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A Generative Theory of Tonal Music

by Fred Lerdahl, Ray Jadkendoff

ISBN 0262620499 / 9780262620499 / 0-262-62049-9
Publisher Mit Pr
Language English
Edition Softcover
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Book summary

The seminal theory developed here grew out of the collaboration of composer Fred Lerdahl and linguist Ray Jackendoff. The authors create a synthesis of the outlook and methodology of contemporary linguistics with the insights of recent music theory. Their book presents a generative grammar of music that relates the aural surface of a piece to the musical structure unconsciously inferred by the experienced listener. While this approach is inspired by Chomskian transformational grammar, its development is in purely musical terms rather than through literal analogies to linguistic structure. The book can be read from several perspectives. From the viewpoint of music theory as traditionally conceived, it offers many innovations, not only in notation but also in the substance of rhythmic and reductional theory. The theory is illustrated with numerous musical examples from the Western classical traditional of total music. However, there is also some discussion of other musical idioms and of the nature of musical universals, providing a rich variety of questions for historical and ethnomusicological research. Beyond purely musical issues, the book investigates a domain of human cognitive capacity and pursues a number of formal and substantive connections between music, language, and visual perception. From this point of view, the study of musical grammar can provide central evidence for a more unified theory of cognition. While the authors have published several joint articles on their work, this book is the first complete exposition of the theory. Fred Lerdahl is Associate Professor of Music at Columbia University and Ray Jackendoff is Professor Linguistics at Brandeis University. The book isthird in the series, Cognitive Theory and Mental Representation. [via]