Saturday, 5 November 2016

Computational Musicology, ????, Profit

This year I had the pleasure of attending FARM at ICFP. As well as demoing Klangmeister, I gave a paper on what computational musicology means for the study of music. The abstract is as follows:

In this paper I examine the relationship that complexity theory and
disjunctive sequences have to music, music-generating programs
and literary works. I then apply these ideas by devising a program
to generate an infinite ‘Copyright Infringement Song’ that contains
all other songs within it. I adopt literary modes of analysis and
presentation, which I motivate by arguing that music is a cultural
and artistic phenomenon rather than a natural one.

The full paper is available online via the ACM.

Most of the FARM papers focused more on general analysis of the structure of music than the interpretation of the meaning of specific pieces. I find the general analytic approach fascinating, but as I argue in my paper, I think computational musicology can be more than that.

I'm grateful to the FARM organisers for accepting a work that is a little loose with the genre conventions of a computer science paper. ICFP is a great conference, but its usual standard of worthwhile research is inherited from mathematics and the sciences. With notable exceptions like James Noble's work on postmodern programming, I don't see many examples of academics employing computational thinking for humanities research.

The paper is based on a talk I gave at Strange Loop last year called Kolmogorov Music.