Tom Avril writes "Need an accompaniment for your melody? Seeking a virtual dancer to try out your new choreography? Or perhaps you're making a new TV commercial, and you need a snippet of music that sounds something like Radiohead, but a bit more mellow. Increasingly, sophisticated software can help with these sorts of tasks. We got a look at the latest from the nascent field of Music Information Retrieval, after its conference in Philadelphia: 'A key part of the conference each year is the announcement of results from a sort of software shoot-out — a competition in which various universities pit their music-analysis algorithms against one another. Entrants from more than a dozen countries competed in 18 tasks, using their computers to "listen" to selections of music, then identify such things as the genre, mood, composer or title. The eventual goal: to help people search for music they might like by combing through millions of audio files in a database. ... In another task, the computer had to identify tunes that someone hummed. "The idea is, you go into the karaoke bar and start humming, and the computer retrieves your song," Downie said.'"