[Smt-talk] Theorists and scientists

Michael Gogins michael.gogins at gmail.com
Fri Jul 6 10:08:58 PDT 2012

I absolutely defend the idea that music theory can be a science and
that a theorist does not need to be a practicing composer or
performer. As a science, music theory has an intrinsic value just like
mathematics or physics, and does not require any practical

However, as a composer working with generative algorithms, I do find
scientific and mathematically based work in music theory to be
extremely useful for musical purposes.

The relationship between theory and practice that I experience in my
own work is not unlike the relationship between theoretical physics
and solid-state electronics or nuclear engineering. The latter would
not even be possible without the former, even though the motivation
for the theory was pure curiosity and many of the theorists had little
or no practical engineering or experimental experience.

That said, theory must be concerned with phenomena. And the phenomena
of music ultimately refer to listening. Even scores, although they are
primary data for theorists, have much less interest or meaning without
the heard music that they represent. So although I think that one
could do theory without being a musician, being a musician should,
other things being equal, be helpful to a theorist.

Regarding the training and duties of theorists, I always think that
the proper education is very important, but it would be silly to
exclude someone who shows that they can do the work without the
education. Like Michael Faraday in physics, for example.

Michael Gogins
Irreducible Productions
Michael dot Gogins at gmail dot com

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