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Towards Big Science

Towards Big Science

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Published by: walterdonatiello on Feb 07, 2013
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Guerino Mazzolaklangart '95— 1 —
Guerino Mazzola
CD/MultiMedia Lab, University of Zürich, gbm@presto.pr.net.ch
Towards Big Science: Geometric Logic of Music and its Technology
Based on modern information technology, mathematics and semiotics, systematicmusicology has fundamentally changed. As a theoretical basis of this change,mathematical music theory offers a precise language and models to describemusicological facts. It resides on the three paradigms of symmetry, local-globalgestalts and the Yoneda classification by “variation of perspectives”.Operationalization of the theory is an integral part of this renewal. Representationand control of its inhomogeneous and semantically open data make music aprototypical research subject asking for Big Science in Humanities. We illustratethis development by means of the analysis and performance platform RUBATO.
1 Introduction
What is Big Science? It is the type of science which was introduced by thephysicists via big particle accelerators together with its financial,sociological and political implications. To give an example: the CERN (=Centre Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire) with a total of roughly10'000 employees embodies—among others—a circular LEP (= LargeElectron Positron Collider) accelerator of 27 km circumference; CERN'selectricity consumption is comparable to the total volume of the city of Geneva, and the total annual financial volume is about one billion CHF[CERN].Big Science is recognized by the following characteristics:Scientific languageModels and theoremsExperimental paradigms and operationalizationUniversal collaboration and communicationAdequate laboratories and machinesPolitical acceptance and corresponding resourcesIt is no coincidence that the universal communication on the internet wasgiven the adequate streamline interface of world wide web in 1989 byCERN's Tim Berners-Lee on NeXT computers.In what follows, I want to make clear that musicology, too, needs and
Guerino Mazzolaklangart '95— 2 —
deserves the extension to a variant of Big Science. In order to actualize thehistorical link, let me cite Pierre Boulez, the founder and architect “malgrélui” of the IRCAM (= Institut Recherche Coordination AcoustiqueMusique) in Paris: "Es ging mir bei meiner methodischen Untersuchungdes musikalischen Universums und bei der Ableitung der vielfachenKonsequenzen, die aus einer Anzahl rationaler Ausgangspunkte zu ziehensind, um den Versuch, ein zusammenhängendes System aufzubauen. DieUntersuchungsmethoden und die Erforschung eines solchenzusammenhängenden Systems halte ich für unerlässlich zur Grundlegung jeglicher schöpferischen Arbeit. Man halte mir nicht entgegen, einederartige Auffassung führe zur Trockenheit, töte alle Phantasie und alleInspiration — im Gegenteil: ich erblicke darin die stärkste Form derErfindung, bei der die Imagination eine äusserst wichtige und bestimmendeRolle spielt. Wenn ästhetisches Denken unabhängig von der Wahl, derEntscheidung über die Technik, auftritt, kann es nur zum Bankrott führen:die Sprache wird, je nach Temperament, zu einer mehr oder wenigergewundenen Heuchelei oder zu einer banalen Gestikulationherabgewürdigt...Unsere Imagination schärft die Intelligenz und unsere Intelligenz ist derRückhalt der Imagination — ohne diese Wechselwirkung wird alle For-schung und Untersuchung zur Schimäre. Oft schon wurde gesagt: dieMusik ist sowohl Wissenschaft wie Kunst. Wer könnte diese beiden Wesen-heiten im selben Tiegel verschmelzen, wenn nicht die Imagination, diese'Königin der Fähigkeiten'!" [Boulez 1963, 1985]Evidently, Boulez' reflections are no plain statements but rather elements of a program which aims at realizing imagination such that arts and scienceare effectively reconciled. Let me state this implicit program in a way as toturn information technology into the central point of its feasibility:
Postulate. Boulez' invocation of the “royal imagination” can only beenvisaged by the virtual realization of the complex theoretical as well as practical system of music, its sounds and their relations by means of today's information technology.
Recall that 'virtual' means 'being such in essence', in other words: Virtualrealization means essential realization!However, we are dramatically far from this objective, at least in Germanspeaking Europe. For instance, in Switzerland, elementary particle researchreceived roughly seventy times more financial support in 1994 thanmusicological research (multimedia projects included). And the presenceof German speaking countries at the International Computer MusicConference '94 in Aarhus was remarkably weaker than anyone of the Latin,Scandinavian or Anglo-American country groups.Nonetheless, music is a central issue in human life—though it affectsanother layer of reality than physics. We believe that the attempt to
Guerino Mazzolaklangart '95— 3 —
understand or to compose a mayor work of music is as important anddifficult as the attempt to unify gravitation, electromagnetism, weak andstrong forces. And isn't it equally hyper-ambitious to unveil the God of physics through a Grand Unification formula as to understand Beethoven'sFifth, for instance?! For sure, the ambitions are comparable, and hence, thetools should be comparable, too. So, where are we on the way to such anemancipation of Humanities from Natural Sciences?
2 Language, Models and Theorems
Let me get off ground with a sketch of the present vectors towards a validscientific language in musicology. In the concluding section of [Boulez1963, 1985], Boulez answers the question why he so often refers to theanalogy with the mathematical method:”Weil die Mathematik dieWissenschaft ist, die zur Zeit die am weitesten entwickelte Methodologiebesitzt, war mir daran gelegen, sie zum Vorbild zu nehmen, das uns helfenkann, unsere gegenwärtigen Schwachstellen zu beheben. Ich wolltegewissermassen die Fundamente für eine musikalische Methodologielegen." Since 1960, when this confession was expressed, Boulez wascompletely confirmed by the developments which are termed “ComputingMusicology” or “Mathematical Music Theory”, depending on the trans-resp. cisatlantic preferences. The tendency is readily recognized among themethodological spectrum which is presented on the occasion of the majorconferences like the SMAC (= Stockholm Music and AcousticConference), the ESCOM (= European Society of Cognitive Science inMusic), the ICMC (= International Computer Music Conference) or theklangart conference.To be clear, we agree with Boulez that music cannot degenerate or reduceto a section of mathematics: music is fundamentally rooted within physical,psychological and semiotic realities. But the formal description of musicalinstances by far trandscends purely statistical tools for empirical dataanalysis. This extension emerges from the operationalization of largeportions of the mathematical formalism by today's information technology;let us mention the use of Mathematica in NeXT's MusicKit by Julius Smithand David Jaffe [Jaffe-Smith 1993].A more in depth analysis of the increasing presence of mathematics inmusicology during the last 150 years reveals a surprisingly parallelevolution of these sciences, an evolution that clarifies much of the morerecent phenomena. Let us shortly sketch three major paradigms of bothmusicology and mathematics:global gestalts,symmetries,the Yoneda philosophy.

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