Recursions: Music and Cybernetics in Historical Perspective
24-25 October 2019 
St Cecilia’s Hall, University of Edinburgh

Cybernetic thinking, engineering and pedagogy left indelible marks on the
arts and sciences of the late twentieth century. There is now widespread
recognition of the role cybernetics played in inspiring many Cold War
composers and improvisers. Less known is the way cybernetics shaped the
epistemology of late twentieth century music theoretical, pedagogical and
ethnographic research. In fact, the impact of cybernetic principles and
methodologies on our understanding of music and musicality is ongoing. They
permeate the management and outreach discourse of the institutions that
support music and music research. They lie at the foundation of recent
accounts of cognition and brain function. And they are even gaining a
significant foothold in music historiography, both directly in the
computational techniques reshaping corpus studies and network analysis, and
indirectly through the ideas of communication and social theorists.
Recursions seeks to cultivate a deeper understanding of the ways
cybernetics, systems theory and information theory inform musical
scholarship, practice, policy and industry, with a particular emphasis on
perspectives from cultural, social and intellectual history.

Recursions features a keynote lecture by Eric A Drott of the University of
Texas at Austin, and a panel on history of Music Informatics at the
University of Edinburgh, convened by Peter Nelson.
Thanks to the generous support of the British Academy and the Edinburgh
College of Art, we are pleased to offer registration free of charge. As
space and resources are limited, non-presenting attendees must register for
admission as soon as possible using the link provided on the website.

Convenors: Patrick Valiquet (patrick.valiquet -at- and
Christopher Haworth (c.p.haworth -at -

Conference website: 


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