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Jacobs School of Music

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Jacobs School of Music

Last modified: Friday, September 3, 2010

Jacobs School of Music Professor Julian Hook receives $30,000 fellowship

Sept. 3, 2010

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Julian Hook, associate professor of music theory at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, has been awarded a Sabbatical Fellowship for 2010-11 from the American Philosophical Society (APS). The value of the fellowship is $30,000.

Hook will use his sabbatical to work on a book, Musical Spaces and Transformations. The subject of the book is transformational music theory, a mathematical approach to the study of musical structure that has blossomed in the past quarter-century, thanks to pioneering work by David Lewin (1933-2003) and other scholars. The book will aim to make transformational techniques accessible to a broader community of music theorists -- not just those with specialized mathematical training -- by emphasizing the intuitive geometric structure of the many kinds of "spaces" within which musical objects exist.

Hook said that diatonic and chromatic scales, the circular configuration of 12-note "pitch-class space" and the circle of fifths are well-known examples of such spaces. Many other spaces are less well-known and geometrically more complex, having as their elements not notes but chords, 12-tone rows, time points or other rhythmic entities, for example.

"It is an honor to have the value of my work recognized by the American Philosophical Society," said Hook. "People have studied connections between music and mathematics since the time of ancient Greece, but those connections are very elusive and a little bit mysterious. My book won't pretend to answer all the questions, but I hope it will at least offer some ways of thinking about those questions and introduce readers to some very interesting and productive areas of scholarly activity."

Hook's two doctoral degrees, in mathmatics (from Princeton University) and in music theory (from the IU Jacobs School of Music), qualify him uniquely for the project. "My work makes frequent use of mathematical concepts and terminology, and I have enjoyed considerable success in explaining these concepts to non-mathematicians, specifically to musical readers and audiences," he said.

This is the 12th and final year of the APS Sabbatical Fellowship program. More than 200 fellowships have been awarded during this period, distributed over a wide variety of disciplines, mostly in the humanities and social sciences. Only a few of these have been for music-related projects.

About Julian Hook

Julian ("Jay") Hook's research involves transformational theory and other mathematical approaches to the study of musical structure.

He has presented papers at conferences of the Society for Music Theory (SMT), the American Mathematical Society, the Society for Mathematics and Computation in Music and other organizations. Hook was invited to give a presentation on the subject of "explaining technical concepts clearly" at an SMT national conference in 2007.

His article "Uniform Triadic Transformations," published in the Journal of Music Theory, won the Society for Music Theory's Emerging Scholar Award in 2005. Other recent publications include a "Perspective" on mathematical music theory in the journal Science; a survey of applications of group theory in music, published by Princeton University Press in a collection of mathematics essays; an article on the foundations of transformation theory, published in Music Theory Spectrum; a study of the mathematical basis of key signatures and enharmonic equivalence, published in the Journal of Mathematics and Music; the article "Signature Transformations" in the book Music Theory and Mathematics: Chords, Collections, and Transformations, published by the University of Rochester Press; a review article on the new edition of David Lewin's Generalized Musical Intervals and Transformations, published in Intégral; a tutorial on combinatorics and enumeration in music theory, published in Music Theory Online; and an article on the 12-tone music of Webern, co-authored with Jack Douthett and published in Perspectives of New Music.

Hook holds advanced degrees in mathematics, architecture and piano performance as well as music theory. He has taught mathematics at Florida International University in Miami and music theory at Penn State University. He has also has worked as an architect and structural engineer in Chicago and has performed chamber music on several occasions with members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

As a graduate student at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, he won a piano concerto competition and received an award for outstanding teaching. He is reviews editor of the Journal of Mathematics and Music and is serving a term (2009-11) as president of Music Theory Midwest.

For more information about the Jacobs School of Music, visit