Formalism in music is often based on assumptions that music possesses ’grammars’ and ’syntaxes’ that may be conceived of and manipulated in formal ways. Therefore it implies the use of any intrinsic or extrinsic system in the creation of micro- and/or macro-structures in music.
Formalism is also sometimes used in art as the sum total of the whole and the relationship of its parts. http://www.faculty.de.gcsu.edu/ dvess/ids/courseportfolios/2310/handouts/art.html
Bibliography: Miranda, Eduardo Reck (Ed.) (1999). Música y nuevas tecnologías: Perspectivas para el siglo XXI