Propositional music—where art and science may meet in deep theoretical territory

Section of a speech given by Roger Malina with David Rosenboom at the International Design Journals Forum held at Tsinghua University, Beijing, September 29, 2018, titled Now that we have helped redesign the arts, let’s start redesigning the sciences. A transcription edited by Li Tuo was published in Chinese in Zhuangshi, Tsinghua University Design Journals, 11, 024-027, 2018.

Propositional music of many nows 2018

A chapter about propositional music forms as configuration spaces and ways of thinking about time as music of many nows in: Bogdanovic, D. and X. Bouvier (eds.). Tradition and Synthesis, Multiple Modernities for Composer-Performers, 121-142, (Québec, Canada: Les Éditions Doberman-Yppan).

Collapsing distinctions—performer-composer as metaphor for transcultural and transmodern music education (2017)

Notes from a speech delivered to the Global Forum Among Leaders of Higher Music Institutions, organized by the China Conservatory of Music, Beijing, September 10-12, 2017.

"2 + 2 = green" Innovation in Experimental Music at the University of Illinois (2017)

A chapter about the extraordinary history of experimental music at the University of Illinois in the mid-20th Century, written for the book: Hoxie, F.E. (ed.). The University of Illinois: Engine of Innovation, 121-134. (Urbana-Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press).

Ringing Minds in MindMusic: playful and social installations at the interface between music and the brain (2015)

With Mullen, T. and A. Khalil. Part of Mullin, T., et. al. In A. Nijholt (ed.). More Playful User Interfaces, Interfaces that Invite Social and Physical Interaction. Series: Gaming Media and Social Effects, 197-229. (London: Springer-Verlag). DOI=10.1007/978-981-287-546-4.

Description of the hyper-brain-computer-music composition, Ringing Minds, composed in collaboration with Tim Mullen and Alexander Khalil, and the technical methods with which it has been realized to date.

Active imaginative listening—a neuromusical critique (2014)

Published as a downloadable document online in Frontiers in Neuroscience, Auditory Cognitive Neuroscience, The Musical Brain, 8, 1-7. DOI=10.3389/fnins.2014.00251.

The parallel study of music in science and creative practice can be traced back to the ancients; and paralleling the emergence of music neuroscience, creative musical practitioners have employed neurobiological phenomena extensively in music composition and performance. Several examples from the author’s work in this area, which began in the 1960s, are cited and briefly described. From this perspective, the author also explores questions pertinent to current agendas evident in music neuroscience and speculates on potentially potent future directions.

A philosophical and theoretical perspective on BCMI published as the Forward to the book: Miranda, E. R. and J. Castet (eds.). (2014). Guide to Brain-Computer Music Interfacing. (London: Spinger Verlag).

Fostering and supporting student creativity and innovation (2013)

Article extracted from a presentation by the author and published online in: Proceedings, The 88th Annual Meeting 2012, May 2013,101, 43-54. (Reston, VA: National Association of Schools of Music).

A Conversation about Music between Iannis Xenakis and David Rosenboom 1983 (2012)

Edited transcription of a conversation recorded on video that took place at Mills College in 1983, published in the book: S. Kanach (ed.). Xenakis matters, xxx-xli. (Hillsdale, New York: Pendragon Press).

In March of 1983, Rosenboom, a long-time admirer of the work of Iannis Xenakis, and then Director of the Center for Contemporary Music at Mills College in Oakland, California, arranged for Xenakis to have a residency at Mills during which Xenakis taught students, gave seminars and participated in concerts of his music. Sometime during that residency – the precise date is unknown – Rosenboom and Xenakis decided to engage in a conversation about music in front of a video camera in the Mills College Ensemble Room. They touched on a range of subjects, including music learning, the perception of musical forms, music cognition, cultural universals in music, and many other related matters.

YOU! are Your Creative Capital (2011)

David Rosenboom's address to the students of California Institute of the Arts at their graduation on May 20, 2011, while Rosenboom was serving as Co-Acting President of CalArts.

Interview of David Rosenboom (2009)

Interview by Martine Bellen concentrating on the creation of AH! opera no-opera.

