Session 2 Musicology Lectures


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Lecture two of my musicology series

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  • Mayer discusses “the importance of uncertainty in musical communication” (1994) – refer to John Fisk
  • Photo copy chapter 1?
  • Session 2 Musicology Lectures

    1. 1. Research Skills Musicology Dr Paul Carr Session 2
    2. 2. Musical Meaning Four Basic Questions <ul><li>Can music communicate anything beyond notes, sounds and textures? </li></ul><ul><li>Is this ‘meaning’ universal or personal? </li></ul><ul><li>How do we communicate this meaning to others? </li></ul><ul><li>How do we comprehend this meaning? </li></ul>
    3. 3. Musicological Opinions
    4. 4. Guido Adler (1855 – 1941) <ul><li>Wrote pioneering article entitled ‘The Scope, Method and Aim of Musicology’ in 1885. </li></ul><ul><li>Separated musicicology into two categories: </li></ul><ul><li>Historical: Separated music history into epochs, periods and nations. Led to sub-divisions such as ethnomusicology and historiography. </li></ul><ul><li>Systematic: Analysed the internal characteristics of music such as harmony and melody. Led to specific theories on harmony, melody, etc. </li></ul>
    5. 5. Eduard Hanslick (1825 - 1904) <ul><li>Believed that music had no direct impact on ‘extra musical’ feelings. </li></ul><ul><li>Any feelings we do encounter are a by-product of the music’s beauty. </li></ul><ul><li>Beauty [is not] in the eye of the be holder! </li></ul><ul><li>&quot;If the contemplation of something beautiful arouses pleasurable feelings, this effect is distinct from the beautiful as such. I may, indeed, place a beautiful object before an observer with the avowed purpose of giving him pleasure, but this purpose in no way affects the beauty of the object. The beautiful is and remains beautiful though it arouses no emotion whatever, and though there be no one to look at it. In other words, although the beautiful exists for the gratification of an observer, it is independent of him.&quot; (Hanslick pp.9-10) </li></ul>
    6. 6. Indicative Modern day Popular Music based Musicologists <ul><li>Richard Middleton </li></ul><ul><li>Phillip Tagg </li></ul><ul><li>Susan McClary </li></ul><ul><li>Allan Moore </li></ul><ul><li>Simon Frith </li></ul><ul><li>Sheila Whiteley </li></ul><ul><li>Albin Zac </li></ul><ul><li>Eric Clarke </li></ul><ul><li>Etc. </li></ul><ul><li>All make a connection to a greater or lesser extent that music has ‘meaning’ beyond its notes/recording </li></ul>
    7. 7. Mayer (1994) alludes to a ‘triadic’ model regarding meaning.
    8. 8. Mayer’s Triadic Relationship (PC Version) Stimulus What the meaning refers to The person or people who understand the meaning Can Be ‘ Designative’ or Embodied’ (Outside or Inside Music)
    9. 9. <ul><li>Mayer believes that once we become affectively or intellectually aware of the implications of a musical stimulus – meaning arises. For example - </li></ul>
    10. 10. Mayer Model (PC Version) Stimulus ‘ Smoke On The Water’ What It Refers To (What could this be?) The person or people who get the meaning (Who could this be?) ‘ Designative’ – The Style Of Music in addition to emotions Embodied’ – Harmony, Melody, Textures, etc. Designative meaning could also include factors like historic, cultural, aesthetic, etc
    11. 11. <ul><li>“ Once a musical style has become part of the habit responses of composers, performers and practiced listeners, it may be regarded as a complex system of probabilities ” (Mayer 1994 p.8). </li></ul><ul><li>These probabilities are related to factors such as: </li></ul><ul><li>Stylistic conventions such as vocal style, form, textures, timbres etc, </li></ul><ul><li>Harmonic and melodic norms. </li></ul><ul><li>Dress code </li></ul><ul><li>Tradition! </li></ul><ul><li>Etc etc. </li></ul>
    12. 12. Examples of convention probability <ul><li>Gruff Rhys: ‘Candylion’ </li></ul><ul><li>Helen Love: ‘Shifty Disco Girl’ </li></ul><ul><li>Donna Lewis: ‘Ireland’ </li></ul>
