The topic of music theory evaluation has recently aroused heated
debate within the music theory community (Journal of Music Theory, 33(1), 1989).
This paper develops a class of theories called \fImultiple viewpoint systems\fR.
A multiple viewpoint theory of music is a collection of independent views on
the musical surface, each modelling and predicting specific types of musical
When and why is one theory of music to be preferred over another? Some
researchers believe that the notion of preference can be formalized, and
others that it is subjective and based on esthetic criteria. This paper
attempts a conciliation of these two views. On one hand, we believe that
the best theory of a musical concept generates creative, esthetically more
pleasing instances of the concept, and that this part of music theory
evaluation cannot be truly objective. However, we conjecture that
predictive power is a sufficient condition for esthetic quality. Predictive
power is measured by performing inductive inference over a sample, and
estimating the entropy, or complexity of the concept by applying rigorous
tests to the theory. Musical concepts are not static; although some broad
generalizations can apply, other generalizations are forced to change from
piece to piece. To model this effect, we use a \fIlong-term\fR model which
represents the general musical concept, and a \fIshort-term\fR model which
adapts to a particular piece.
The methods outlined in this paper are applied to the musical concept of
"next event in a Bach chorale melody". Short and long-term multiple viewpoint
systems are induced from a sample, and applications of the preference
evaluation are given.
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