Author Topic: The inexistence of a semantic structure in music  (Read 4343 times)

Offline Guijarro

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Re: The inexistence of a semantic structure in music
« Reply #15 on: March 17, 2014, 10:25:23 AM »
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Malfet: There's some really interesting work being done on how metapragmatic sensitivities allow speakers to understand patterns of repetition in reported speech as an extension of referential functions. I could definitely be persuaded that something like this is giving music a referential dimension for those savvy enough to pick up on it, but unfortunately there's probably not much hope for musical dullards like me!
It sounds mighty interesting, but in case that would be true, then it would be a "semantics for professionals" (i.e., people who were trained to hear those patterns). But I am not sure to really understand what metapragmatics is supposed to be in this frame. Is it a "semantic" extension beyond (i.e., meta-) pragmatics proper? Is it the way some pragmatic props get codified by continuous use? ... what?

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jkpate: Well, language sure is a lot more efficient. We couldn't get anywhere in a discussion this abstract by just pointing. Or, consider a case where we wanted to say that a red hat was not on the television (perhaps we intended to surprise the listener with a gift, but it disappeared).
Naturally! This is just the BIG advantage of having a language to build up accurate assumptions that we may use as premises for interpretation. It has helped us to develop immense possibilities in our communicative abilities, no doubt about that. The semantics of our languages could be then metaphorically compared to a pointer with which we signal given conceptual spaces (instead of pointing with our fingers). What I am claiming is that music has no such pointer available. Music can express things, who doubts that? It may, thus, be interpreted as some kind of "message", etc. But it simply does not have a pointer like language has.

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Mark Granroth-Wilding:  it is precisely because the actual semantics (or meaning system more generally) expressed by music is different to language that it is such a powerful medium for communication. The same can be said of other art forms.

And it can also be said of other salient behaviours, like, say, making an inspiration. Imagine you arrive late at night to your home with somebody and there is a strong gas stench coming out of it. If you make an inspiration, then, the only interpretation available at that moment is something like: "Danger! gas!". But an inspiration is not coded semantically to mean "danger: gas". You may use it when arriving to your summer resort with another intention (say, how good the air is here, what a quiet and beautiful place this is, ... etc.). Both are interpretations, although the first one gives you a unique message assumption and may thus resemble the de-codification result.
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Such connections are interesting because (among other things) they suggest parts of the processing mechanisms for unconscious human interpretation that may be shared, and useful because they may lead to the application of well-developed practical processing techniques from one domain to the other.
Precisely: "unconscious human interpretation" IS NOT (at least, not FOR ME) a decoding semantic process. The decoding process relates items in an institutionalized way; the interpretative processes, on the other hand, relate items logically.

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I agree with your assessment of Bernstein's attempt at music semantics. It's a mess -- I think few would disagree -- though one has to credit his endearing enthusiasm! (And some of the other lectures are very good.
I adore Bernstein's courses; I do think he is brilliant, but he was no professional linguist --so much the better for him!
« Last Edit: March 17, 2014, 10:31:59 AM by Guijarro »