Indiana University Press

Musical Meaning and Interpretation

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Musical Meaning and Interpretation

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Music and Embodied Cognition

Listening, Moving, Feeling, and Thinking

Arnie Cox

Taking a cognitive approach to musical meaning, Arnie Cox explores embodied experiences of hearing music as those that move us both consciously and unconsciously. In this pioneering study that draws on neuroscience and music theory, phenomenology and cognitive science, Cox advances his theory of the "mimetic hypothesis," the notion that a large part of our experience and understanding of music involves an embodied imitation in the listener of bodily motions and exertions that are involved in producing music. Through an often unconscious imitation of action and sound, we feel the music as it moves and grows. With applications to tonal and post-tonal Western classical music, to Western vernacular music, and to non-Western music, Cox’s work stands to expand the range of phenomena that can be explained by the role of sensory, motor, and affective aspects of human experience and cognition.

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Music and the Crises of the Modern Subject

Michael L. Klein

Departing from the traditional German school of music theorists, Michael Klein injects a unique French critical theory perspective into the framework of music and meaning. Using primarily Lacanian notions of the symptom, that unnamable jouissance located in the unconscious, and the registers of subjectivity (the Imaginary, the Symbolic Order, and the Real), Klein explores how we understand music as both an artistic form created by "the subject" and an artistic expression of a culture that imposes its history on this modern subject. By creatively navigating from critical theory to music, film, fiction, and back to music, Klein distills the kinds of meaning that we have been missing when we perform, listen to, think about, and write about music without the insights of Lacan and others into formulations of modern subjectivity.

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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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Neil Young and the Poetics of Energy

William Echard

"This book uniquely and successfully sustains a cohesive analysis of the work, career, and reception of a single artist. That the artist is Neil Young, one of the most confounding and mysterious of rock stars, is an added bonus. Finally someone will explain what’s been going on all these years!" —Daniel Cavicchi, author of Tramps Like Us: Music and Meaning among Springsteen Fans

As a writer in Wired magazine puts it, Neil Young is a "folk-country-grunge dinosaur [who has been] reborn (again) as an Internet-friendly, biodiesel-driven, multimedia machine." In Neil Young and the Poetics of Energy, William Echard stages an encounter between Young’s challenging and ever-changing work and current theories of musical meaning—an encounter from which both emerge transformed.

Echard roots his discussion in an extensive review of writings from the rock press as well as his own engagement as a fan and critical theorist. How is it that Neil Young is both a perpetual outsider and critic of rock culture, and also one of its most central icons? And what are the unique properties that have lent his work such expressive force? Echard delves into concepts of musical persona, space, and energy, and in the process illuminates the complex interplay between experience, musical sound, social actors, genres, styles, and traditions.

Readers interested primarily in Neil Young, or rock music in general, will find a new way to think and talk about the subject, and readers interested primarily in musical or cultural theory will find a new way to articulate and apply some of the most exciting current perspectives on meaning, music, and subjectivity.

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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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