Music analysis and Kolmogorov complexity

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The goal of music analysis is to find the most satisfying explanations for musical works. It is proposed that this can best be achieved by attempting to write computer programs that are as short as possible and that generate representations that are as detailed as possible of the music to be explained. The theory of Kolmogorov complexity suggests that the length of such a program can be used as a measure of the complexity of the analysis that it represents. The analyst therefore needs a way to measure the length of a program so that this length reflects the quality of the analysis that the program represents. If such an effective measure of analysis quality can be found, it could be used in a system that automatically finds the optimal analysis for any passage of music. Measuring program length in terms of number of source-code characters is shown to be problematic and an expression is proposed that overcomes some but not all of these problems. It is suggested that the solutions to the remaining problems may lie either in the field of concrete Kolmogorov complexity or in the design of languages specialized for expressing musical structure.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2012
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 2012
EventXIX Colloquio di Informatica Musicale - Conservatorio di Musica "Giuseppe Tartini", Trieste, Italy
Duration: 21 Nov 201224 Nov 2012
Conference number: 19


ConferenceXIX Colloquio di Informatica Musicale
LocationConservatorio di Musica "Giuseppe Tartini"


  • music analysis
  • Kolmogorov complexity
  • computational music analysis
  • computational musicology

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