Doug moderating the “Future of Music Information Retrieval Panel” with Kat Agres, Brian McFee, Gus Xia, and Roger Dannenberg

After the 2016 ISMIR conference in NYC, I was looking forward to handing off this responsibility but my sabbatical host Ye Wang asked me to “help” with the program again. I was a bit reluctant because I was feeling a bit burnt out and was itching to get back to my own research. However, I agreed since I love the music-IR community and it was fun being at the center of the action.

In 2016, I wrote part of the original bid to host ISMIR with Juan Bello and Dan Ellis. Juan took the lead as general chair and was a master delegator. He had a team of experience post-doc and senior Ph.D. students (Justin Salamon, Rachel Bittner, Brian McFee, Colin Raffel) who were all deeply involved with the ISMIR community. By contrast, Ye had taken on much of the responsibility of hosting the conference because both his students were somewhat less experience and there was a significant language barrier between our team in Singapore and the local organizing crew in China.   As such, when I arrive in Singapore in to start my sabbatical in August, I felt the need to help out as with many other aspects of the conference.

Chitra Gupta, Karim Ibrahim, and Ye Fenyi of the NUS SMC Lab counting best oral and poster presentation ballots.

I would be lying if I said that it was smooth sailing leading up to the conference. I spent a large amount of on local organizing, registration, and publication in addition to my role as a program chair. And it was not always clear that we would be able to pull off a successful conference. But the local organizing team in Suzhou was prepared, the graduate student in the SMC lab at NUS stepped up, and Ye was a dynamo. As a result, the week went off without a hitch.

Based on the informal feedback we received from the conference attendees, our ISMIR conference was on the level of past conferences. Everyone seemed to enjoy both the scientific program and the social program.

Spontaneous ISMIR Jam Session at the Fox Bar with Eric Humphrey on Drums, Melody Mustaine on Vocals, Michael Barone on Bass, and Doug on the electric six-string.

And sometimes a little luck helps too. On the first night of the conference, we found a bar called “The Fox” that was close to the NUSRI conference venue. Before we showed up on a quiet Monday night, it was pretty empty. But there was a stage with a drum set, two guitars, a bass, a keyboard, and a PA system. Nobody appeared to be using the instruments so we asked if we could have a spontaneous jam session. (Pretty much all ISMIR attendees are either classically trained musicians or wannabe rock stars. I fall into the latter category.) The bartender seemed more than happy to have us play some music as so we did just that until 2am in the morning. And then we did it again the next night. And every night after that until the end of the conference. The Fox became our late night hangout with good beer, community-created music, and lots of space for excellent conversations.

ISMIR is by far my favorite conference. It is a tight-knit yet welcoming community of academic and industry researchers. Everyone has a deep-seated love of music and everyone wants to see the community flourish. At the end of the conference, I was elected to be ISMIR board member for the next two years. Given my past two years of dedicated service, I have a number of ideas for advancing our society. That said, the society is already much loved and has become very successful over the past 18 years. I am just glad to be a part of it.


ISMIR 2017 Contributions:


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