The Semiology of Music Part 1: Is it the music or our words that are Vague?

This week was the first of a series of lectures on how music REFERS meaning.  What I am interested in is any examples of how music imparts meaning using – Saussures simple dyadic model as a starting point. The question is – How does the musical signifier relate to the signified in music? As you will see in the powerpoint – I try and differentiate between the often connotative power of music – and the denotative impact of image and text. However, I do accept that if we take at face value some of Tagg’s thoughts in his new book – the meaning that music pervades can actually be considered more precise than words – an example of which I will refer to below.

In order to get students to consider some of these ideas – I initially asked them to listen to extracts of the following two pieces of music – annotating the feelings the music had on them.

After asking them to document some of the emotions and impacts the music had – I then played the following two videos.

The Goricki piece was particularly interesting. Many students stated the obvious descriptors such as ‘sad’, ‘disruptive’, ‘melancholic’ etc. Then came one answer that at first instance appeared off the wall – ‘Disney’ ! At first call – it appears that this is not an accurate descriptor. Then – one student pointed out the fact that Disney is often cited as a Nazi sympathizer – it all then begins to make sense!! As Tagg suggests far more eloquently that me – it is not the music that is conveying ‘vague’ meaning – but the words we use to describe it. It is therefore not as polysemic as we think.

Anyway – read through this – give it some thought – and message me/leave comments as usual if of interest

<div style=”margin-bottom:5px”> <strong> <a href=”; title=”Session 5 the reception of music part 1″ target=”_blank”>Session 5 the reception of music part 1</a> </strong> from <strong><a href=”; target=”_blank”>Paul Carr</a></strong> </div>

About Paul Carr

Academic working at the University of Glamorgan
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