    13. 13. <ul><li>“ Meaning arises when an individual becomes aware, either affectively or intellectually, of the implications of a stimulus in a particular context” (Mayer 1994 p.9). </li></ul><ul><li>Mayer believes that norms become latent ‘habits’, and they are often only noticed when the ‘rules’ are broken (Mayer 1994 p.9). Do you agree with this? </li></ul><ul><li>Meyer means that a range of ‘meanings’ are potentially in the music – we just don’t necessarily notice them. </li></ul>
    14. 14. Example of ‘rule breaking’ <ul><li>Mr Bungle : ‘Quote Unquote’ </li></ul><ul><li>Everyone list an example on the Wiki during the week. </li></ul>
    15. 15. <ul><li>Mayer distinguishes three types of deviation, arguing that “the mind becomes aware of the possibility of alternative modes of continuation” (Ibid p.10). </li></ul>
    16. 16. 1) The normal or probable event is delayed. <ul><li>For example a chorus does not happen after an 8 bar verse, but is delayed by 3-4 bars. </li></ul><ul><li>A guitar solo does not occur when expected, but happens at the end of a song. </li></ul>
    17. 17. For Example <ul><li>‘ I Can’t Help Myself’: The Four Tops. What has been delayed? </li></ul><ul><li>Everyone place and example of delayed resolution on the Wiki </li></ul>
    18. 18. 2) Ambiguity <ul><li>Where a number of possibilities are apparent to the listener </li></ul><ul><li>For example a verse could be repeated or a chorus could arise. </li></ul><ul><li>A chord progression that leads us toward a number of resolutions. </li></ul><ul><li>A note in a melody that has a number of possibilities. </li></ul>
    19. 19. Example <ul><li>If listening for the first time, the previous piece could have just have easily moved to a chorus. </li></ul><ul><li>Comments on the wiki </li></ul>
    20. 20. 3) The Unexpected <ul><li>Where the event that follows is unexpected in a particular context </li></ul><ul><li>This could include </li></ul><ul><li>An unexpected vocal or instrumental sound </li></ul><ul><li>An unexpected form, dynamic, texture, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>The moulding together of incongruent styles. </li></ul><ul><li>Unexpected harmonies or melodic tenancies. </li></ul>
    21. 21. Examples of ‘Unexpected <ul><li>‘ Soul Love’: David Bowie </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Quicksand’: Martha Reeves and the Vandellas </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Starlings’: Elbow </li></ul><ul><li>Everyone place example of ‘the unexpected’ on Wiki </li></ul>
    22. 22. Mayer’s three Levels of ‘embodied meaning’ <ul><li>‘ Hypothetical Meaning’ (What we expect) “Greater freedom of choice, greater uncertainty, greater information go hand in hand (Ibid p10). </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Evident Meaning’ (What has happened retrospectively) (Ibid p12) </li></ul><ul><li>These two factors are interrelated by the former being re-evaluated in light of the latter. </li></ul><ul><li>“ such revaluation then becomes the basis for future probability estimates and future expectations” (ibid p13) </li></ul>
    23. 23. <ul><li>Hypothetical Meaning </li></ul>Evident Meaning Evident meaning also based on expectations Hypothetical Meaning also based on revised knowledge Hypothetical meaning confirmed. Altered through clarification of delays Clarified through resolving ambiguities Or mistaken because the improbable occurred
    24. 24. Appraisal of Mayer <ul><li>Makes a relation between high certainty– low meaning – this does not take into account ‘extra musical’ factors (in my opinion). </li></ul><ul><li>This may be true for ‘embodied meaning’, however a blues could have great meaning for extra-musical reasons such as cultural, sociological, historical, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>In this instance ‘greater information and uncertainty’ does not relate to ‘greater information’. </li></ul>
    25. 25. What of Designative/Extra Musical Meaning? <ul><li>Whiteley, Sheila, The space between the notes (Routledge, 1992). </li></ul><ul><li>Description of ‘Astronomy Domine’ by Pink Floyd (pp 30 - 31) </li></ul><ul><li>Listen to the music, read the segment then comment </li></ul>