New York: Martine Bellen Literary Services

A School of Musical Possibilities (2008)

A statement about music education written for the groundbreaking ceremony of The Wild Beast music pavilion at California Institute of the Arts and published in the magazine, CalArts, Spring/Summer 2008.

David Rosenboom (2005)

Interview by E. Soltes (video and transcription) for Oral History of American Music. New Haven, CT: Yale University.

Lejaren Hiller: a true American musical experimentalist (2004)

Preface in Bohn, J. M. The music of American composer Lejaren Hiller and an examination of his early works involving technology, i-xix. (Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press).


Collapsing distinctions: interacting within fields of intelligence on interstellar scales and parallel musical models (2003)

An extensive monograph exploring what experimental music can teach us about recognizing and communicating with forms of intelligence other than our own, including examples from several decades of the author's work and with implications for the future of interactive processes and media.

Inspired by thought experiments involving relationships among practices in experimental music and recognizing and communicating with forms of intelligence other than our own, this monograph surveys and draws from a wide range of relevant examples from the authors musical work. Examples from chapter topics and titles include: paradigmatic parallels and complementarities among experiences in experimental musical composition and some of the primary problems in interstellar communication, the nature of co-creative communication, principles for interactive processes, the role of notation, a view of EMTS-(energy-matter-time-space), the propositional music model, complex adaptive processes in music, extension—over the axes of experience with a wide range of scales, delay—distance, prolongation, and directionality in musical performance and history, the point of view of waves and auditory knowledge, the problem of concrete forms in communication, the requirement of concurrent imagination for the recognition of signs and labels, principles for constructing interactive processes—music of many nows, avoiding thinking in terms of linear time and concurrent imagination, the problem of the perception of objects dissolving the objects of perception, ascendancy of empathy, altruism, and self-consciousness, and recognizing and re-cognizing species and intelligence differentiation. The opening paragraph reads, "Deeply and thoroughly contemplating the import of communicating with forms of intelligence other than that we believe we know, and about which all our presumptions could be arbitrary, sends us immediately to the roots of fundamental questions about our own, differentiated existence. If we consider the meanings we attach to the words in the preceding sentence, nearly any of them could lead us to fully reexamine the presumptions we carry with us in order to function in the world. Much of this article is about questioning our metaphors for understanding intelligence, time, space, information, communication, and messages, while drawing on the striking parallel explorations that occur naturally in the vast terrain of musical composition, especially when undertaken with an experimental attitude."

The photo at right shows an extraordinary gathering of eminent scientists, artists, philosophers, and others held at the home of then Leonardo/ISAST executive director, Roger Malina (standing lower right), in Paris in 2003, which Rosenboom attended (looking up lower left), to explore new thoughts about encountering alien forms of intelligence that cannot be known in advance. That gathering inspired the writing of this monograph.

Propositional music from extended musical interface with the human nervous system (2003)

In Avanzini, G., Faienza, C., Lopez, L., Majno, M., and Minciacchi, D. (eds.). The Neurosciences and music, Volume 999 of the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, (New York: NYAS), 263-271. doi: 10.1196/annals.1284.037.

Abstract: Results obtained from projects in which self-organizing musical structures spontaneously arise through electrical interface between the brain and generative musical systems are surveyed. This provides a springboard for examining important paradigm shifts taking place in our thinking about what musical forms can be and how this might influence efforts to increase our understanding of the underlying neural dynamics. Implications of this work for the design of music curricula are considered, emphasizing the importance of active imaginative listening. A view of composing, termed "propositional music," is introduced in which the proposition of cognitive models of music is an ongoing part of creative musical activity.

David Rosenboom, in York, the founding generation (2002)

Interview by S. Bekwith in York, the founding generation, 1970–2000, 69-78. (Toronto: Department of Music, Faculty of Fine Arts, York University).

Propositional music: on emergent properties in morphogenesis and the evolution of music; essays, propositions, commentaries, imponderable forms and compositional methods (2001)

In Zorn, J. (ed.). Arcana: Musicians on Music, 203-222. (New York: Hips Road and Granary Books).

Propositional music and transformation in the new millennium–a chord is a verb, not a noun (2001)

New Music LA. January–February. (Los Angeles: American Composers Forum, Los Angeles Chapter.)

