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The University of Southampton
MusicPart of HumanitiesPostgraduate study

Dr David Mott BSc, MSc, PhD

Postgraduate research student, Visiting Fellow

Dr David Mott's photo

Dr David Mott is a Postgraduate Researcher (PGR) in Music at the University of Southampton, researching into the application of neo-Riemannian Theory to otherworldly music.

I gained a PhD in Artificial Intelligence, researching into sensori-motor learning in a mobile robot.

I then worked as a computer scientist for 40 years, where I developed skills in logic, mathematics, the use of abstract diagramming techniques for analysing problems in terms of their essential conceptual structures, and creating human-consumable languages for representing knowledge and how it may be applied to reasoning, problem solving and explanation. I have researched into emotions and how they may have an adverse effect on reasoning by humans that belong to different groups. I have skills in AI machine learning and have applied this to the recognition of simple emotions in musical timbres.

Research interests

The use of Controlled Natural Languages to represent knowledge to support problem solving tasks, such as Music analysis; computer-based tools for Neo-Riemannian analysis of complex musical harmonies; the relationship between muiscal structure and emotion.

PhD research

My thesis is on the semantics of neo-Riemannian transformations in the composition of otherworldly music, supervised by David Bretherton. Neo-Riemannian (NR) transformations provide a way of describing harmonic progressions that do not conform to classical functional harmony, and tend to occur in music that expresses feeling of otherworldliness, uncanniness and unease. My research is aiming to explore, describe and explain the relationships between the NR transformations, the structure of the music and the emotions being expressed.

I have explored a neo-Riemannian example of “uncanniness”, Wagner’s Tarnhelm motif, and related it to psychological theories of uncanniness.  I have analysed different examples of this progression in otherworldly contexts in composers such as Schubert, Wagner, Holst and Richard Strauss.

I developed a computer program to display chord movements on a Tonnetz (harmonic network) as the music plays across the score, highlighting the NR transformations.

I am currently focusing on the otherworldly music of Alexander Scriabin, and exploring NR structures in his sonatas and poems, for example the dominant 7th with #4 and how this relates to French 6ths, wholetone and octatonic scales and his “mystical” chord. I am interested in whether these formal structures are sufficient to explain the emotional effect of the music, or whether it is necessary to relate them to Scriabin’s philosophical concerns such as mysticism and symbolism.

I was an Industrial Supervisor in the Music Department to a PhD researcher working on computer-based representation of knowledge about music in order to support analysis.

Dr David Mott
Music Department
Building 2
University of Southampton
SO17 1BJ

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