On Quantitative Aspects of Musical Meaning

Kalev Tiits
University of Helsinki, Finland (August, 2002)


This study introduces some approaches to computer-based and other highly formalized methods for analysing form in time-dependent, music-based data. The data in question are defined as a stream of events (elements, signs, samples) that constitute a time series, and contain such structural cues in time which can be experienced as musically relevant. Various classical computer music methods and data representations are discussed and a new method sketched, which draws ideas from recent scientific developments. Different technologies are evaluated in light of their relation to musical meaning, particularly in its symbolic function. A key aspect of this study is that a datadriven processing method is preferred over the more widely used rule-based ones. This study also surveys isomorphisms and connections of sub-symbolic data processing to the general emergence of musical signification, as seen from a semiotic perspective on the reception of music. The study incorporates computer software written by the author, which was used in testing and experimentation. A series of empirical experiments was conducted on three works selected from the solo flute repertoire of the 20th-century. In sum, the present study brings together several threads of thought, including schools as theoretically distant from each other as philosophical-semiotic explication, on the one side, and computer-based, sub-symbolic signal processing on the other.

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