Donald Byrd studied music composition at Indiana University, graduating from its renowned School of Music (now the Jacobs School) in 1968. Around that time, he became interested in computers and their potential to help musicians, particularly in terms of notation. After spending a number of years as a programmer and consultant at the University’s academic computing support services, he received a Ph.D. in Computer Science (1984), with a dissertation on music notation by computer and a music-theory minor. His dissertation supervisor was Prof. Douglas Hofstadter, and—using his own music-notation program, one of the first of its kind—Byrd created the musical examples for Hofstadter’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid. Since then, Byrd has worked extensively both in industry and academia. He was one of the principal sound designers and sound-design software developers for the Kurzweil 250, arguably the first synthesizer able to reproduce sounds of acoustic instruments convincingly. In that position, he wrote the audio editor that he and others used to create the sounds based on recorded samples.  He was also the principal designer of the influential music-notation program Nightingale. His academic background includes research on music notation by computer (at Princeton University), and work on information retrieval in both text and music, especially visualization and human/computer interaction aspects  (at the University of Massachusetts).

Dr. Byrd was Principal Investigator of the $500,000 U.S. part of the international Online Music Recognition and Searching (OMRAS) project, for which Tim Crawford led the U.K. team. In recent years, he has been active in both music information retrieval and digital music libraries. With J. Stephen Downie and Crawford, he organized ISMIR 2000, the first major conference on music IR, and he was a member of the ISMIR Steering Committee from 2000 to 2008. In 2001, he returned to Indiana University to continue his research and to join the Variations2 digital music library project, occupying the first research position in the history of IU’s School of Music. Since then, Byrd has done research on OMR (Optical Music Recognition) and OMR evaluation. Most recently, he has been working on the “General Temporal Workbench”, a timeline-based system for visualizing, exploring, creating, and “playing” temporal phenomena: a system general enough for use on any timescale from fractions of an attosecond to billions of years. He is currently senior scientist and adjunct associate professor in the School of Informatics at IU.


(rev. Sept. 2009)