Abstract: While the Optical Music Recognition (OMR) of printed and handwritten music scores in modern standard notation has been broadly studied, this is not the case for early music manuscripts. This is mainly due to the high variability in the sources introduced by their severe physical degradation, the lack of notation standards and, in the case of the scanned versions, by non-homogenous image-acquisition protocols. The volume of early musical manuscripts available is considerable, and therefore we believe that computational methods can be extremely useful in helping to preserve, share and analyse this information. This paper presents an approach to recognizing handwritten square musical notation in degraded western plainchant manuscripts from the XIVth to XVIth centuries. We propose the use of image processing techniques that behave robustly under high data variability and which do not require strong hypotheses regarding the condition of the sources. The main differences from traditional OMR approaches are our avoidance of the staff line removal stage and the use of grey-level images to perform primitive segmentation and feature extraction. We used 136 images from the Digital Scriptorium repository (DS, 2007), from which we were able to extract over 90% of the staves and over 88% of all symbols present. For symbol classification, we used gradient-based features and SVM classifiers, obtaining over 90% precision and recall over eight basic symbol classes.
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