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Open Access Publications from the University of California

An artificial intelligence approach to tonal music theory


There are virtually no computer models of tonal music theory, largely due to a preoccupation with syntax that comes from traditional linguistics, particularly from transformational grammar. Narmour's recent book, Beyond Schenkerism [5], defines Schenker analysis as a transformational system, refutes the central parts of that theory, and suggests an alternative theory of analysis. This paper draws a parallel between some of Narmour's ideas and current work in natural language processing, Schank and Abelson's Knowledge Structures [11]. The principal correspondence is between Narmour's "style forms" and the AI notion of semantic primitives. It may now be possible for music theorists to share the philosophy and methodology of AI researchers in producing programs to compose and analyze tonal music.

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