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Musical MeaningToward a Critical History$
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Lawrence Kramer

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780520228245

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520228245.001.0001

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Hercules' Hautboys

Hercules' Hautboys

Mixed Media and Musical Meaning

(p.145) 7 Hercules' Hautboys
Musical Meaning

Lawrence Kramer

University of California Press

The aim of this chapter is to ask what can be learned about musical meaning from the phenomenon of mixed media. It suggests that mixed media specifies both the general form and the historical basis of musical meaning, and with them the means for music to enter the culture-wide stream of communicative actions and exchanges. Music is the dynamic force in mixed media, the embodiment of agency and energy, and its dynamism is primarily a manifestation of the musical remainder. Music's semantic qualities, its relationship to the sign, and its material character as sound, account for the semantic power of music heard apart from mixed media. Semantic looping is a key means by which music continuously refreshes itself with cultural lore. Musical meaning finds both its source and its structure in the phenomenon of mixed media. The source and the structure are coextensive. It is suggested that the semantic loop is the prototype of freestanding musical interpretation of hermeneutic response. Through some combination of parable and paraphrase and with or without the help of titles, texts, programs, or other designators, the interpreter proposes an imagetext through which the music may loop. Music-imagetext combinations may occur both aesthetically, via mixed-media forms, and via social ritual, festivity, and other “musicalized” events. Music and subjectivity share the same loop; music is virtually subjective because subjectivity is virtually musical.

Keywords:   mixed media, musical meaning, melody, imagetext, semantics

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