Past Event

Digital Amati: Structure and Interpretation of Classical Stringed Instruments

February 24, 2017
2:00 PM - 3:00 PM
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Studio@Butler (Butler 208B), Columbia University, 535 West 114th Street, New York
Poster of Digital Amati event on red background

Harry Mairson, professor of computer science, Brandeis University, and amateur violoncello maker, has conducted research on type systems in programming languages and their relation to problems in logic and complexity theory.  In this lecture, he introduces the Digital Amati Project which explores the structure, interpretation, and making of stringed instruments, and how modern software can be used to represent historical practices of instrument design. The lecture discusses digital humanities tools, and the creative work done with them, and will be of interest to historians, musicologists, practitioners of digital humanities, and makers.

More about the Digital Amati Project:
Andrea Amati (1505-77) of Cremona is recognized as having made the world’s first violin. The goal of the Digital Amati project is to advance understanding of fundamental geometric structures in the design of classical stringed instruments and their historical context. The project brings to light computational aspects of violin building, using a new programming language vernacular that describes traditional methods of design. These digital tools reveal historical methodology, making violin family instruments comparable in a new way, and offering insight into the unknown, intangible heritage of this material culture—namely, through its design and construction principles, an approach called “computational art history”. The project represents canonical ideas about design in a Euclidean programming language idiom, for people to read and machines to execute.

Harry Mairson is a professor of computer science at Brandeis University. He has worked on various problems related to type systems for programming languages, in particular, analyzing the computational resources needed for different kinds of optimizations (type inference, optimal reduction, intersection types and flow analysis, static analysis). This work has been motivated by many ideas from linear logic. More recently he is interested in developing a domain-specific programming language for string instrument design, where the language uses the same constructional vernacular found in the seventeenth-century methods, only with a more refined and specific computational interpretation.

This event is co-sponsored by the Center for Science and Society and History in Action in the Columbia University History Department.