Martin Rohrmeier: Musical Syntax and Its Cognitive Implications

When: December 6, 2012 @ 5:30 PM – 6:30 PM

Where: Room 4.33, Informatics Forum, Crichton Street, University of Edinburgh

Seminar Title

Musical Syntax and Its Cognitive Implications

Seminar Speaker(s)

Dr Martin Rohrmeier

Seminar Abstract

In recent years, the cognitive link between music and language has been subject to various debates across disciplines ranging from linguistics, music, psychology, computer science, up to evolution and anthropology (e.g. Patel, 2008; Rebuschat, Rohrmeier, Cross & Hawkins, 2011). One particular domain, in which an overlap between music and language has been frequently discussed, concerns the principles of syntactic structure building. In this talk I will present a formal approach to musical syntax that grounds on earlier work by Mark Steedman (1996) and the cognitive model by Lerdahl & Jackendoff (1983). The theory proposes an explicit, general set of generative rules to describe principles of tonal harmony (Rohrmeier, 2011). It further characterises ways in which tonal music is recursive and casts empirical (cognitive) predictions. I will give an introduction into musical syntax and what it means to *hear* musical dependencies and tree structures. I will further relate the formalism to recent computational approaches and findings from cognitive research.

Granroth-Wilding, M & Steedman, M. (2012) Statistical Parsing for Harmonic Analysis of Jazz Chord Sequences. In Proceedings of the International Computer Music Conference (ICMC).
Haas, W.B. de, Rohrmeier, M., Veltkamp, R.C. & Wiering, F. (2009). Modeling Harmonic Similarity Using a Generative Grammar of Tonal Harmony. In Proceedings of theInternational Conference on Music Information Retrieval (ISMIR).
Lerdahl, F. & Jackendoff, R. (1983). A Generative Theory of Tonal Music. Cambridge, MA.
Patel, A.D. (2008). Music, Language, and the Brain. Oxford University Press, New York.
Rebuschat, P., Rohrmeier, M., Cross, I., Hawkins (2011) Eds. Language and Music as Cognitive Systems. Oxford University Press
Rohrmeier, M. (2011). Towards a generative syntax of tonal harmony. Journal of Mathematics and Music, 5 (1), pp. 35-53.
Steedman, M. (1996). The Blues and the Abstract Truth: Music and Mental Models. In A. Garnham and J. Oakhill, (eds.), Mental Models In Cognitive Science. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum, 305-318.

Presentation Slides

PDF Document (2MB)