Uniform Information Density in Music

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David Temperley


The theory of Uniform Information Density states that communication is optimal when information is presented at a moderate and uniform rate. Three predictions follow for music: (1) low-probability events should be extended in duration; (2) low-probability events should be juxtaposed with high-probability events; (3) an event that is low in probability in one dimension should be high in probability in other dimensions. I present evidence supporting all three of these predictions from three diverse areas of musical practice: Renaissance counterpoint, expressive performance, and common-practice themes.

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