Heuristic models - James Saunders - BathSPAdata.pdf (1.09 MB)

it is impossible for everyone to achieve everything they want_Heuristic Models for Decision Making in Rule-based Compositions

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journal contribution
posted on 2021-03-20, 15:23 authored by James SaundersJames Saunders
This item accompanies the collection documenting it is impossible for everyone to achieve everything they want (2018), and is included as contextualising information.

Scores that require participants to negotiate inter-personal relationships during performance encourage the development of individual and collective strategies for decision-making as part of the performance practice. Such strategies might be codified through rules specified in the score or developed more informally through the preferences of the performers. In both cases, models drawn from decision-making theory can be usefully applied to help explain the ways in which composers initiate these processes and how performers respond to them. In particular, heuristics suggest possible explanations for the ways in which such pieces operate in practice. A heuristic is a useful decision-making strategy that “ignores part of the information, with the goal of making decisions more quickly, frugally, and/or accurately than more complex methods” (Gigerenzer & Gaissmaier, 2011, p. 454). By reducing the amount of information to be considered, there is a corresponding reduction in the cognitive effort required to make a decision. This paper considers the creative potential for heuristics as a compositional strategy. It explores implicit uses of heuristics in work by Christian Wolff and Joseph Kudirka, as well as my own recent music. It examines how performer decisions in such pieces create different modes of interaction between individuals and rules. The practice presented in the paper provides possible models for embodying heuristics, and decision-making theories more generally, as a compositional strategy. I contend that defined heuristics are present in existing compositions where performers are required to make judgments based on available information, and that composers have deployed such heuristics intuitively. By making links between current heuristics theory and compositional practice, as well as showing how such theory might actively inform the creation of new work, the paper suggests future possibilities for creative practice.

Saunders, J. (2015) ‘Heuristic models for decision making in rule-based compositions’. In: Ginsborg, J. and Lamont, A. and Phillips, M. and Bramley, S., eds. Proceedings of the Ninth Triennial Conference of the European Society for the Cognitive Sciences of Music, 17 - 22 August 2015, Manchester, UK. Manchester: Royal Northern College of Music: 715-719.