Musicology and ICT Methods (Music)

In all arts and humanities disciplines there are areas of enquiry that more or less lend themselves to computational methods of research and the field of music is no exception. For the purposes of the 2001 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), the fields encompassed by the discipline of ‘music’ include:

[quote]‘Composition and performance (including classical, commercial, and popular); history and criticism of music; ethnomusicology; theory and analysis, including empirical approaches; technology and computer applications.’
RAE 2001 (http://www.hero.ac.uk/rae/)[/quote]

This is one way of breaking down the complex relations between sub-disciplines but one could equally talk in terms of the different domains of music as being either acoustic (physical), auditory (perceived) or graphemic (notated). Definitions can be problematized further by consideration at any length of concepts such as ‘composition’ and ‘performance’. The opportunities afforded by software to analyse and then re-engineer existing music blur traditional definitions of the first term, whilst the latter has to support an enormous diversity of potential investigative approaches including: physiology, psychology, acoustics, material studies, cognition, perception etc…

On the face of it, the patterns and relationships that are discernible between the relative pitch, intervals and timbre of musical sounds would seem to lend themselves well to formal and quantitative analysis methods but this simple formulation underestimates the complexity of the language and expressiveness of music, and perhaps overestimates the precision and flexibility of digital analysis and retrieval techniques. This conception of what computers can do in the realm of musicology is also far too limiting. For the purposes of these wiki articles, the term ‘musicology’ is understood quite broadly and will encompass digital techniques that impact upon historical, visual and cognitive approaches to the subject, in addition to the type of analysis that might generically be termed ‘digital signal processing’. (Performance related issues will be covered by articles under the heading 'performance').

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