[Humanist] 22.381 cfp: Music and the Sciences

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Sun Dec 14 08:08:41 CET 2008

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 22, No. 381.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Sun, 14 Dec 2008 07:06:37 +0000
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: cfp: Music and the Sciences

Interdisciplinary Science Reviews (www.isr-journal.org)
Special issue Music and the Sciences
Guest Editor: Frans Wiering
Deadline for papers: Monday 29 June 2009

We invite you to contribute to a volume on music and the sciences. The 
articles in this issue are intended to provide an overview of how an 
understanding of music is enriched by the scientific study of it.

Musicology, the academic study of music, has always had a distinctly 
interdisciplinary nature. Strong interaction with the humanities has 
traditionally included such areas such as literature, arts, history, 
religion and philosophy. Musicology has likewise been enriched by 
interdisciplinary contact with the sciences, notably more so in the last 
few decades. It has become quite acceptable for computer scientists, 
mathematicians and cognitive scientists to study aspects of music either 
within their own disciplines or together with musicologists.

One reason why this may have happened is a distinctive change of focus 
in music research. Music is no longer studied in the first place from a 
‘structural’ viewpoint, as a thing in itself. Instead, human involvement 
with music is put at the centre of attention. This is evident in the 
emergence of a strong research tradition in music perception and 
cognition, and in the recent involvement of the neurosciences. Music as 
a social phenomenon, even a means to define one’s personal identity, has 
attracted attention from sociology, anthropology and evolutionary 
biology. Music as a commodity has stimulated research from the 
perspectives of computer science and economics. Music has even become 
the motivation for interdisciplinary research outside musicology, for 
example in projects that connect cognition and computing research.

Though it is difficult to come up with an accurate estimate, it is clear 
that today a significant amount of music research is performed outside 
musicology. Probably the most important challenge such research faces is 
to bridge the apparent gap between a quantitative or empirical approach, 
which leads to generic insights, and the individual appreciation of 
music as an art and the understanding of the uniqueness of ‘musical 
works’ (to use a convenient expression that is somewhat discredited in 
recent research).

The latter aspect relates to the hardest questions in music research, 
which concern music and meaning. Music is obviously meaningful to a very 
large part of humankind. Yet such meaning is subjective, difficult to 
express, and hard to relate to measurable musical properties. Small 
wonder that musical meaning was regarded for a long time as an 
illegitimate question in music research. Yet questions about meaning do 
not just go away when they are being ignored, as they relate to the 
fundamental reasons why we want to study at all. Meaning has come back 
as a central topic in modern musicology, where it is answered using a 
variety of postmodern philosophical and culture-critical methods. In the 
sciences, a considerable amount of knowledge has been gathered about how 
music functions in the human mind and in society. Such knowledge may 
also be expected to shed some light on problems relating to musical 
meaning, for example what properties play a role in generating it, how 
it is perceived, stored and communicated to others, how it depends on 
training, exposure and cultural background and finally the question why 
we have music at all.

Practical matters

For this issue we solicit articles on interdisciplinary music research 
in the context of the mathematics, computing and the natural and social 
sciences such as (in no particular order) biology, physics, engineering, 
medicine, psychoacoustics, neuroscience, cognitive science, psychology, 
sociology, anthropology and linguistics. Each article should provide an 
engaging account of how our understanding of music is enriched by one or 
more particular disciplines. Articles should present overviews rather 
than in-depth studies of a particular problem and should appeal in every 
case to non-specialists. They must, however, appeal to specialists as 
well. The inclusion of one or two insightful case-studies within the 
broader context presented in the article is definitely encouraged.

All contributions will be peer-reviewed. Articles may contain 
black-and-white illustrations (for which authors should seek any 
necessary permissions). Articles should have a maximum length of 6000 
words. For details about format see www.maney.co.uk/journals/notes/isr.

All contributions should be sent to Frans Wiering, 
frans.wiering at cs.uu.nl. If you have any further questions, please 
contact Frans Wiering.


Mo 2 February 2009	Please express your intention to contribute (title, 
authors, abstract)
Mo 29 June 2009	Submit first version
Mo 21 September 2009	Decision and reviewers’ comments to authors
Mo 30 November 2009	Submit final version
March 2010	Publication as Vol. 35:1

Willard McCarty, Professor of Humanities Computing,
King's College London, staff.cch.kcl.ac.uk/~wmccarty/;
Editor, Humanist, www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist;
Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, www.isr-journal.org.

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