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Reading conventions, interpreting habits: Peircian semiotics in music

Curry, Ben John 2011. Reading conventions, interpreting habits: Peircian semiotics in music. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.

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The influence of Peircian semiotics on the study of music has grown during the last two decades due to the recognition of Robert Hatten's achievements, a major study by Naomi Cumming, the prolific final years of Raymond Monelle and the continued success of Eero Tarasti's work with the International Association of Semiotic Studies. Peirce's thought is extraordinarily rich and rigorous but this thesis identifies a tendency amongst musicologists deploying Peircian thought to reinscribe a number of ideological convictions. In broad terms these convictions can be described as the reification and legitimization of a body of music, and more specifically as an attempt to stabilize musical meanings whilst locating them within a 'music-in-itself. It is in this sense that Peircian semiotics has been used to resist developments in popular and new musicologies. The role of Peirce's theory in this discourse needs careful re-examination. The work of Robert Hatten in its search for meaning through and around the contextual (or intertextual) relations of a 'work' represents the most successful application, to date, of Peircian semiotics to music. But Hatten's emphasis upon composers, structure and stylistic contexts, and his relative neglect of listeners, subjectivity and social forces renders his project incomplete. Through a detailed explanation of some of the central insights offered by Peirce's philosophical project this thesis develops a theory of musical meaning which has listening processes and the formation of identity/subjectivity at its centre. A key tool in developing this theory concerns the dimensions of time and their coordination with Peirce's universal categories. The possibility of informing and developing the close-reading practices that still dominate the tradition of musical analysis will be explored through a discussion and analysis of the Allegro of Mozart's 'Prague' Symphony in the light of the theories developed in earlier chapters, with particular reference to Peirce's concept of valency.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Music
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > M Music
ISBN: 9781303196188
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 15 Jan 2024 15:36

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