The Sense of Music: Semiotic Essays

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Thus, music is meaningful in that it signifies cultural temporalities and themes, from the traditional manly heroism of the hunt to military power to postmodern "polyvocality.

An Understanding of Semiotics

This theoretical innovation allows Monelle to describe how the Classical style of the eighteenth century--which he reads as a balance of lyric and progressive time--gave way to the Romantic need for emotional realism. He argues that irony and ambiguity subsequently eroded the domination of personal emotion in Western music as well as literature, killing the composer's subjectivity with that of the author.

This leaves Dr. Strabismus suffering from the postmodern condition, and Raymond Monelle with an exciting, controversial new approach to understanding music and its history. The Sense of Music : Semiotic Essays. Yet the mere labeling of topics in masterworks produces in me the kind of dismay I would feel if an art critic were to explicate Picasso's Guernica by proudly identifying the "horsie," without somehow noticing the creature's anguished grimace or the other figures on the canvas.

Semiotics And Semiotics

When I first picked up Raymond Monelle's The Sense of Music, the book fell open to a section devoted to none other than the "horse" topic, and I almost shut it before I had begun. Had I done so, however, I would have missed out on a most stimulating experience. Not only does Monelle find formalist semiotics and the topics mania at least as frustrating as I do, but he has set out to transform those projects into something that moves far beyond the usual limitations.

I might have written that he goes about this task systematically, except that "system" itself serves as one of his principal targets. Monelle starts and ends his book with a certain Dr. Strabismus borrowed, he notes, from the writings of "Beachcomber," aka J. Morton , who seeks to crown his career by producing "a comprehensive theory of music" that would include semantics as well as syntactics. Apparently, consistency was the enemy of insight" p.

And so Monelle gives us that bundle of essays, each of which moves in its own provocative direction before yielding to the next cluster of insights. Take, for instance, his discussion of the horse topic in chapter 3. This wideness of issues is an elemental demand of the topic theory: an epistemological stitch indicating its compound nature. At this point, of course, a much broader set of arguments than available for this occasion is needed to offer a reasonable view about the consequences of a similar joining of categories far from being left unnoticed by the scholars, cf.

Hatten a: 75 ff. Cook , "figure" universal notion used in different contexts from baroque theory of affection onward etc. The wonderful work done by Robert S. Hatten Hatten and Eero Tarasti, among others, has brought about epistemological alertness to similar claims. It is this distinction between epistemologically systematic versus more contingent description that alerts one to compare different categorical systems.


To indicate this, I shall mention only the work done by four scholars although many more valuable studies referring to universals are at hand2. If Bruno Nettl cautiously proposes a concentric view of universals centred in the musical structures and extending over to the cultural issues Nettl and , Vladimir Karbusicky finds persuasive arguments to demonstrate the universal principles of musical form along with their correlating anthropological foundations Karbusicky , , Further, Leonard B.

20th WCP: The Ethical Values of the Music Art of the Ancient Greeks

Meyer — clearly defining 1 Tarasti This type of semiotics, as a philosophical 'style' rather than a systematic classification, I would call as "classical" semiotics. This semiotic philosophy approaches the meaning 1 as a process, i. There are only the acoustical universals of the physical world and the bio- psychological universals of the human world. As different as these concepts of universals and music are, they all share a common epistemological stance.

The answer has two parts: the first one pertains to a perspective which topic theory has re introduced to music analysis and music theory in general, the second one, for the time being, is an epistemological call to attention. On the basic level, the concept of topic theory, a musical gesture being the more elaborated part of it, seems to be a theoretical counterpart of the endeavours put forth by the new critical, cultural musicology.

In this ethically vulnerable and epistemologically susceptible process of interpretation, any philosophical or pragmatic issue can be introduced as relevant to music. It is this universalizing segment of the topic theory that raises not only ethical questions which semioticians and hermeneuticians rarely forget to emphasize , but also a set of pragmatic questions concerning individual musical cultures.

In other words, if the musical topic theory tries to emphasize the concept of culture by differentiating culturological, historical, contextual etc. Consequently, it enables one to turn attention also toward an opposite set of non-material and pre-conceived levels of human activities, on which, after all, a rather huge portion of any musical culture is founded. In this respect, the musical topic theory is an omnipotent, epistemologically wide-ranging analytical stance; methodologically, however, it is a rather weakly elaborated analytical tool, at the moment.

In: The Musical Times, June , 16— Cook, Nicholas. Oxford: Oxford University Press A response to Robert Hatten'. Dahlhaus, Carl. Die Musiktheorie im Erster Teil.

Proceedings of the International Conference on Music Semiotics In memory of Raymond Monelle

In: Frieder Zaminer ed. Eggebrecht, Hans Heinrich.

Musik verstehen. Faltin, Peter. Floros, Constantin. Les Universaux en musique.

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