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Unsayable Music

Six Reflections on Musical Semiotics, Electroacoustic and Digital Music

Paulo C. Chagas

Publication Year: 2014

Profound theoretical and philosophical approach to contemporary music. Unsayable Music presents theoretical, critical and analytical reflections on key topics of contemporary music including acoustic, electroacoustic and digital music, and audiovisual and multimedia composition. Six essays by Paulo C. Chagas approaching music from different perspectives such as philosophy, sociology, cybernetics, musical semiotics, media, and critical studies. Chagas’s practical experience, both as a composer of contemporary music and sound director of the Electronic Music Studio of Cologne, nourishes his observations on the specific creativity that emerges with the use of the technical apparatus, the development of the electronic music studio, the different aesthetics of electroacoustic music, and the forms of audiovisual and multimedia composition. The title Unsayable Music is a reference to Wittgenstein, who suggested that sound is only the surface of music and that the musical work conceals something more profound that can hardly be described by philosophical models or scientific theories.

Published by: Leuven University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 5-6

Th e role of the composer in society has gone through many transformations over the past 1500 years or so. In his De Institutione Musica, the sixth-century philosopher Boethius perceived three distinctive types of musician, arranged in descending order of importance: the critic, the composer, and the...


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pp. 7-8

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pp. 9-12

This book presents critical reflections on key topics of contemporary music and aesthetics and represents nearly forty years of study. The six reflections elaborate a myriad of themes emerging from both my artistic experience as a composer and my research on musical semiotics, electroacoustic and digital...

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Chapter 1. Musical Understanding: Wittgenstein, Ethics, and Aesthetics

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pp. 13-42

I was first introduced to the philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951) as a graduate student at the University of São Paulo, Brazil, in the late 1970’s. Reading the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus was a formative and life-changing experience; not only because of the challenging nature of the work, which...

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Chapter 2. Spectral Semiotics: Sound, Temporality, and Affect in Chopin

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pp. 43-64

The concept of spectrum emerges as an existential metaphor of sound and music in the digital era. A simple definition of spectrum is the representation of sound energy as a function of frequency. The conversion of acoustic vibrations into digital signals (Digital Signal Processing) allows the direct...

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Chapter 3. III – Communication and Meaning: Music as Social System

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pp. 65-102

Niklas Luhmann’s theory for analyzing contemporary society is characterized as a “transition towards a radically anti-humanistic, a radically anti-regionalist, and a radically constructivist conception of society (Luhmann 1997, 35).1 This system theory breaks with the Western philosophical tradition that...

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Chapter 4. The Creativity of Electroacoustic and Digital Music

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pp. 103-158

On a historical level, what we call electroacoustic1 music today emerged in the early 1950s when composers began to use electric and electronic instruments for storing, reproducing, transforming, and synthesizing sound.2 The systematic use of electricity and electronic equipment distinguishes...

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Chapter 5. The Temple of Electronic Music: The Electronic Music Studio of Cologne in the 1990s1

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pp. 159-202

In the history of the WDR Studio for Electronic Music, there are myriad elements that have influenced the development of electronic music over the past 50 years. What is meant by electronic here is music generated by apparatuses, which include a variety of categories such as electroacoustic...

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Chapter 6. Audiovisual and Multimedia Composition: The Relationship between Medium and Form

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pp. 203-250

On the basis of the distinction between medium and form, Luhmann proposes a theory of art as a social system (Luhmann 2000), which is the starting point for my reflections on audiovisual and multimedia composition.1 Medium and form are not understood as structures, but as concepts accounting for...

Appendix I: WDR Studio of Electronic Music: Works produced from 1987 to 2000

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pp. 251-256

Appendix II: WDR Studio of Electronic Music: Studio equipment used from 1990 to 2000

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pp. 257-264


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pp. 265-278

E-ISBN-13: 9789461661463
Print-ISBN-13: 9789058679949

Page Count: 300
Publication Year: 2014