[ISEA95] Keynote: Douglas Hofstadter – Musical Pattern versus Musical Meaning: What’s the Difference


Computers guided by complex programs can put letters and words, lines and colors together in never-before-seen ways. What results are pieces of text and pictures that can be seen and experienced by humans in much the same way as are human-produced writings and drawings. What about when computers put together sequences of sounds in never-before-heard ways? What kind of meanings do such complex patterns have? The key issue is that musical meaning seems to derive largely from the emotionallity of the person who first conceived the pattern of notes. When there is a program behind the scenes, and when the patterns sound like those dreamt up by a human being, what meaning does one attribute to such a piece?

  • Douglas Richard Hofstadter is director of the Centre for Research on Concepts and Cognition at the University of Indiana and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1979 for his book Gide’, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid . He is one of the rare experts in the field of artificial intelligence and cognitive science whose writings are widely accessible to both a specialist and lay audience. His 1995 book Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the¬†Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought is a synthesis of twenty years of research into modeling human creativity using computers. Professor Hofstadter also wrote Metamagical Themas, and between 1981-83 he wrote a column for Scientific American, also called Metamagical Themas.