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NOLL, Thomas - Global Music Theory

NOLL, Thomas - Global Music Theory

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article written by Thomas Noll
article written by Thomas Noll

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Published by: robertobob on Mar 24, 2009
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Global Music Theory
Thomas Noll
Research Group KIT-MaMuTh for Mathematical Music Theory
Institute for Telecommunication Systems, Technical University of BerlinSekr. FR 6-10, Franklinstr. 28/29, D-10587 Berlinnoll@cs.tu-berlin.de, www.mamuth.de
The article investigates aspects of 
with respect to music the-ory and especially mathematical and computer-aided music theory. Thelocal/global dichotomy is applied (a) to the discipline such from a cul-tural semiotic point of view, (b) to the strategies of scientific knowledgemanagement
, and (c) to the music-theoretical discourse subjects. A detailed discussion is dedicated to thestudy of Guerino Mazzola’s proposal for a mathematical
denotator system 
for music-theoretical objects which is finally applied to Daniel Harrison’sdual network of harmonic concepts.
1 Music Theory and Scientific Culture
The Klangart ’99
Global Village - Global Brain - Global Music
was de-voted to the global nature of musical culture and presented approaches tointerdisciplinary music research. Hence, on a metalevel, it is worth study-ing the global nature of music research. Interdiscplinary collaborationleads to a complex interplay of research interests. Although the dynamicsof research interests in a scientific community work on their own and arecertainly not fully controlled by institutions and individuals, it is nev-ertheless useful to reflect upon these processes. We will argue in favourof the idea that globality of music-theoretical knowledge in some respectmirrors the globality of its object domain. However, global knowledgeis not the same as knowledge about globality. In contemporary physicsone observes a strong desire for
Grand Unified Theories
turning the mainaccepted working theories
of the principal interactions into one.It is not clear wether it is legitimate and of great benefit to comparephysics with musicology. What are the accepted local working music theo-ries to be unified? Is there a desire to do so? These questions are not only
Financed by the Volkswagen-Stiftung
General Relativity is one local perspective among others. Nevertheless it is a theory aboutglobal structures.
directed towards epistemology, but to a high degree towards the mecha-nisms of scientific culture. Therefore we refer to a semiotically motivatedtripartition of culture and discuss it with respect to the local/global di-chotomy, because these are constituents that may be suitably associatedwith the Klangart topic. The basic semiotic anatomy and mechanismsof 
are based on the interaction of three domains, namely
culture (cf. [13]).1. Social culture is constituted by a community in which individualsand institutions occupy different positions in a structure of inter-dependences, that regulate their actual behavior through manifoldkinds of stimulation and restriction. For our considerations of ascientific community we are especially interested in the regulationof research and communication on the background of specializationand division of labour.2. Material culture is constituted by all kinds of artifacts producedand consumed by its members, like musical instruments, computers,etc. - including all kinds of sign vehicles, like scores and datafiles.We are especially interested in the conditions under which computerprograms and electronic musical corpora may contribute to a newexperimental paradigm.3. Mental culture is constituted by knowledge domains, natural lan-guages, musical and other sign systems, theories, etc. We are espe-cially interested in the way theories and other knowledge domainsmay coexists and/or influence each other.Music Theory has to be characterized as an open substructure of alarger surrounding culture having many operlaps with and ramificationsinto musical, scientific and technological domains. We may presuppose thepenetration of ”alien” disciplines into music theory as something naturalwith regard to the cultural mechanism. But we focuss our attention tophenomena of globality
the music-theoretical subculture though itsunquestionable openness.
It is very popular to illustrate
with a network-metaphor: Ev-erything can be linked to everything else. But there is a difference betweena mere reference from one object to another and two objects being ”glued”along a shared substructure. The latter happens when geographers recon-struct the
from an atlas of overlapping maps. The idea of gluinglocal maps is behind the mathematical concept of 
global structures
. Theoverlap of the maps allows a controlled transition from one coordinatesystem to the other.Mathematical models of 
global structure
can be applied to the music-theoretical domain in two ways:1. in order to conceive musical structures as global ones,
With respect to ongoing discussions about globalization of knowledge through internettechnology one should not appraise globality naively. Global accessibility to informationwill perhaps support a more general process of knowledge globalization towards a new typeof encyclopedism. But such a process will heavily depend on further fundamental research.Mazzola (cf. [7], [8]) argues in favour of a programmatic role of music within such a movement. We nevertheless prefer to continue our attention to the needs of Music Theory.
2. in order to understand knowledge about musical structures as global.Of course, without being forced by the music-theoretical content, onewould not leave a suitable coordinate system. Therefore we start with asimple musical example of a chord sequence resisting against interpreta-tion within a specific local coordinate system: the
Euler Tone-Net 
Thiscoordinate system is explicitly or implicitly favoured by many authors.It is spanned by fifths (horizontal direction) and major thirds (verticaldirection). Triads correspond to triangles.
Figure 1: A simple chord sequence with tied notes
 d  d  d  d  d  d 
 d  d  d 
 d  d  d 
 d  d  d  d  d  d 
 d  d  d  d  d  d 
 s s s s s s s s
The four figures above represent four Euler Tone-Net Maps each con-sisting of two successive triads in the sequence. What counts here is nottheir succession as such, but the fact that tied notes occupy identical po-sitions. The little circular nodes within the triangles together with theconnecting edges represent prescricptions for triangles to be glued. Theresulting global object cannot be embedded into the Tone-Net.
.This structure somehow reflects the global character of knowledgeabout harmony. We may conceive the above construction as a proto-col of a mental experiment of hermeneutic nature. Instead of directlyconcluding that the chord sequence is a global structure, we could inspectother theoretical viewpoints. We list some of them:1. to neglect the independence of fifth- and third-kinship. This is whatmost scholars do in practice, although often not in their theoreticalreasoning (e.g. Heinrich Schenker and his school),2. to neglect the homogeneity of the tone space, (e.g., not to considerthe triad of scale degree
as a proper one, like Moritz Hauptmann)
Positions in the Euler Tone-Net correspond to octave classes in just tuning, cf. [6],[12].
In Mazzola’s terminology this is an example for a
non-interpretable global composition.

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