The Information Architecture of Music

The Information Architecture of Music

Jacques Steyn (Monash University, South Africa)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2497-9.ch001


Information architecture is about information structures and their relations within the information space, and in this chapter the music information space. To determine what the structures and relationships are, an ontological investigation is launched. Ontology in Information Systems has a specific meaning, and is here considered to be a methodology that results in a specific information architecture. Ontologies can apply to many levels of investigation and description, and to any of contemporary music disciplines. Music is here demarcated to a core consisting of pitch-frequency and tempo-time relationships, mapped onto music space. The roles of PitchSets (“octaves”), scales, and tuning systems within this space are explained, and proposed as the core components of the object “music.” The most basic and generic markup language for music should thus start from this core. All other ontologies and markup are secondary to this object.
Chapter Preview


The purpose of this chapter is to briefly investigate the concept of music, and by demarcating that object offer clarity for a project to create a generic markup language for music. An information system is here constructed as representing the perceived world, and for computer systems, this representation is translated into formats that a computer can use. It is this presentational format that I will call information architecture.

From all the possible contexts in which the term “music” is used, its meaning will be determined by the design goal of the application, and the definition needs to be clearly demarcated. The design goal in this chapter is to build an application that could handle the basics of music, i.e. the essentials required for a system to create music. The contemporary context for the design goal is that of music synthesis and DAWs (Digital Audio Workstations). This is based on the assumption that universally music is about performed soundwaves, but particular cultural “normative” subsets of the potential frequency spectrum.

Information architecture is about the design of relationships of information that could be used sensibly for computer applications. This goal seems to be exactly that of ontology as defined in Information Systems, but for present purposes, there is distinction between ontology and information architecture. Ontology, informed by an epistemology, is about the process of analyzing and constructing entities to be used within a specific domain. The ontological process is a methodology, an investigation into the characteristics of things and how they relate to other things. In a sense, it is about knowledge design: the design of the constructs regarded to be important for some or other domain of investigation. A particular set of constructs could be created following a diversity of methods. Much of the information systems literature on ontology may be regarded as a meta-analysis of the details of ontology, about defining this and about the methods to be used to determine the structure. Ontology is about the design of a design, so to speak, and in the construction of the entities and their relationships analytical, constructivist and hermeneutic strategies are followed. Information architecture on the other hand, is a particular result from an ontological investigation. It is the result of an ontological and epistemological investigation, but based on the choosing of a particular result among many to be implemented in application design and development. Many possible sets of ontological systems might be constructed for a particular domain, each having its own information architecture. The choice for a particular set is guided by the design goal of a particular artifact. Considering the design goal, one asks: Which available ontological set is the most appropriate for the particular design goal?

Why is information architecture important for music? It analyzes music information and builds a structure of relationships as an exercise independent of chip, circuit, or synthesis design. By presenting the detailed information structure, based on this structure the design of chips, circuits and synthesis could follow any engineering route. By being comprehensive, all the minute structural details of music are presented before the engineering process commences. Such a design approach might benefit the quality of the output of an artifact. Presently engineering design of music artifacts seems to focus on using the hammer approach, tweaking algorithms until the desired result is achieved. It does not seem to be sophisticated about the details of the information structure that could be identified independently from the hardware or algorithms.

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book: