There is a first for everything

This internship was a series of firsts for me. It was my first undergraduate internship, my first time in Europe, and my first time working and living overseas by myself in my own place. First time taking on a full-time research project outside of my usual coursework too.

My research interests are in applications of deep learning, and I wanted to explore a new field. I came across the Digital and Cognitive Musicology Lab while looking through the EPFL website and found their publications very interesting. Having been playing the trumpet for over 10 years, I had a personal interest in music and the lab showed me a unique way to combine my research and personal interests together. It was my first time delving into a field that I would not have thought of as an electrical engineer: music information retrieval. The task itself was a challenging one, and yet a fruitful experience overall in developing my knowledge and skills in AI research.

I worked on building a contextualised chord embedding space using symbolic chord sequences and related harmonic information, such as local key and chord inversion. The objective is to provide the model with more information about a chord in a piece of music, such that the model learns the context and the function of the chord. To non-musicians, it can be likened to working with musical information as if it was a language, trying to induce a better-informed word embedding in a language model by providing it with the context in which the word is used. There were some interesting results for analysis and moving on, the eventual goal of the project was a publication.

The lab environment was very welcoming, and the lab lunches were always filled with interesting discussions, be it about a paper that someone read recently, or about different places to travel to around Lausanne. I liked that everyone in the lab was passionate about music and the technical discussions of theory and structure in music were always mindboggling.

The campus life on EPFL was quite vibrant too with various events and festivals that were a rare sight having spent the last two years in a pandemic. The students that I’ve managed to talk to were also very friendly, and they were eager to share more about the tips and tricks of life in Switzerland, which were very helpful.

Evening hike to Dent de Vaulion at Vallorbe

I definitely enjoyed the weekend travels and hikes that let me appreciate the beauty of the nature in Switzerland. Many of these destinations were just a train ride away, and the long train rides themselves had sights to behold on their own. I’m glad I took up this internship for the rare and wonderful opportunity to explore Switzerland and the neighbouring countries.

A day trip with the other interns to Oeschinensee, Kandersteg

Lee Junyoung, Nanyang Technological University
Digital and Cognitive Musicology Lab