[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Re: On the Grammar of Music and rules

The distinction between rule-governed and rule-following phenomena might be
worth bearing in mind when discussing rule-based approaches to the
structure of music. We may follow (more or less formal) rules when creating
music (the former) or it may be that the music produced may be successfully
described using a system of rules (the latter). Music theory itself can be
prescriptive (for example, treatises on harmony or performance practice) or
descriptive (for example, a formal analysis of a style or piece). Confusion
between the two can be problematic, especially from the perspective of
cognitive science - rule-following behaviour may not be rule-governed, or
may not be governed by the set of rules we use when attempting to formalise
it. To return to Steve McAdams' point, one would not necessarily suggest
that water flows down hill because it is governed by rules (although many
would argue this), but it certainly follows them. Moreover, one might
distinguish between physical rules (or laws) and psychological ones: the
water doesn't flow down hill because it has chosen to follow a set of
rules, and it may be that the rules we derive from observation of musical
structures have no psychological reality - doing empirical work would be
one way of trying to determine whether a particular set of rules has such
psychological relevance. This is the route taken by many working on the
perception and production of sounds, one example being the many empirical
studies that have sought to determine whether, and to what extent, Lerdahl
and Jackendoff's Generative Theory of Tonal Music can be thought of as
being psychologically valid.

Apologies if this is redundant, I came to this discussion rather late.

Best regards,
Dr Luke Windsor
Department of Music
University of Leeds
Phone: +44 (0)113 233 2603
Fax: +44 (0)113 233 2586
E-mail: W.L.Windsor@leeds.ac.uk
WWW: http://www.personal.leeds.ac.uk/~muswlw/wlw.html