Improvisation and composition–synthesis and integration into the music curriculum (1996)

In Proceedings, The 71st Annual Meeting, 1995, 19-31. (Reston, VA: National Association of Schools of Music).

Complex adaptive systems in music (1992)

Abstract for a talk. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 92, 4, 2, 2403.

Music notation and the Search for Extra–Terrestrial Intelligence (1992)

In Scholz, C. (ed.). Frog Peak Anthology. (Hanover, NH: Frog Peak Music). Also in Leonardo, 26,4, (1993), 273–274, available at Leonardo/JSTOR.

Interactive music with intelligent instruments–a new, "propositional music?" (1992)

In Brooks, I. (ed.). New Music Across America, 66-70. (Valencia and Santa Monica, CA: California Institute of the Arts and High Performance Books).

Music composition, scoring a painting (1991)

In Sound & Images, Conference Report, Program For Art On Film 22-23. (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the J. Paul Getty Trust).

Extended musical interface with the human nervous system: assessment and prospectus (1990-1997)

Extended musical interface with the human nervous system, assessment and prospectus is the 1997 revised edition of the original 1990 monograph published by Leonardo as Leonardo Monograph No. 1, International Society for the Arts, Sciences and Technology, (San Francisco: Leonardo/ISAST) and as an electronic document by MIT Press, (Cambridge, MA).


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The purpose of this monograph is severalfold: (1) to give a detailed description of some work done in the mid- to late-1970s in which I was able to achieve the spontaneous generation of formal musical architectures with a computer music system by using a detailed analysis of evoked responses to features in those architectures recorded from a performer's brain; (2) to provide an overview of some historical events related to the development of artistic works that are in some way responsive to bioelectrically derived signals; (3) to describe briefly the emergence of the biofeedback paradigm and to discuss biofeedback modeling; (4) to survey accumulated knowledge regarding interpretation of electroencephalographic phenomena with particular emphasis on event-related potentials (ERPs) and their relation to aspects of selective attention and cognitive information processing; (5) to present a speculative model for the general interpretation of electroencephalographic waveforms; (6) to discuss some inferences and speculations relating these phenomena to musical experience; (7) to provide an assessment of some methods and techniques that have been applied to realizing works of art with these phenomena; (8) to describe some specific algorithms for generating self-organizing musical structures in a feedback system that relates a limited model of perception to the occurrence of event-related potentials in a performer's brain; and (9) to discuss the potential of new and emerging technologies and conceptual paradigms for the future evolution of this work. Finally, an actual score containing a conceptual scheme for a biofeedback work involving electroencephalographic phenomena and electronic orchestrations is provided in an appendix to stimulate further thinking and ideas for applications in the arts.

The writing is addressed to those with an interdisciplinary interest in the arts (particularly music) and the sciences (particularly those of the brain, psychology and perception, and the study of self-organizing systems). However, readers whose backgrounds are in the arts or sciences alone, or even other areas such as cognition, philosophy, computer science or musical instrument design, are encouraged to read on as well. Many references are provided with which the reader may enhance her or his knowledge in a particular sub-discipline. Those who may find some of the technical descriptions difficult should first skim through the entire document and then return to individual sections for further study.

It is hoped that the ideas presented herein may contribute in some way toward increasing our breadth of understanding concerning dynamic processes in the arts and sciences.

The performing brain (1990)

Computer Music Journal, 14,1, 48–66. Included accompanying sound sheet with two recorded excerpts from On Being Invisible and printed notes. Available at Computer Music Journal/JSTOR.

Extended musical interface with the human nervous system: assessment and prospectus (1988)

Abstract of talk given to First International Symposium On Electronic Art, (Utrecht, Holland: Leonardo, Electronic Art Supplemental Issue), 121. Available at Leonardo/JSTOR.

Music for Keyboard Instruments and Improvisation Groups, 1964–1981 (1987)

Scores for ten musical works. Santa Clarita, CA: David Rosenboom Publishing. Distributed by Frog Peak Music, Hanover, NH.

