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David Temperley

David Temperley is Associate Professor of Music Theory at the Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester, and the author of The Cognition of Basic Musical Structures (MIT Press, 2001).

Titles by This Author

In Music and Probability, David Temperley explores issues in music perception and cognition from a probabilistic perspective. The application of probabilistic ideas to music has been pursued only sporadically over the past four decades, but the time is ripe, Temperley argues, for a reconsideration of how probabilities shape music perception and even music itself. Recent advances in the application of probability theory to other domains of cognitive modeling, coupled with new evidence and theoretical insights about the working of the musical mind, have laid the groundwork for more fruitful investigations. Temperley proposes computational models for two basic cognitive processes, the perception of key and the perception of meter, using techniques of Bayesian probabilistic modeling. Drawing on his own research and surveying recent work by others, Temperley explores a range of further issues in music and probability, including transcription, phrase perception, pattern perception, harmony, improvisation, and musical styles.

Music and Probability—the first full-length book to explore the application of probabilistic techniques to musical issues—includes a concise survey of probability theory, with simple examples and a discussion of its application in other domains. Temperley relies most heavily on a Bayesian approach, which not only allows him to model the perception of meter and tonality but also sheds light on such perceptual processes as error detection, expectation, and pitch identification. Bayesian techniques also provide insights into such subtle and advanced issues as musical ambiguity, tension, and "grammaticality," and lead to interesting and novel predictions about compositional practice and differences between musical styles.

In this book, David Temperley addresses a fundamental question about music cognition: how do we extract basic kinds of musical information, such as meter, phrase structure, counterpoint, pitch spelling, harmony, and key from music as we hear it? Taking a computational approach, Temperley develops models for generating these aspects of musical structure. The models he proposes are based on preference rules, which are criteria for evaluating a possible structural analysis of a piece of music. A preference rule system evaluates many possible interpretations and chooses the one that best satisfies the rules.

After an introductory chapter, Temperley presents preference rule systems for generating six basic kinds of musical structure: meter, phrase structure, contrapuntal structure, harmony, and key, as well as pitch spelling (the labeling of pitch events with spellings such as A flat or G sharp). He suggests that preference rule systems not only show how musical structures are inferred, but also shed light on other aspects of music. He substantiates this claim with discussions of musical ambiguity, retrospective revision, expectation, and music outside the Western canon (rock and traditional African music). He proposes a framework for the description of musical styles based on preference rule systems and explores the relevance of preference rule systems to higher-level aspects of music, such as musical schemata, narrative and drama, and musical tension.