National University of Music Bucharest
18th of October 2011
Festive Gathering of the NUMB Senate


CONFERMENT OF THE TITLE OF DOCTOR HONORIS CAUSA ON
RAY JACKENDOFF

L A U D A T I O

        The National University of Music Bucharest has the honor of conferring today the title of Doctor honoris causa on an important figure of our times. Our eulogy goes to Ray Jackendoff, his exceptional accomplishments being a model of high academic tenure and receptiveness towards different scientific and artistic fields.

        Browsing through his biography, we discover different sides of the same personality, his protean disposition in covering varied aspects of human activity. Firstly, we notice a primary direction in his preeminent background as a linguist, world renowned for his contributions to the field of knowledge and analysis of natural language. Thus, he began his studies under the guidance of Noam Chomsky and Morris Halle at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and obtained his PhD in linguistics in 1969 and until now, his scientific activity focusing on the study of language sketched new directions, formulated in comprehensive approaches from a structural and cognitive perspective, collected in the theory of conceptual semantics. As the author confesses, his main interest is aimed at “the system of meaning, the messages that language conveys and what they tell you about the character of human thought”. Actually, the mere enumeration of his various books, clearly illustrates the scope of his investigations and the essence of his theoretical system. We mention, among others, Semantic Interpretation in Generative Grammar (1972), X-Bar Syntax: A Study of Phrase Structure (1977), Semantics and Cognition (1983), Consciousness and the Computational Mind (1987), Semantic Structures (1990), Languages of the Mind: Essays on Mental Representation (1992), Patterns in the Mind: Language and Human Nature (1993), The Architecture of the Language Faculty (1997), Foundations of Language: Brain, Meaning, Grammar, Evolution (2002), Simpler Syntax (2005), Language, Consciousness, Culture: Essays on Mental Structure (2007), Meaning and the Lexicon: The Parallel Architecture 1975-2010 (2010).
        Alongside his scientific career, a prodigious academic career is added. For 34 years, between 1971 and 2005, Ray Jackendoff was professor of linguistics and Chair of the Linguistics Program at Brandeis University. He is a member of the External Faculty of the Santa Fe Institute and he currently is Seth Merrin Professor of Philosophy and Co-Director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University. Reiterating Mark Sullivan’s speech: “with Ray Jackendoff's appointment as the Seth Merrin Professor, Tufts welcomes a leading cognitive theorist to its philosophy faculty and enhances its growing eminence in the study of the human mind.”
        Another aspect of the personality we honor today is that of clarinetist Ray Jackendoff, who performed as a professional instrumentalist in various chamber musical ensembles and orchestras in his country of origin, United States of America. Soloist of The Boston Pops and other orchestras in the area of his hometown Boston, a constant long-term member of Civic Symphony Orchestra of Boston as main clarinetist or of the trio No Dogs Allowed, also performing with Aspen Festival Orchestra, New Philadelphia Wind Quintet, Brandeis Contemporary Chamber Players, Composers in Red Sneakers, Ray Jackendoff is connected to music, the other field that interested him, in the most authentic sense, in the pragmatic side of the performing act. Actually, at the intersection of two types of language, between theory and practice, language and meta-language, a first connection between the linguist and Romanian music occurred. The meeting, in 1999-2000, under the patronage of Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, between Ray Jackendoff and Valentina Sandu-Dediu generated common performing projects in the field of Romanian compositions. A valuable CD actualized their collaboration, a great opportunity for national creations to be received and popularized in international environments.
        In this context Ray Jackendoff’s major contribution to the field of musicology must be appreciated, crystallized in the book he wrote in 1983 with composer Fred Lerdahl, entitled A Generative Theory of Tonal Music. The volume, fruit of the knowledge and experiences stemmed from the authors’ different fields of activity, one of them primarily a linguist and the other, a musician, represents an indisputable fundamental research. It is the perfect reflection of what Ray Jackendoff is, simultaneously scientist and artist, philosopher and musician. Thus, A Generative Theory of Tonal Music proposes a remarkable transdisciplinary model in terms of an exceptionally rigorous analysis. On one hand, analogies with other fields of knowledge provide a broad theoretical framework, such as the study on natural languages like the Chomskian generative-transformational grammar or the musical analytical model advanced by Heinrich Schenker. It borrows the tree notation of linguistic structures and reiterates the concept of reduction in musical analysis. Far from being tributary to the information provided by other fields, offered by modern psychology, philosophy, linguistics or musicology, but rather starting from a synthetic knowledge, Lerdahl-Jackendoff theory was imposed through its originality and applicability to musical creation. The nature of meaning and the cognitive capacity of the competent listener, the formal description oh his or her intuitions based on a certain type of organization of musical structures represent the points of focus that initiate the theory.
        Fundamentally, tightly connected to the specific nature of Western tonal music, the hierarchic nature of the musical discourse’s components pervades the cohesion of the musical text, enabling the continuity and progression of sonic development, influencing at the same time the cognitive relation of the listener with the music he/she listens to. The trees with asymmetrical branches describe the fundamental organization of the musical discourse, while key words of the theory refer to the description of the analytic system and the description of a system of rules that applies to the hierarchical structure of a musical piece in which the events need to be delimitated, connected and arranged according to a hierarchy, on the basis of well-formulated criteria. The validity of this perspective comes from the position such a theory has towards its object of study to which it objectively adapts, without being imposed arrogantly a priori. It is legitimated through its reverberations and continuities in the international musicology field – it represents an example of fundamental research in the field of musical language, at the same time being the nucleus that sparks future research, such as those in contemporary musical semiotics and narratology. Last but not the least, it’s the object of research in our university, conducted by professor Dinu Ciocan, at postgraduate level. As a result, among those that attend the ceremony today there are Romanian students competent in handling the trees with uneven branches, mastering the vocabulary of the meta-language which includes terms such as: Grouping Structure, Metrical Structure, Time-Span Reduction, Prolongational Reduction, Well-Formedness Rules, Preference Rules.         In the end, in completion of our admiration exercise, the acknowledgement of Ray Jackendoff’s important role in society is revealed to us. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, of the Linguistic Society of America, and of the Cognitive Science Society. He was president of the Linguistic Society of America, already mentioned, as well as the Society for Philosophy and Psychology. Also, he was awarded the Jean Nicod Prize in Cognitive Philosophy and was conferred the title of Doctor honoris causa by Université du Québec à Montréal. Hence, today’s ceremony is an honor to us. The National university of Music Bucharest broadens its field of knowledge and artistic experience by the association of its name to that of our esteemed guest - Ray Jackendoff.

Associate Professor, PhD, Antigona Rădulescu
(English Version: Simina Neagu)