Raymond MONELLE: "Musical uniqueness as a function of the text" (11/17)


The Tchaikovsky scholar Henry Zajaczkowski, though himself a traditional analyst, has the depth of intuition to notice both the temporal change and the semiotic function of the transition, though he does not speak in these terms.
The longueurs in his music are often as cunningly contrived as his obsequious modesty, for they frequently serve a very deliberate purpose [...]
His penchant for full-blown melody [...] was a considerable obstacle to the "good" construction of even moderately lengthy works. Such themes tend to be self-sufficient: they are, by their very nature, fully worked entities [...] Even his most humble linking devices could, on occasion, be converted to strokes of genius [...]
[His] disjointed structure is not necessarily weak, since it can be a vital component of the expression of strong emotion (Zajaczkowski: 1987, 2 and 46).
The signs of intimacy, the hand that encircles our shoulder and draws us privily aside, the invitation to guilty conspiracy are all to be found in the twelve measures that precede the second subject. Like a good conjurer, Tchaikovsky does the trick when our attention is distracted.
We may now turn to the other component of perceived uniqueness in music, the projection of the authorial personality. Much (perhaps not all) music seems to embody an authorial voice; it seems to proceed from a speaking subject (this impression is examined in detail by Edward Cone in Cone: 1974). This subjectivity has usually been identified with the physical composer. There is no doubt that the writer of the following passage felt he was describing the man Schubert, in his discussion of the march from the "Great C major" Symphony.
It is as though the composer has reached the stage of feeling himself to be the helpless victim of Fate, and he stands surveying the ruins of his world lying shattered at his feet. But the struggle is on a higher plane, He has some brave words and a tired smile as he turns again to the work of his hand. In these maturer strains we can read between the lines far more than in the actual lines of words and music that broke from him during the fleeting sorrow of younger days (Pritchard: 1946, 242).
To be sure, the man Schubert wrote the piece, so why should not his personality be reflected in it?
Yet the personality described, the "helpless victim" with his "tired smile", is entirely extrapolated from the text, of course. It is not a biographical or historical feature, but a textual feature. Riffaterre suggests that this kind of textual author may be one of two types
As far as the author is concerned, either he will be represented in the text, or he will not.
In the first case, the author's "I" is merely one particular case of character representation.
In the second case, the author is not present in the text, but the reader readily imagines him and places him there. There is nothing wrong with fabricating an author out of his words (which, by the way, is a favorite pastime of traditional criticism), but only on the condition that we fully realize that this author is a by-product of the text. The rationalized author must also not be confused with the historical author, the living writer (Riffaterre: 1983, 4-5).

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AS/SA Nº4, Article 4 : Page 11 / 17

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