Indiana University Press

Musical Meaning and Interpretation

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Musical Meaning and Interpretation

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Music and the Politics of Negation

James R. Currie

Over the past quarter century, music studies in the academy have their postmodern credentials by insisting that our scholarly engagements start and end by placing music firmly within its various historical and social contexts. In Music and the Politics of Negation, James R. Currie sets out to disturb the validity of this now quite orthodox claim. Alternating dialectically between analytic and historical investigations into the late 18th century and the present, he poses a set of uncomfortable questions regarding the limits and complicities of the values that the academy keeps in circulation by means of its musical encounters. His overriding thesis is that the forces that have formed us are not our fate.

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Musical Forces

Motion, Metaphor, and Meaning in Music

Steve Larson. Foreword by Robert S. Hatten

Steve Larson draws on his 20 years of research in music theory, cognitive linguistics, experimental psychology, and artificial intelligence—as well as his skill as a jazz pianist—to show how the experience of physical motion can shape one's musical experience. Clarifying the roles of analogy, metaphor, grouping, pattern, hierarchy, and emergence in the explanation of musical meaning, Larson explains how listeners hear tonal music through the analogues of physical gravity, magnetism, and inertia. His theory of melodic expectation goes beyond prior theories in predicting complete melodic patterns. Larson elegantly demonstrates how rhythm and meter arise from, and are given meaning by, these same musical forces.

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Musical Representations, Subjects, and Objects

The Construction of Musical Thought in Zarlino, Descartes, Rameau, and Weber

Jairo Moreno

Jairo Moreno adapts the methodologies and nomenclature of Foucault's "archaeology of knowledge" and applies it through individual case studies to the theoretical writings of Zarlino, Descartes, Rameau, and Weber. His conclusion summarizes the conditions -- musical, philosophical, and historical -- that "make a certain form of thought about music necessary and possible at the time it emerges."

Musical Meaning and Interpretation -- Robert S. Hatten, editor

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The Musical Topic

Hunt, Military and Pastoral

Raymond Monelle

The Musical Topic discusses three tropes prominently featured in Western European music: the hunt, the military, and the pastoral. Raymond Monelle provides an in-depth cultural and historical study of musical topics -- short melodic figures, harmonic or rhythmic formulae carrying literal or lexical meaning -- through consideration of their origin, thematization, manifestation, and meaning. The Musical Topic shows the connections of musical meaning to literature, social history, and the fine arts.

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Pleasure and Meaning in the Classical Symphony

Melanie Lowe

Classical music permeates contemporary life. Encountered in waiting rooms, movies, and hotel lobbies as much as in the concert hall, perennial orchestral favorites mingle with commercial jingles, video-game soundtracks, and the booming bass from a passing car to form the musical soundscape of our daily lives. In this provocative and ground-breaking study, Melanie Lowe explores why the public instrumental music of late-eighteenth-century Europe has remained accessible, entertaining, and distinctly pleasurable to a wide variety of listeners for over 200 years. By placing listeners at the center of interpretive activity, Pleasure and Meaning in the Classical Symphony offers an alternative to more traditional composer- and score-oriented approaches to meaning in the symphonies of Haydn and Mozart.

Drawing from the aesthetics of the Enlightenment, the politics of entertainment, and postmodern notions of pleasure, Lowe posits that the listener's pleasure stems from control over musical meaning. She then explores the widely varying meanings eighteenth-century listeners of different social classes may have constructed during their first and likely only hearing of a work. The methodologies she employs are as varied as her sources -- from musical analysis to the imaginings of three hypothetical listeners.

Lowe also explores similarities between the position of the classical symphony in its own time and its position in contemporary American consumer culture. By considering the meanings the mainstream and largely middle-class American public may construct alongside those heard by today's more elite listeners, she reveals the great polysemic potential of this music within our current cultural marketplace. She suggests that we embrace "crosstalk" between performances of this music and its myriad uses in film, television, and other mediated contexts to recover the pleasure of listening to this repertory. In so doing, we surprisingly regain something of the classical symphony's historical ways of meaning.

