Elaine Chew

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Elaine Chew
CitizenshipUSA, UK
Alma mater
AwardsEuropean Research Council Advanced Grant,[1] Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers[2]
Scientific career
Fieldsoperational research, mathematics, music cognition, piano performance, computer science
InstitutionsKing's College London, French National Centre for Scientific Research, Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique, Queen Mary University of London, University of Southern California, Lehigh University, Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
ThesisTowards a mathematical model of tonality (2000)
Doctoral advisorJeanne S. Bamberger (supervisor), Georgia Perakis

Elaine Chew is an operations researcher and pianist focused on the study of musical structures as they apply to musical performance, composition and cognition,[3] the analysis of electrocardiographic traces of arrhythmia,[4][5] and digital therapeutics.[1][6] She is currently Professor of Engineering at King's College London, where she is jointly appointed in the Department of Engineering (Faculty of Natural, Mathematical & Engineering Sciences) and the Department of Cardiovascular Imaging in the School of Biomedical Engineering & Imaging Sciences (Faculty of Life Sciences & Medicine).[7]


Born in Buffalo, New York, Chew grew up in Singapore, returning to the US after high school for further studies.[8] She received a Bachelor of Arts and Sciences in Mathematical and Computational Sciences with honours and Music with distinction from Stanford University. Her PhD thesis in the Operations Research Center at MIT was focused on the mathematics of tonality.[9] Chew holds diplomas in piano performance from Trinity College, London.[10]

Career and research[edit]

Chew has designed a theory of tonality called the spiral array model.[11][12] This is a mathematical model using spirals to describe how humans perceive pitches, chords and keys in mainstream Western music. Chew wrote Mathematical and Computational Modeling of Tonality, a book about her work on mathematical and computational techniques for automated analysis and visualisation of tonal structures, in 2014.[13]

Chew was an assistant professor at the University of Southern California (USC) from 2001 to 2011,[14] where she was the inaugural honouree of the Viterbi Early Career Chair[15] and founded the Music Computation and Cognition Laboratory. At USC, Chew encouraged her students to use technology to explore expressivity in music.[16] Chew was Professor of Digital Media in the School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science at Queen Mary University of London from 2011 to 2019, where she founded the Music, Performance, and Expressivity Laboratory at the Centre for Digital Music. From 2019 to 2022, Chew was a senior Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) researcher at the Science et Technologies de la Musique et du Son (STMS) Laboratory and also affiliated with the Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique (IRCAM), Sorbonne University, and the French Ministry of Culture.[17]

As a concert pianist, Chew plays for audiences while communicating her research, often by showing mathematical visualisations alongside the performances.[18][19][20]

Awards and honours[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Unlocking the therapeutic power of music through mathematics : Elaine Chew : National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), France". ERC.
  2. ^ "The Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers: Recipient Details: Elaine Chew". NSF.
  3. ^ "Engineer-Pianist Elaine Chew Talks About Using Mathematical and Software Tools to Analyze Music". YouTube. Retrieved 2019-10-02.
  4. ^ "HSS - The music of arrhythmia - Queen Mary University of London". www.qmul.ac.uk. Retrieved 2019-10-01.
  5. ^ "A pianist is composing classical music from irregular heartbeats, to help diagnose patients". Classic FM. Retrieved 2019-10-02.
  6. ^ "How Music Can Literally Heal the Heart". Scientific American. Retrieved 2022-12-24.
  7. ^ "Professor Elaine Chew welcomed as first joint academic between faculties". 31 August 2022.
  8. ^ Hardesty, Larry (2008). "The Geometry of Sound". Technology Review. 111 (5): M7 – via EBSCOhost.
  9. ^ "MIT in London". MIT News. Retrieved 2019-10-01.
  10. ^ Narang, Jyoti (2017-09-08). "An Interview with Elaine Chew". Women in Music Tech @ Georgia Tech. Retrieved 2019-10-02.
  11. ^ Harrison 2017, p. 109.
  12. ^ Chew, Elaine (2002). Anagnostopoulou, Christina; Ferrand, Miguel; Smaill, Alan (eds.). "The Spiral Array: An Algorithm for Determining Key Boundaries". Music and Artificial Intelligence. Lecture Notes in Computer Science. Springer Berlin Heidelberg. 2445: 18–31. doi:10.1007/3-540-45722-4_4. ISBN 9783540457220. S2CID 17574236.
  13. ^ Chew, Elaine (2014). Mathematical and Computational Modeling of Tonality: Theory and Applications. International Series in Operations Research & Management Science. Springer US. ISBN 9781461494744.
  14. ^ "Concert Pianist Uses Engineering Tools to Probe the Structure of Music". USC News. 2002-06-12. Retrieved 2019-10-02.
  15. ^ "Viterbi Faculty Named to Endowed Chairs". USC News. 2005-06-23. Retrieved 2019-10-01.
  16. ^ "Engineering a Musical Analysis". Industrial Engineer. 38 (7): 15. 2006 – via EBSCOhost.
  17. ^ "Musical structures and cardiac arrhythmia". IRCAM Research News. 2019-11-27. Retrieved 2019-08-12.
  18. ^ "London International Piano Symposium Keynote – COSMOS". 2018-10-29. Retrieved 2019-10-02.
  19. ^ Hughes, Edward. "Stockhausen Festival". The University of Sussex. Retrieved 2019-10-02.
  20. ^ "Kunsthall Stavanger • Practicing Haydn • Lina Viste Grønli, Peter Child, Elaine Chew". kunsthallstavanger.no. Retrieved 2020-01-28.
  21. ^ "COSMOS: Computational Shaping and Modeling of Musical Structures". European Research Council. Retrieved 1 October 2019.
  22. ^ "The Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers: Recipient Details | NSF - National Science Foundation". www.nsf.gov. Retrieved 2019-10-02.
  23. ^ "Elaine Chew". Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. 2012-03-16. Retrieved 2019-10-02.
  24. ^ "Elaine Chew". www.nasonline.org. Retrieved 2019-10-01.
  25. ^ "Elaine Chew". www.naefrontiers.org. Retrieved 2019-10-02.


  • Harrison, Peter M.C. (2017). "Mathemusical Conversations: Mathematics and Computation in Music Performance and Composition". Empirical Musicology Review. Lecture Notes Series, Institute for Mathematical Sciences, National University of Singapore. 32 (1). doi:10.1142/10046. ISBN 9789813140097.