Eero Tarasti: "The Emancipation of the Sign: On the Corporeal and Gestural Meanings in Music" (6/11)

On this "road less travelled", one can find guidance in the theories by the American pragmatician George Herbert Mead, who has studied "I" as subject and object, or the notions "I" and "me". It was also an important achievement of phenomenologists like Merleau-Ponty and before him Husserl of course, that body can never appear as mere object to a subject. Also feminists like Teresa de Lauretis distinguish between experiencing body and the body experienced by others (in German the words "Körper" and "Leib" contain this difference). A subject's relationship to his/her body essentially changes when he/she notices it is perceived by someone else. We do not need to resort to the everyday experience of any musician that the same piece played alone for oneself and to even minimum audience becomes a greatly different experience.
When in the following text I speak about the corporeality of music I am not so interested in it as it were a "body" experienced by others, "me", since then its corporeality would be determined from outside, in an "ethicist" manner joining there all one's surrounding ideologies.
We can argue that a musical piece is in a metaphoric sense like a "living organism", it is a kind of "body". Then the only way to get under the skin of this "body" is of course to perform it. Now, is there then any method by which we could study this kind of "musical body" from inside?
George Herbert Mead sees that symbols emerge from a continuous interplay of inner impulses and outer responses. He speaks of gestures in a conversation as vocal gestures. He says they are

significant symbols, and by symbol we do not mean something that lies outside of the field of conduct. a symbol is nothing but the stimulus whose response is given in advance. That is all we mean by a symbol. There is a word and a blow. The blow is the historical antecedent of the word, but if the word means an insult, the response is anew now involved in the word, something given in the very stimulus itself. That is all that is meant by a symbol. Now if that response can be given in terms of an attitude utilized for the further control of action, then the relation of that stimulus and attitude is what we mean by a significant symbol (Mead, p. 181).

So Mead argues that our thinking goes on in these lines, inside of us as one might say, and it is to him a "play of symbols (p. 181, Mind, Self & Society) through gestures responses are called out in our own attitudes. What was the meaning now becomes a symbol which has another meaning. The meaning has itself become a stimulus to another response" In this way as Meas reasons, the conversation is continually going on, and what was response becomes in the field of gesture a stimulus, and the response to that is the "meaning."

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AS/SA Nº4, Article 1 : Page 6 / 11

© 1997 by AS/SA

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