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Psychedelic Popular Music

A History through Musical Topic Theory

William Echard

Recognized for its distinctive musical features and its connection to periods of social innovation and ferment, the genre of psychedelia has exerted long-term influence in many areas of cultural production, including music, visual art, graphic design, film, and literature. William Echard explores the historical development of psychedelic music and its various stylistic incarnations as a genre unique for its fusion of rock, soul, funk, folk, and electronic music. Through the theory of musical topics—highly conventional musical figures that signify broad cultural concepts—and musical meaning, Echard traces the stylistic evolution of psychedelia from its inception in the early 1960s, with the Beatles’ Rubber Soul and Revolver and the Kinks and Pink Floyd, to the German experimental bands and psychedelic funk of the 1970s, with a special emphasis on Parliament/Funkadelic. He concludes with a look at the 1980s and early 1990s, touching on the free festival scene, rave culture, and neo–jam bands. Set against the cultural backdrop of these decades, Echard's study of psychedelia lays the groundwork and offers lessons for analyzing the topic of popular music in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

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Reconfiguring Myth and Narrative in Contemporary Opera

Osvaldo Golijov, Kaija Saariaho, John Adams, and Tan Dun

Yayoi Uno Everett

Yayoi Uno Everett focuses on four operas that helped shape the careers of the composers Osvaldo Golijov, Kaija Saariaho, John Adams, and Tan Dun, which represent a unique encounter of music and production through what Everett calls "multimodal narrative." Aspects of production design, the mechanics of stagecraft, and their interaction with music and sung texts contribute significantly to the semiotics of operatic storytelling. Everett's study draws on Northrop Frye's theories of myth, Lacanian psychoanalysis via Slavoj Žižek, Linda and Michael Hutcheon's notion of production, and musical semiotics found in Robert Hatten's concept of troping in order to provide original interpretive models for conceptualizing new operatic narratives.

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The Rite of Spring at 100

Foreword by Stephen Walsh. With John Reef. Edited by Severine Neff, Maureen Carr, and Gretchen Horlacher

When Igor Stravinsky's ballet Le Sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring) premiered during the 1913 Paris season of Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, its avant-garde music and jarring choreography scandalized audiences. Today it is considered one of the most influential musical works of the twentieth century. In this volume, the ballet finally receives the full critical attention it deserves, as distinguished music and dance scholars discuss the meaning of the work and its far-reaching influence on world music, performance, and culture. Essays explore four key facets of the ballet: its choreography and movement; the cultural and historical contexts of its performance and reception in France; its structure and use of innovative rhythmic and tonal features; and the reception of the work in Russian music history and theory.

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Sonata Fragments

Romantic Narratives in Chopin, Schumann, and Brahms

Andrew Davis

In Sonata Fragments, Andrew Davis argues that the Romantic sonata is firmly rooted, both formally and expressively, in its Classical forebears, using Classical conventions in order to convey a broad constellation of Romantic aesthetic values. This claim runs contrary to conventional theories of the Romantic sonata that place this nineteenth-century musical form squarely outside inherited Classical sonata procedures. Building on Sonata Theory, Davis examines moments of fracture and fragmentation that disrupt the cohesive and linear temporality in piano sonatas by Chopin, Brahms, and Schumann.  These disruptions in the sonata form are a narrative technique that signify temporal shifts during which we move from the outer action to the inner thoughts of a musical agent, or we move from the story as it unfolds to a flashback or flash-forward. Through an interpretation of Romantic sonatas as temporally multi-dimensional works in which portions of the music in any given piece can lie inside or outside of what Sonata Theory would define as the sonata-space proper, Davis reads into these ruptures a narrative of expressive features that mark these sonatas as uniquely Romantic.

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