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Dissertation Defense

Nyssim Lefford:
"The Structure, Perception and Generation of Musical Patterns"

Thursday, July 22, 2004, 2:30 PM EST

Bartos Theatre, MIT Media Lab (E15)

Barry Vercoe
Professor of Media Arts and Sciences
Program in Media Arts and Sciences
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Thesis Supervisor

Whitman Richards
Professor of Cognitive Science and Media Arts and Sciences
Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences
Artificial Intelligence Laboratory
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Thesis Reader

William Mitchell
Professor of Architecture and Media Arts and Sciences
Academic Head, Media Arts and Sciences
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Thesis Reader

Structure distinguishes music from noise. When formulating that structure, musical artists rely on both mental representations and sensory perceptions to organize pitch, rhythm, harmony, timbre, and dynamics into musical patterns. The generative process may be compared to playing a game, with goals, constraints, rules, and strategies. In this study, games serve as a model for the interrelated mechanisms of music creation, and provide a format for an experimental technique that constrains creators as they generate simple rhythmic patterns. Correlations between subjects' responses and across experiments with varied constraints provide insight into how structure is defined in situ and how constraints impact creators' perceptions and decisions.

Through the music composition games we investigate the nature of generative strategizing, refine a method for observing the generative process, and model the interconnecting components of a generative decision. The patterns produced in these games and the findings derived from observing how the games are played elucidate the roles of metric inference, preference and the perception of similarity in the generative process, and lead us to a representation of generative decision tied to a creator's perception of structure.

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