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Simple Semiotic Analysis of Music

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  1. Simple Semiotic Analysis of Music Philip TaggFaculté de musiqueUniversité de Montréalwww.tagg.org P Tagg: Simple semiotics of music

  2. Communication Model P Tagg: Simple semiotics of music shared by Emitter and Receiver s t o r e o f s y m b o l s emitter only receiver only codal incompetence poïetic / constructional esthesic / receptional ‘inadequate’ encoding ‘inadequate’ response Intended ‘message’ Music(channel) Emitter Receiver ‘adequate’ response ‘inadequate’ response ‘inadequate’ encoding codal interference receiver only emitter only s o c i o c u l t u r a l n o r m s shared by Emitter and Receiver

  3. 1Elementary semioticconsiderations

  4. same thing! Semiotics or semiology ? •  / (sema/semeion) = sign (semiotics, semiology, semantifs, semaphore, etc.) The study of signs and of what they represent Charles Sanders Peirce : semiotics, tripartite model Ferdinand de Saussure : semiologie, binary model same basic subject, different terms and models

  5. Sign or symbol ?(terminological problem) symbol (Saussure) = sign (Peirce)! meaning: any ‘thing’ representing any other thing than itself SIGN symbol (Peirce) = sign (Saussure)! a ‘thing’ representing another thing only by convention ARBITRARY SIGN

  6. = process of producing and interpreting signs C.S. Peirce: Semiosis 1, 2, 3 (1) • Firstness(emission) • Secondness(the ‘channel’) • Thirdness (reception) object The thing/idea perceived before encoding (poïetic pole) sign The object(firstness)encoded interpretant Sign(secondness)interpreted(aesthesic pole) final interpretantsvia connotation

  7. C.S. Peirce: Semiosis 1, 2, 3 (2)Sign typology at level of secondness • Icon • Index(pl. indices) • Arbitrary sign Sign bearing physical resemblance to its object/interprétant Sign linked to its object/interpretant by proximity or causality Sign linked only by convention to its object/interpretant

  8. ‘Syntax and semantics, when found in splendid isolation, become perverse disciplines’ (Umberto Eco, 1990) C.S. Peirce: Semiosis 1, 2, 3 (3)aspects of approach after Morris Syntax Internal (etic) organisation and arrangement (‘form’) of structural elements without necessarily considering their meaning Semantics Links between signs and what they represent (emic) without necessarily considering their use in concrete situations Pragmatics Use of signs in concrete sociocultural situations (economy, ideology, society, psychology, etc.)

  9. Denotation and connotation Denotation Type of lexical meaning associated mainly with arbitrary signs • thunder(the word) = noise accompanying lighting diminished seventh chord = chord consisting of three contingent and superimposed minor thirds Connotation Non-lexical type of meaning mainly associated with indices and which relies on one or more previous levels of semiosis • thunder(the sound) = humidity, rain, danger, etc. diminished seventh chord = horror, 19th century style

  10. Connotation: smoke alarm sound = danger!multilevel semiosis (3 causal indices, 1 connotation) sign interpretant DANGER! GET OUT! DON’T DIE! sign interpretant sign interpretant alarm sound smoke fire 1. smoke triggers alarm; alarm means smoke (causal index 1) 2. fire causes smoke; smoke means fire (causal index 2) 3. fire destroys and hurts; a fire in the home means danger (index 3)

  11. Connotation & ‘polysemy’ : 2 quotes ‘The difference between denotation and connotation is not... the difference between “univocal” and “vague” signification, or between “referential” and “emotional” communication... What constitutes a connotation... is the connotative code which establishes it; the characteristic of a connotative code is the fact that the further signification... relies on a primary one.’ (Eco, A Theory of Semiotics, 1979, p. 55) ‘The thoughts which are expressed to me by a piece of music which I love are not too indefinite to be put into words, but on the contrary too definite.’ (Mendelssohn, cited by Cooke: The Language of Music, 1959, p. 5)

  12. 2Specificity ofmusical meaning

  13. Music: axiomatic working definition • type ofsonic, non-verbal, interhuman communication which, • according to particularsociocultural conventions, • can carry meaning • related mainly toemotional, gestural, tactile, • kinetic, spatialandprosodic • aspects of cognition.

  14. ‘Live’ communication  spoken languagevisual artsdancemusic concerted simultaneity

  15. Domains of representation and music as the ‘embodying’ cross-domain level emotional motoric (fine) social ‘embodying’representation (music) physical linguistic motoric (gross)

  16. Synaesthesia and synaesthesis sun(syn) = with, aisyhsiw(aisthesis) = perception synaesthesia: disturbance of sensory perception by the intrusion of additional perception from another sense than that considered normal in a given situation synaesthesis: normal perception using more than one of the five senses simultaneously synaesthetic (adj.): relating to any type of perception using more than one of the five senses simultaneously

  17. 3Musematic analysis

  18. Museme term invented by US musicologist Charles Seeger (father of Pete) ‘On the moods of a musical logic’ (1960) ‘Minimal unit of musical meaning’(cf. morpheme) ‘Musical structure’ What’s that ? Can it exist? Good question. We’ll have to see! Musician’s assumptions • Changing a musical structure often produces a change in effect on listeners. • If true, there must be links between musical structures and what they communicate (their meanings, their interpretants). • If true, there must be basic elements of structuration allowing for the production of musical meaning.