    26. 26. Can music communicate anything beyond its notes, sounds and textures? <ul><li>Meyer, Leonard B., Emotion and meaning in music (University of Chicago Press, 1961). Believes that both participants and listeners agree that music has meaning (1) </li></ul><ul><li>The contention resolves around what that meaning is. </li></ul><ul><li>Continues to discuss if meaning is ‘in the work’ or ‘extra musical’. </li></ul><ul><li>Entitles these categories ‘absolutists’ and ‘referentialists’. </li></ul><ul><li>States that absolutists can be both ‘formalist’ (intellectual) or ‘expressionist’ (emotive) and that the latter is often confused as a referentialist (The expression/emotion can be ‘in’ the music. </li></ul>
    27. 27. Absolutist/Formalist Considerations <ul><li>Refers to instrumental music that does not appears to exist without reference to anything but itself. </li></ul><ul><li>The opposite of ‘programme music’. </li></ul><ul><li>Art for Arts sake. </li></ul><ul><li>Involves the analysis of Harmony, Melody, Texture, Dynamics etc. </li></ul><ul><li>An intellectual response to music. </li></ul><ul><li>Concerns what is happening in the music – that is the ‘meaning’. </li></ul><ul><li>Words not important. </li></ul><ul><li>Eduard Hanslick typified this position in the 19 th century. </li></ul><ul><li>For ‘Formalists’ – any ‘extra musical’ meaning is irrelevant. </li></ul><ul><li>Music has no meaning at all and is enjoyed by appreciation of its ‘formal’ structure and technical construction </li></ul><ul><li>Rejected music such as opera as it conveyed explict meanings </li></ul>
    28. 28. Referential Considerations <ul><li>Absolute Music critiqued by musicologyists such as Susan McClary – ‘all music contains implicit programs that reflect the tastes, politics, aesthetic philosophies and social attitudes of the composer’. </li></ul><ul><li>Could argue that even classical music reflects something about the composer </li></ul><ul><li>If the musical content signifies something other than the music itself – the question is how is music represented in the extra musical world? </li></ul>
    29. 29. Information Processing Model <ul><li>Presumes that any environment is without order, and the order is instilled on it by the perceiver. </li></ul><ul><li>This perception can then be considered as a series of stages/levels as follows: </li></ul>
    30. 30. Acoustics Sounds in the environment Physical Psychoacoustics Pitch Timbre Dynamics etc Physical Mental Cognition Scales Form Melodic Organisation etc Mental Aesthetic/Sociological/ Critical Theory Meaning Aesthetic Value Mental Social/Cultural Individual adds order to outside stimulus
    31. 31. Ecological Model <ul><li>Relationship of listener to the enviroment. </li></ul>
    32. 32. Expressive Considerations <ul><li>Affective personal response to music </li></ul><ul><li>Sad, Happy, Beautiful, violent, etc. </li></ul>
    33. 33. How do we begin <ul><li>Do we use one approach over a single text? </li></ul><ul><li>Do we use a multiple ‘dialogic’ approach to a single text? </li></ul>
    34. 34. Reading <ul><li>Read Mayer pp 5 – 21. Here </li></ul>
    35. 35. Bibliography <ul><li>Meyer, Leonard B., Emotion and meaning in music (University of Chicago Press, 1961).   </li></ul><ul><li>Robinson, Jenefer, Music & meaning (Cornell University Press, 1997).   </li></ul><ul><li>Meyer, Leonard B., Music, the arts, and ideas (University of Chicago Press, 1994). </li></ul><ul><li>Hanslick, Eduard, and Geoffrey Payzant, On the musically beautiful (Hackett Publishing, 1986).   </li></ul> 
    36. 36. Homework 1 Wiki <ul><li>Place some examples of ‘rule breaking’ on the Wiki. </li></ul><ul><li>Comment on Mayer’s: </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Normal Delayed’ </li></ul><ul><li>Ambiguity </li></ul><ul><li>Unexpected </li></ul>
    37. 37. Homework 2 <ul><li>Read the Korn essay on musical meaning in Blackboard (Learning Materials). We will discuss at the start of session 3. </li></ul>