Computer-aided Inquiry on Music Communication - The Rules of Music

Author: Baroni, Mario; Dalmonte, Rossana; and Jacoboni, Carlo
Baroni, Mario; Dalmonte, Rossana; and Jacoboni, Carlo
Baroni, Mario; Dalmonte, Rossana; and Jacoboni, Carlo
This is an English translation of the authors’ Le Regole Della Musica: Indagine Sui Meccanismi Della Communicazione, published in Italy in 1999. It is divided into three parts. Part one discusses the concepts of ‘rule’ and ‘grammar’ in the general theory of musical communication, and the role of the computer in studying musical communication. In part two, the authors use a computer program they designed to make a concrete application of the theory. The computer analyzed the arias from a volume of cantatas by Giovanni Legrenzi, a 17th century composer. Based on the analysis, the computer was able to output artificial arias in Legrenzi’s style. (The aim of the program is not to compose new music, but to verify the correctness and completeness of the rules.) In part three, one aspect of the grammar is taken into consideration: the rules of melody. Starting from the grammar of Legrenzi’s arias, a general theory of melody has been developed and its validity has been tested on repertories ranging from Gregorian chant to Arnold Schoenberg.


“… a very stimulating work that addresses a theory of musical language. Mario Baroni and Rossana Dalmonte, two renowned musicologists, and Carlo Jacobini, a physicist, have written a book that enriches the research from both a humanistic and a scientific perspective…. In the last part of their work, Baroni, Dalmonte and Jacoboni illustrate how the grammar of music can be used to reexamine the history of western musical styles. With clear and sensitive musical examples, the authors trace the stylistic evolutions of the sung melody starting from the Gregorian chant and progressing to pre-tonal monody, pre-tonal sacred polyphony, the melodies of the 18th century, the romantic Lied, and the characteristics of the melody between 1800-1900…. An inspiring book that reflects deep musical knowledge and a very keen understanding of the research that compares music and language. With far-reaching vision, it proposes that the grammar of music could be studied across periods of western music. The richness of the arguments will encourage musicians and music psychologists to set new goals for investigating the language of music. Unquestionably, this is a thought-provoking work.” – Rita Aiello, Aaron Copland School of Music, Queens College, CUNY

“The authors have no peers in the scope or depth of their studies. Le regole is a summation of work that reaches back over two or more decades. It is unlikely that the subject will be probed in comparable depth or breadth by anyone else in the foreseeable future…. A landmark…. Part Three is an exciting read in particular because of its breadth….they all contain interesting points for discussion. The works examined range from a monophonically chanted Christmas mass, through Machault, Josquin, Handel, Schubert, Lizst, Debussy, Hindemith, Schoenberg, and others.” – Eleanor Selfridge-Field, Center for Computer Assisted Research in the Humanities, Stanford University

“The book, long and detailed, slowly and painstakingly builds a theoretical foundation, appropriately centered on categorical perception, which demonstrates the cultural interplay of music composition ‘rules’ and psychology research. The authors demonstrate a thorough understanding of current music psychology theories and the supporting literature, and develop strong parallels between the concept of speech and musical grammar. The result is a sophisticated and advanced treatise on the grammar of western musical structure, a remarkable scholarly achievement indeed.” – Harold Fiske, University of Western Ontario

Table of Contents

Table of contents (main headings):
Part One: For a theory of musical grammar
1. Concept of grammar in music
2. Grammar as an ordered system of rules
3. Expressive functions of grammar
4. Music and cognitive apparatus
5. Grammar, style and analysis
6. Computer verification of rules
Part Two – A musical grammar: Legrenzi’s arias
7. The repertory
8. Processing the text
9. The macroform
10. The construction of the melodic phrase
11. Harmony
12. The melodic line of the bass
13. The LEGRE computer program
Part Three – Ten centuries of melody
14. Problems of melodic theory
15. Melodic contours in pre-tonal monody (Gregorian chant, Trouvères; Machault)
16. Melodic profiles in pre-tonal religious polyphony (Machault’s Mass, Josquin Despres; Palestrina)
17. Melodic profile in the 18th century
18. The Romantic Lied
19. Melody between the 19th and 20th centuries
Appendices; References; Subject Index; Name Index