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Generative Processes in MusicThe Psychology of Performance, Improvisation, and Composition$
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John Sloboda

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780198508465

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198508465.001.0001

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Cognitive constraints on compositional systems

Cognitive constraints on compositional systems

(p.231) 10 Cognitive constraints on compositional systems
Generative Processes in Music

Fred Lerdahl

Oxford University Press

This chapter explores the relationship between composing and listening. It begins with a problematic story, draws some general conclusions, introduces relevant concepts from Lerdahl and Jackendoff (1983) and related work, proposes some cognitive constraints on compositional systems, discusses ‘pitch space’, and explains why serial (or 12-tone) organizations are cognitively opaque. If a listener understands music by constructing a hierarchical mental representation of it, then effective compositions will abide by constraints which allow listeners to do just that. This chapter identifies a number of specific constraints, and shows that serial music falls foul of several of them. It argues that this is the reason why such music is so impenetrable.

Keywords:   compositional systems, Fred Lerdahl, Jackendoff, Le Marteau, pitch space, cognitive opacity, serial music

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