Understanding Creativity in Music and Science – A View From the Physics of Complex Systems

Recent advances in the quantitative, computational methodology for the modeling and analysis of heterogeneous large-scale data are leading to new opportunities for understanding human behaviors and faculties, including creativity that drives creative enterprises such as music, art, and science. While innovation is crucial for novel and influential achievements, quantifying these qualities in creative works remains a challenge. Here we present an information-theoretic framework for computing the novelty and influence of creative works based on their generation probabilities reflecting the degree of uniqueness of their elements in comparison with other works. Applying the formalism to a high-quality, large-scale data set of classical piano compositions—works of significant scientific and intellectual value—spanning several centuries of musical history, represented as symbolic progressions of chords, we find that the enterprise’s developmental history can be characterised as a dynamic process composed of the emergence of dominant, paradigmatic creative styles that define distinct historical periods. We also discuss more recent development in the understanding of network-based creativity.


Juyong Park earned his Ph.D. in physics and complex systems from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. He worked on the US college football ranking systems, statistical mechanics of networks, mobile communication patterns, bioinformatics, and musical collaboration patterns before joining the Graduate School of Culture Technology at KAIST. He now focuses on where human creativity originates and how it manifests in the creative enterprises of art and science based on the methodology of statistical physics and complex systems science. His recent work on the computation of novelty and influence of classical compositions garnered attention from multiple international media including the BBC. He has conducted the architecture project Pangdoranée, and co-curated the Ways of Seeing exhibition with Daejeon Museum of Art. He also serves as an editorial board member on Nature Humanities and Social Sciences Communications.