‘Lerdahl and Jackendoff are, it seems, in favor of constructing a formally precise theory of music, in principle but not in practice.’Although Lerdahl and Jackendorff’s book was far more precise than any musicological discussion found in the leading journals, the importance of formalization cannot be underestimated. Notwithstanding all our musicological knowledge, many fundamental concepts are in fact treated as axioms; musicologists are, after all, anxious to tackle far more interesting matters than basic notions like tempo, meter or syncopation, to name a few. But these axioms are not in actual fact understood, in the sense that we are not able (as yet) to formalize them sufficiently to explain them to a computer. This is still the challenge of ‘computer modelling’ (and of recent initiatives such as computational humanities) – a challenge that Longuet-Higgins was one of the first to take up [Excerpt from Honing, 2011].
Longuet-Higgins, H. C. (1983). All in theory — the analysis of music Nature, 304 (5921), 93-93 DOI: 10.1038/304093a0
Longuet-Higgins, H. C. (1976). Perception of melodies Nature, 263 (5579), 646-653 DOI: 10.1038/263646a0
Honing, H. (2011). The illiterate listener. On music cognition, musicality and methodology. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.