Re: CIMESP-Results Fwd:

Subject: Re: CIMESP-Results Fwd:
From: Eliot Handelman (
Date: Sun Nov 06 2005 - 14:34:19 EST

Richard Wentk wrote:

> At 23:50 04/11/2005, you wrote:
>> So the goodness can't be that I can predict what's happening or not,
>> since I can actually predict
>> everything that happens, assuming I've noticed it before. There must
>> be a
>> different explanation.
> I think you're confusing structural and perceptual prediction here.

I'm listening ....

> Structural prediction happens at the level of the score. If you
> already know how the notes go, there will indeed be no structural
> surprises.
> But perceptual prediction still has a momentum of its own. Knowing
> that the leading note will be resolved by a step up to the tonic
> doesn't mean the *experience* of that move is any less novel just
> because you've heard it thousands of times before.

Then prediction must be the wrong word. What you're talking about is
something like a facilitation effect
in which, eg, if I happen to be "in mind" of c then if I hear c# a
certain inflection of c# takes place because of
my memory. The c# gets "colored" in a (presumably) new way. I don't
have to predict anything for this
effect to occur -- just remember what happened. It's similar to the
problem of why chords sound the way they do.
The tones act on each other in some way. Minor doesn't sound like minor
because I'm predicting it
to be major. To me, it just sounds that way.

> So a familiar piece can still surprise at the perceptual level,
> because e.g. V VI will always be experienced as more surprising than V
> I, even if you know perfectly well what's going to happen next.

Because of differerent anterior inflections, not because you predict it
to go one way
or another. You know where it goes.

> Bach is particularly good at adding surprises at every level, so the
> music is more information rich than that of a hack composer who would
> be more likely to compose using cliches and defaults.

I would put it this way: Bach's music has a higher degree of inflection,
because of massive parallelizations,
than let's say the galop unique by Henri Faust. This is not the same as
surprise, since I know what's coming.

> In terms of an analogy to information theory a new symbol is required
> every time the music avoids a default.

That's the Leonard B. Meyer theory of yore.

> So it's hard to see how the theory is wrong - although it's also hard
> to argue that it's complete.

It's also hard to see what the theory is trying to explain. In my
thinking, the shapes of music are
analogues of other perceptions that relate to things in the real world.
So it's not as though we're
simply playing a game of "expect this" and "be surprised." In some way
the Beethoven 5 theme
does feel like some force "knocking at the door." The theme of the
eroica begins with ease and
concludes with a sense of trouble or concern. The demarche of the the
7th is
a complex conversation about dance, in which the players agree and
develop a crazy elastic energy.
I don't see where prediction plays any role in this.
-- eliot

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