Barry Truax: Sequence of Earlier Heaven (1987)

A review. Computer Music Journal, 11, 2, 71–72. Available at Computer Music Journal/JSTOR.

Collected Scores 1965–1973 (1987)

Scores for twelve musical works. Santa Clarita, CA: David Rosenboom Publishing. Distributed by Frog Peak Music, Hanover, NH.

Frames for future music (six composition lessons) (1987)

In Polansky, L. The future of music. Leonardo, 20, 4, 363–365. Available at Leonardo/JSTOR.

Maple Sugar and James Tenney (1987)

Perspectives of New Music, 25, 1 & 2, 562–563. Available at Perspectives of New Music/JSTOR.

A Tribute to James Tenney (1987)

Polansky, L. and Rosenboom, D. (Guest eds. for special issue). Perspectives of New Music, 25, 1 & 2, 434–591. See Perspectives of New Music/JSTOR.

Biomusic and the brain (1986)

Interview of David Rosenboom by D. Paul. Performing Arts Journal, 10, 2, 12–16. Available at Performing Arts Journal/JSTOR.


FOIL–85 and Meta–FOIL source listings (1985)

Significant expansion of software for the Touché hybrid digital-analog keyboard instrument with additions and extensions for performance, algorithmic composition, and hardware interfacing.

Santa Clarita, CA: David Rosenboom Publishing.

Collected Articles (1968–1982) (1984)

Santa Clarita, CA: David Rosenboom Publishing. Distributed by Frog Peak Music, Hanover, NH.

David Rosenboom (1983)

Interview by V. Plush for Oral History of American Music. (New Haven, CT: Yale University).

Interview with David Rosenboom (1983)

Interview by L. Polansky. Computer Music Journal, 7(4), 40–44. Also in OP Independent Music Magazine, U. (1984). (Olympia, WA: Lost Music Network), 49-51. Also in Roads, C. (ed.). (1989). The music machine, selected readings from the Computer Music Journal. (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press), 45-49. Available at Computer Music Journal/JSTOR.

FOIL–83 source listings (1983)

Updates and extensions to the original software for the Touché hybrid digital-analog keyboard instrument.

Santa Clarita, CA: David Rosenboom Publishing.


Artificial intelligence and art education (1982)

Towards a language for self–directed learning by computer facilitated interaction with large visual knowledge bases (1982)

David Rosenboom: an emerging electronic aesthetic (1982)

Interview by E. Soltes. City Arts Monthly. March 1982, 17. (San Francisco).

In conversation: David Rosenboom and Richard Teitelbaum (1982)

Interview by J. Siddall and Timar, A. Musicworks, 21, 12-14. (Toronto: Music Gallery).

FOIL source listings (1980)

Original software for the Touché hybrid digital-analog keyboard instrument.

Berkeley, CA: Buchla and Associates.


Rosenboom brings electronic flair to music (1980)

Interview by Heather Millar. (October 2, 1980). The Mills Stream. (Oakland, CA: Mills College).

Programmer's notes on FOIL (Far Out Instrument Language) (1980)

Notes on original software for the Touché hybrid digital-analog keyboard instrument.

Berkeley, CA: Buchla and Associates.

User's guide to playing Touché and programming with FOIL (1980)

Berkeley, CA: Buchla and Associates.

David Rosenboom: recent cybernetic insights (1978)

Interview by Davis, B. (January/February 1978). Synapse, 2, 4, 18-19. (Los Angeles). Issues of Synapse magazine have been archived here.

The J. Jasmine Songbook (1978)

With Humbert, J. (ed.) & G. Manupelli. (Santa Clarita, CA: Chez Hum–Boom Publications and Aesthetic Research Centre of Canada). A set of piano–vocal scores. Originally distributed by Frog Peak Music, Hanover, NH. Reissued in 2018 by Unseen Worlds Records along with a rerelease on vinyl and digital of J. Jasmine—My New Music, containing remastered original recordings of all the songs in this songbook.

Churchman and Valenstein: a critical review (1977)

Reviewed Works: Churchman, C.W. (1972). The design of inquiring systems: basic concepts of systems and
organization, (New York: Basic Books); Valenstein, E.S. (1973). Brain control. (New York: John Wiley & Sons).

