Speech and music, effable and ineffable:

an extraordinary plenary session of the
International Conference on Cognitive Science, 13-17 July, 2003.

Participants: Kristin Butchatsky, Stela Solar, Emery Schubert and Joe Wolfe

Can we obtain insight into the big questions about music by looking at the coding? Speech and music both use categorical perception, and thus have the advantages of digital communication and signal processing. But they digitise in complementary ways. In speech, phonemes are created by digitising aspects of timbre, whereas pitch and rhythm are analog variables. In music, pitch and rhythm are digitised, whereas timbre is the carrier signal.

cartoon of categorical perception    table of of categorical perception

This plenary sessions follows a technique borrowed from Galileo: the arguments are presented in the form of a discussion or debate among people representing the different views. Extensive musical, as well as phonetic examples are used. Words and music by Joe Wolfe.

  • The complete transcript of the session is available in .pdf format, including the music (390k).
  • The surtitles are also available as a powerpoint file.

  • mp3   sound recording in .mp3. Warning: 15 Mbyte.
ICCS photos  ICCS photos  ICCS photos  ICCS photos

Other photographs and a video were made. They may be added to this site in the future.

For those interested in pursuing further the questions about coding, information content and categorical perception in music, but presented in more orthodox formats, some scientific papers discussing these issues may be downloaded:


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