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Approaches to Meaning in Music

Edited by Byron Almén and Edward Pearsall

Publication Year: 2006

Approaches to Meaning in Music presents a survey of the problems and issues inherent in pursuing meaning and signification in music, and attempts to rectify the conundrums that have plagued philosophers, artists, and theorists since the time of Pythagoras. This collection brings together essays that reflect a variety of diverse perspectives on approaches to musical meaning. Established music theorists and musicologists cover topics including musical aspect and temporality, collage, borrowing and association, musical symbols and creative mythopoesis, the articulation of silence, the mutual interaction of cultural and music-artistic phenomena, and the analysis of gesture.

Contributors are Byron Almén, J. Peter Burkholder, Nicholas Cook, Robert S. Hatten, Patrick McCreless, Jann Pasler, and Edward Pearsall.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Series: Musical Meaning and Interpretation


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pp. vii

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1. The Divining Rod: On Imagination, Interpretation, and Analysis

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pp. 1-10

Musical meaning has become a seductively compelling topic for music scholars over the last few decades, with works by Lawrence Kramer, Daniel Chua, Jean-Jacques Nattiez, Robert Hatten, Kofi Agawu, Carolyn Abbate, and countless others pushing the question of signification to the forefront of the discipline. ...

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2. Anatomy of a Gesture: From Davidovsky to Chopin and Back

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pp. 11-40

The composite gesture that constitutes the climax of the first section of Mario Davidovsky’s Electronic Study No. 1 (1960) begins with a soft, sustained beam of sound that emerges, high in the frequency spectrum, out of some unruly brassy sounds in the middle of the spectrum. ...

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3. Anti-Teleological Art: Articulating Meaning through Silence

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pp. 41-61

One of music’s most distinguishing characteristics—indeed, perhaps its most distinguishing characteristic—is that it is, as Roger Sessions (1970: 39) once remarked, “inevitably, a temporal art.” Yet scholars of more recent vintage have challenged this idea, noting that music, though it unfolds through time ...

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4. The Troping of Temporality in Music

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pp. 62-75

I begin with an important distinction between time and temporality in music. When we think of musical time we generally think of meter, rhythm, tempo, rubato, or pacing—elements of great structural and expressive significance for music. By temporality, on the other hand, I refer to the ways in which we might characterize temporal experience in music.1 ...

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5. A Simple Model for Associative Musical Meaning

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pp. 76-106

For years, the meaning of music was a topic that musical scholars were reluctant to discuss, because it seemed intractable. People obviously find music meaningful. But the meanings people attribute to music often seem idiosyncratic, depending as much on the person as on the music. ...

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6. Uncanny Moments: Juxtaposition and the Collage Principle in Music

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pp. 107-134

The opening of Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto in G Major: the orchestra remains silent while the piano plays a five-measure phrase outlining the clearest possible tonic to dominant in G major, undercut however by the lack of a clear phrase structure; a half-measure’s silence, and then the orchestra enters ...

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7. The Sacrifced Hero: Creative Mythopoesis in Mahler’s Wunderhorn Symphonies

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pp. 135-169

There is something undeniably grand about the symphonies of Gustav Mahler. Their popularity with modern concert audiences, their pride of place in the orchestral repertoire, and their continuing presence on the best-seller lists of classical music recordings lend credence to the view that Mahler’s music ...

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8. Contingencies of Meaning in Transcriptions and Excerpts: Popularizing Samson et Dalila

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pp. 170-214

The main character in a recent filmed version of Howards End, Helen, becomes agitated in the middle of a lecture on “Music and Meaning.”1 The middle-aged male speaker was haughtily describing the impressions that Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony suggested to him, as if they were the composer’s own and should be the audience’s as well. ...


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pp. 215-226


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pp. 227-228


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pp. 229-239

E-ISBN-13: 9780253112194
E-ISBN-10: 0253112192
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253347923

Page Count: 256
Illustrations: 10 b&w photos
Publication Year: 2006

Series Title: Musical Meaning and Interpretation