Eero Tarasti: "The Emancipation of the Sign: On the Corporeal and Gestural Meanings in Music" (5/11)
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Nevertheless, from our point of view it is interesting how the semiotic moment in music is so strongly interwoven in these studies with the human body, not expressly of men or women, but body in general. Intuitively this seems to be justified, but could we make a method of analysis on the basis of this statement?
How could body in music be studied semiotically in the proper sense? Of course we may say that not just any semiotics would be appropriate for it, since it is general labelling for extremely varied methods and approaches ranging from Nattiez' paradigmatic model to Monelle's deconstructions and some Greimassians' (like Grabocz and myself) seme analyses and modal grammars.
One traditional way to realize this issue would be to study gestures. This has been in fact already done by Adorno in his study on Wagner, in which he however, comes to the discouraging results that gestures cannot be developed, they can only be repeated. But some late semioticians of music have paid much attention to gestures in their various forms from Gino Stefani in his study of accents in music to Robert S. Hatten's quite recent explorations in the Classical and pre-romantic style where, as Adorno said, the gestuality has been sublimated into an expression.
Some hints at what corporeality could be in a new music semiology can be again found in Merleau-Ponty, as he deals with signification gestuelle (Op. cit., p. 209). It is, in his mind, like a first sketch drawn before the receiver has conceived the semantics of a message: "Une musique ou une peinture qui n'est d'abord pas comprise finit par se créer elle-même son public, si vraiment elle dit quelque chose, c'est-à-dire par sécréter elle-même sa signification."
One could thus think that a musical work yields a certain implicit meaning before it is connected with any ideological, aesthetic or other significations determined by its historical situation. Should we not first examine this level, both feminists and traditionalists together, so that we could agree about what corporeality is in music? Most probably the gender analysts might refuse this offer of reconciliation, since their thesis is that everything is, from the beginning, gendered, there being no previous, "lower" level to which things could be reduced. Yet by saying this they fall into and remain in the trap of the difference-ideology, and cannot see how one could get out of it by developing on a sound semiotic basis for what body is, whether feminine or masculine, in music.






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21.12.1997