How Machine Learning and Jazz Piano Luminary Art Tatum Power Online Radio

When Jeffrey Bilmes wrote his master’s thesis at MIT in 1993, he couldn’t have known his work on music perception would help launch the world of online radio. Today, an innovation of his is contributing to smart playlists and automated music personalization at the two biggest players in the business: Pandora and Spotify. To understand what makes these services so innovative and ubiquitous today, it’s worth looking back at Bilmes’ insights, and at the musician whose acumen inspired the young scholar to explore the purpose of rhythm: Art Tatum, the jazz luminary who famously played piano like a one-man duet.In his thesis, “Timing is of the Essence,” Bilmes presented a new concept he named the “tatum.” Sometimes described as a “musical atom,” the tatum represents the smallest unit of time…


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