Maple Sugar (1977)

Description of performance art project. Humbert, J. and D. Rosenboom. In Parallelogram Retrospective, 1976-1977, 138-139. (Montreal: Association of National Non–Profit Artists' Centers). Possibly archived at Getty Research Institute, Simon Fraser University Library, and others.

On Being Invisible (1977-1984)

On Being Invisible: I. The qualities of change (1977), II. On being invisible (1978), III. Steps towards transitional topologies of musical form (1982). Musicworks, 28, 10-23. (Toronto: Music Gallery), (1984).

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David Rosenboom (1976)

In Zimmermann, W. Desert Plants: Conversations with 23 American Musicians, 183-192. (Cologne and Vancouver: Beginner Press and Aesthetic Research Centre of Canada Publications).

Prolegomenon to extended musical interface with the human nervous system: an outline mandala of electro–cortical forms observable through point consciousness (1976)

In Byron, M. (ed.). Pieces: a second anthology. (Toronto: Michael Byron Pub.), 105-114.
Also in Musicworks, 28, 10-13. (Toronto: Music Gallery), (1984).

A model for detection and analysis of information processing modalities of the nervous system through an adaptive, interactive, computerized, electronic music instrument (1975)

In Proceedings of the Second Annual Music Computation Conference, Part 4, Information Processing Systems. (Urbana, IL: Office of Continuing Education in Music, University of Illinois), 54-78. Archived by International Computer Music Association - ICMA. Also included in: Rosenboom, D. (1975). Biofeedback and the Arts: Results of Early Experiments. (Vancouver: Aesthetic Research Centre of Canada Publications). See below.

Now a rare book, a collection of writings and documents from the the early stages of this field. Rosenboom, D. (ed.). (Vancouver: Aesthetic Research Centre of Canada Publications). A few remaining copies are distributed by Frog Peak Music, Hanover, NH.


Vancouver Piece (1973)


Description of biofeedback installation work installed at the Vancouver Art Gallery in 1973 in: Grayson J. (ed.). (1975). Sound Sculpture, 128-131. (Vancouver: Aesthetic Research Centre of Canada Publications).

Rosenblueth and Halacy: a joint review (1973)

Reviewed Works: Rosenblueth, A. (1970). Mind and Brain: A Philosophy of Science. (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press); Halacy, D.S. Jr. (1970). Man and Memory: Breakthroughs in the Science of the Human Mind. (New York: Harper & Row). In Leonardo, 6, 3, 267-268. Available at Leonardo/JSTOR.

Three day biofeedback learning experience for Brown University (1973)

Japanese translation in: Transonic, 3. (Tokyo: Zen–On Music Co.). Also included in: Rosenboom, D. (ed.). (1975). Biofeedback and the arts: results of early experiments. (Vancouver: Aesthetic Research Centre of Canada), distributed by Frog Peak Music, see above.

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Method of producing sounds or light flashes with alpha brain waves for artistic purposes. (1972)

Leonardo 5, 2, 141-145; In Malina, F.J. (ed.), Kinetic Art, 152–156, (New York: Dover Pub.), (1973); Japanese translation, Space Design 10, (Tokyo: Kajima Institute Pub. Co.) (1974). Available at Leonardo/JSTOR.

Notes on Morton Subotnick’s “Laminations” and William Bergsma’s “Violin Concerto” (1971)

Record liner notes. (New York: VOX Records).

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In support of a systems theoretical approach to art media (1970)

Philosophical and technical article that includes descriptions of Neurona Company electronic media module designs that appeared originally in: Proceedings of the Fifth Annual Conference, April, 1970, 56-68, of the American Society of University Composers, Inc., held in Dartmouth, NH.

…the future of art and power. For the last several million years… (1970)

The Composer, 1, 4. (Houston, TX: Composers Autograph Publications).

Saturation in multi-media (1968)

The Continuum, I, 3, 14. (Urbana, IL: Association of Independent Composers and Performers).

Electric Circus analogous (1968)

New York: Electric Circus

Program notes for an Electric Ear concert: Hiller, Reynolds, Subotnick, Martin, & Martirano (1968)

New York: Electric Circus