  19. P Tagg: Simple semiotics of music AO AnalysisObject IOCM InterobjectiveComparisonMaterial PMFC Paramusical Fieldsof Connotation(relevant to IOCM) PMFC Paramusical Fieldsof Connotation(relevant to AO)

  20. P Tagg: Simple semiotics of music Parameters of paramusical expression • Paramusical sound: chatter, chiming, clapping, rattling, applause, mains hum, vinyl crackle, engine noise, birdsong, sound effects, crying, laughing, screaming, scraping, hitting, water, wind, thunder, etc. ad. inf. • Oral language: monologue, dialogue, commentary, voice-over, lyrics, accent/dialect, vocal type, prosody, type and speed of conversation/dialogue, &c... • Written language: programme or liner notes, promo copy, title credits, subtitles, written devices on stage, expression marks and other performance instructions, &c... • Visuals • font, graphic design, layout, painting, photo, sculpture, &c… • scenario, props, lighting, clothing, &c... • dramatic action, facial expressions, gestures, &c... • camera positions, cutting speed, editing technique, fades, pans, zooms, &c… • Movement: dance, dive, drive, fall, fly, glide, hit, hover, jump, kick, lie, ride, rise, run, slide, sit, stand, stroke, stumble, sway, swerve, wait, walk, &c... • (Re-)performance venue + concurrent activity: home, concert, club, TV, cinema, church, sports, dancing, riding, driving, restaurant, hotel, office, factory, circus, street, town, country, &c...

  21. P Tagg: Simple semiotics of music Parameters of musical expression (1) • instrumentational • number/type of voices/instruments • mechanical devices: mutes, pedals, stops, plectrum, string types, reed types, mouthpieces, bows, sticks, brushes, &c... • electro-acoustic devices: microphone types & techniques, loudspeakers, echo, reverb, delay, panning, filtering, mixers, amplifiers, equalisers, phasing, flanging, chorus, compression, distortion, vocoding, dubs, &c... • performance techniques: vibrato, tremolo, tremolando, glissando, portamento, pizzicato, sul ponte, picking, strum, &c... • timbral(timbre) • vocal: booming, breathy, clean, clear, cracked, crying, deep, gravelly, harsh, hoarse, howling, growling, guttural, husky, light, melismatic, muffled, piercing, plaintive, raucous, rich, screeching, shouting, shrill, sonorous, soothing, squeaky, squawking, strident, syllabics, thin, warbling, warm, wheezing, whooping, &c... • instrumental: as for vocal + blaring, bubbling, buzzing, chiming, clanking, clattering, crashing, grating, hissing, humming, jarring, muted, ringing, rumbling, scraping, stuttering, throbbing, tinkling, whirring, whistling, &c...

  22. Parameters of musical expression (2) • temporal parameters • duration: [1] of piece and relationship of this duration to other connected aspects of communication (film, rite, sports event, dancing); [2] of sections within the piece • internal order/treatment of musical events: intros, cadences, bridges, continuations, interruptions, recurrences (reiterations, repeats, recaps), sequences &c… • pulse, tempo: [1] base rate; [2] surface rate. • rhythmic texture: polyrhythm, birhythm, monorhythm, &c... • metre (rhythmic grouping of pulse, time signature, etc.), e.g. simple, compound, symmetric, asymmetric, additive, divisive, &c... • accentuation, e.g. upbeat, downbeat, syncopation, regular,. P Tagg: Simple semiotics of music

  23. P Tagg: Simple semiotics of music Parameters of musical expression (3) • tonal parameters • tuning system: how octave is divided, retuning, detuning, &c. • pitch range: average and total for each voice/part; ambitus, tessitura, &c. • tonal vocabulary: scale, mode, motifs, number and type of different pitches/notes • motivic/melodic contour: rising, falling, oscillating, arched, V-shaped, centric, wavy, terraced, tumbling strain, &c... • harmonic parameters • tonal centre (if any) • type of tonality: droned, modal, diatonic, tertial, quartal, bebop, impressionist, late romantic, twelve-tone, &c… • harmonic change as long and short term phenomenon, harmonic rhythm. • dynamics • loud  soft • sudden  gradual • constant  variable

  24. Simple sign typology of music sonic: resemblance to paramusical sound anaphone kinetic: resemblance to paramusical movement tactile: resemblance to paramusical grain/touch genresynecdoche pars pro toto reference to ‘foreign’ musical style, thence to cultural context of that style episodic marker short, one-way process highlighting the order or relative importance of musical events styleindicator item of musical structuration typical for the ‘home’ style of the analysis object P Tagg: Simple semiotics of music

  25. Breughel: Massacre of the Innocents

  26. P Tagg: Simple semiotics of music

  27. P Tagg: Simple semiotics of music Palestrina: Missa Papae Marcelli Smetana: Vltava (Moldau)

  28. Monocentric musical positioning ‘stage’ ‘focal point’ ‘auditorium’ P Tagg: Simple semiotics of music