The Harvard Data Science Initiative
Harvard University has the answer that die-hard Beatles fans have been debating for decades. Who authored “In My Life,” on Rubber Soul (1965)? Paul McCartney or John Lennon? The power group that created the model determining who was the track’s songwriting Beatle is: Mark Glickman- Senior Lecturer in Statistics (Harvard), Ryan Song- Music Touring Asst. (Harvard), and Jason Brown- Department of Mathematics and Statistics (Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia).
John Lennon has gone on record stating that “In My Life,” was his “first real major piece of work,” but Paul McCartney’s recollection of the song’s composition differs from John’s. The track has duel songwriting credits for both Beatles. Science has determined a way of narrowing down the credit to one man.
John Lennon said that Paul’s contribution to “In My Life,” was the harmony and the “middle-eight itself.” McCartney says he set the harmony on the track from beginning to end. The Harvard team knew there was a definitive answer.
Glickman and his team were able to contextualize their results in the Harvard Gazette
“In the context of textual analysis, the way this works is we have a bunch of documents that were written by one author, and a bunch written by another author. The basic strategy in the analysis is to examine the frequency of certain kinds of words in those documents. In the songwriting context … the way we’re doing it is we’re treating songs as two parallel streams of ‘text’ to analyze the melody line and the chords or harmonic structure.”
The Bag of Words Method
The Beatles’ “musical fingerprint” is what Glickman compares to a “Phylogenetic Tree.” Simply, that “tree” is a branching diagram that shows “evolutionary relationships” based upon their similarities, stemming from one “ancestor” (i.e. The Beatles). Seems like common sense but when the Beatles are involved, you gotta be sure!
Nova Scotia (Dalhousie University) mathematician, Jason Brown, spent 10 years trying to figure out this algorithm. His results were released with Mark Glickman and Ryan Song on August 1, 2018 at the Joint Statistical Meeting in Virginia, US.
Using the “bag-of-words” method it was determined that Paul McCartney wrote .018 of “In My Life,” that is less than zero percent.
By using the bag of words method, you ignore the order and grammar of the words in a text and focus just on the collection of words itself– a bag of words. For the Beatles, their music was analyzed by snippets and the team focused on the transition between notes and chords in 70 Beatles songs. These transitions determined the .018 percent song credit to Paul McCartney for Rubber Soul’s (1965) “In My Life.”