Special issue 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@cs.uu.nl. If you have any further questions, please
contact Frans Wiering.

Schedule
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