Eero Tarasti: "The Emancipation of the Sign: On the Corporeal and Gestural Meanings in Music" (7/11)

The great advantage of Mead's approach to meaning is that he does not see it as anything static, but as something going on all the time, in a processional manner. In my own sketches for a new semiotic theory - which I hope will ultimately also help lead into a new method of music analysis - I have more explicitly distinguished between three stages of signs in such a "conversational" process, between the inner and outer, stimulus and response (trying to avoid the dangers of behaviourism) which are pre-signs, act-signs and post-signs.
The pre-signs are "stimuli" or gestures used to produce secondary signs which are "responses" to these initial gestures (it does not matter whether this pre-sign is immanent or manifest i.e. whether it is really existent or not). Furthermore they become "stimuli" to signs which they in turn evoke. These post-signs coming afterwards can also be either existing only in the minds of receivers or something concrete, physically new signs. They are traditionally called in semiotics as "interpretants", whereas the first-mentioned pre-signs could be called as "enunciants".
So there is an alternation between affirmation and negation gestures in this type of "inner dialogue" in a piece, in its "intratextual" relations as my colleague Tomi Mäkelä has called it (Mäkelä 1989: 38).
My intention is to apply this simple method to the analysis of one particular piece, which I have been practising with my students for several years already and which fascinates me because its very organic and lively gestural level ceaselessly question any kind of pre-established sonata or other forms. This piece is the piano quartet by Ernest Chausson. This is music which is very semiotic, in the Kristevian sense. In Chausson's works the German-type formal hegemony, patriarchal order, is all the time broken on this more 'corporeal' level of its signs. In order to realize this one only needs to compare it to, say, Gabriel Fauré's piano quartets, whose texture is congenially idiomatic but whose formal outline is not as radically individual, anti-German and un-angular as is Chausson. One need only consider its opening gesture, a very energetic motif. Quite suitable as a gestural, masculine sonata first movement beginning in all its Mediterranean energy with plain colours and clear rhythms (vz. the quite similar opening of Milhaud's Piano Sonata):

Page - 1     Page + 1

AS/SA Nº4, Article 1 : Page 7 / 11

© 1997 by AS/SA

E-mail to the editors
Pour écrire à la rédaction