Re: On the Grammar of Music and rules (Luke Windsor )

Subject: Re: On the Grammar of Music and rules
From:    Luke Windsor  <w.l.windsor(at)LEEDS.AC.UK>
Date:    Fri, 27 Apr 2001 11:50:15 +0100

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, Luke -- Dr Luke Windsor Department of Music University of Leeds Leeds LS2 9JT UK Phone: +44 (0)113 233 2603 Fax: +44 (0)113 233 2586 E-mail: W.L.Windsor(at) WWW:

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