Music 105

Graduate Seminar in Electro-Acoustic Music

Dartmouth College


Winter, 2005


Systems of Musical Thought


class wiki (discussion of readings)

Class Description

This class will focus on student research and compositional projects, each exploring a different, current topic in formal descriptions, theories, explications, and speculations of musical thought and practice. We will focus on general theoretical ideas which are or might be used to describe and/or create music, and which lend themselves to computer music implementations.


Each student will be assigned to lead the discussion on one of the topics, focusing on the readings, asking specific questions, and essentially, leading the seminar as the instructor. The intent of this is to offer some practical teaching experience in this context, as well as to try and get everyone involved in the subject matter as deeply as possible. For each topic, that student will be asked to prepare a kind of "take-home" set of questions about the readings and the topic, which all the other students will complete.


In addition to the readings, students will do three software-based research and composition projects, accompanied by written documentation of the theoretical ideas explored, relating to the selected topics.

Class Schedule

(by topic)


Class meets Tuesday and Thursday, 10-12.

First class: Tuesday, Jan. 11. Please read the first set of articles by that day ("species counterpoint").


Note: Although we will cover the topics below in this order, the actual day-to-day schedule is TBA. We will have guests, student presentations, spend more time on certain topics than others, and so on. This web-site will be kept up-to-date in terms of specific assignment due-dates, in-class presentations, and so on, as the course progresses.


"Species Counterpoint": Origins, Evolution, Language, Bio-Music Theory

Dunn, David, "Cybernetics, Sound Art and the Sacred", 2004.

Rahn, John, "Aspects of Musical Explanation", Perspectives of New Music, 1979

Selected Readings from The Origins of Music, edited by Wallin, Merker and Brown (in reader and Reserve Book)

Form and Morphology

Goldstone, Similarity, MIT Encyclopedia of the Cognitive Sciences, 2001

Deliege, "Grouping Conditions in Listening to Music: An Approach to L&J's Grouping Preference Rules", Music Perception, 1987.

Dowling, "Scale and Contour: Two Components of a Theory of Memory for Melodies", Psychological Review, 1978

      Lerdahl and Jackendoff, A Generative Theory of Tonal Music, Chapters 1-3, 1983. (Reserve Book)

Polansky and Bassein, Possible and Impossible Melody: Some Formal Aspects of Contour, Journal of Music Theory, 1992.

Rock and Palmer, "The Legacy of Gestalt Pyschology", Scientific American, 1990.

Tenney and Polansky, "Temporal Gestalt Perception in Music", Journal of Music Theory, 1980.

Tenney, Meta + Hodos and META Meta + Hodos,1961/86 (Reserve Book)

Wyse, "Contour Hierarchies, Tied Parameters, Sound Models and Music", ICMC Proceedings, 2004.

Harmony and Experimental Intonation

      Burns and Ward, "Intervals, Scales and Tuning", in The Psychology of Music (Deutsch), 1982

Doty, David, The Just Intonation Primer, 1993 (Reserve Book)

Partch, Harry, Genesis of a Music, 1974, Da Capo Press (Reserve Book), esp. chapters 2-10.

Polansky, "Harmony Primer", 2001, notes.

Polansky, "Notes on Optimal Well-Temperament", in progress, 2004.

      Sethares, "Local Consonance and the relationship between timbre and scale", JASA, 1993.

Shepard, "Structural Representations of Musical Pitch", in The Psychology of Music (Deutsch), 1982

Tenney, "The Several Dimensions of Pitch", in The Ratio Book, (Barlow), 2001

Context-free analysis and resynthesis

Binongo, Who Wrote the 15th Book of Oz? An Application of Multivariate Analysis to Authorship Attribution, Chance, 2003

Dubnov and Apel, "Audio Segmentation by Singular Value Clustering", ICMC Proceedings, 2004

Dubnov, Lartillot, and Bejerano, Using Machine-Learning Methods for Musical Style Modeling, Computer, 2004

      Gregoire and Buillot, Hausdorf Distance Between Complex Polygons, McGill University (printed in booklet but looks better on web)

McKay, "Automatic Genre Classification as a Study of the Viability of High-Level Features for Music Classification", ICMC Proceedings, 2004.

          Nosofsky, "Stimulus Bias, Asymmetric Similarity, and Classification", Cognitive Psychology, 1991.

Temperley, The Cognition of Basic Musical Structures, 2001 (Reserve Book), selected chapters

Non-deterministic and genetic algorithms

Bentley and Corne, Creative Evolutionary Systems, Morgan Kauffman, 2002, (Reserve Book), selected chapters.

Beyls, "Cellular Automata Mapping Procedures", ICMC Proceedings, 2004.



Students are asked to do four things in this seminar:



For each assignment, the composition or research project must clearly relate to or implement, in a formal, articulate-able way, something suggested by or described in the readings or in class discussions. I am not interested in intuitive, poetic interpretations of these ideas so much as attempts to really try out specific concepts in either a musical (piece) or heuristic (software) way. Whether software or piece, each assignment must also have a written component describing in detail:


In designing these projects, I would like students to seriously consider the question of what is a "test" of one of these ideas? How does the software or piece really teach us something new about the import, validity, generality, possibility or artistic potential of the formal idea? In particular, how can we judge the result? While a wide variety of answers and interpretations are possible to the above questions, I am most interested in those that treat explicability without resort to ambiguity as seriously as possible.