The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Ling-Lunch 3/21 - Martin Rohrmeier

Speaker: Martin Rohrmeier (MIT, Intelligence initiative Fellow)
Title: Introduction to musical syntax
Date/Time: Thursday, Mar 21, 12:30-1:45p
Location: 32-D461

In recent years, the cognitive link between music and language has been subject to various debates across disciplines ranging from linguistics, music, psychology, computer science, up to evolution and anthropology (e.g. Patel, 2008; Rebuschat, Rohrmeier, Cross & Hawkins, 2011; Katz & Pesetsky, submitted). One particular domain, in which an overlap between music and language has been frequently discussed, is syntax. Lerdahl & Jackendoff (1983) have specified a theory of tonal (Western) music which postulates nested, recursive dependency relationships that are modeled in analogy to linguistic syntax. However, a number of features of generative musical rules is not sufficiently specified in their theory. This point is addressed by a novel approach to describe musical syntax, which specifies an exact, general set of recursive generative rules and casts empirical predictions (Rohrmeier, 2011). In my presentation I will give an introduction into musical syntax and what it means to *hear* musical dependency and tree structures. I will compare these predictions with recent converging experimental evidence from cognitive and computational work.

All relevant musical concepts will be introduced and no particular music theoretical knowledge is required.

Katz, J. & Pesetsky, D. (submitted). The Identity Thesis for Language and Music, lingBuzz/000959 (2009).
Lerdahl, F. & Jackendoff, R. (1983). A Generative Theory of Tonal Music. Cambridge, MA.
Patel, A.D. (2008). Music, Language, and the Brain. Oxford University Press, New York.
Rebuschat, P., Rohrmeier, M., Cross, I., Hawkins (2011) Eds. Language and Music as Cognitive Systems. Oxford University Press.
Rohrmeier, M. (2011). Towards a generative syntax of tonal harmony. Journal of Mathematics and Music, 5 (1), pp. 35-53.