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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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Beyond Words and Music

Beyond Words and Music

An Essay on Songfulness

(p.51) 3 Beyond Words and Music
Musical Meaning

Lawrence Kramer

University of California Press

Songfulness is a fusion of vocal and musical utterance judged to be both pleasurable and suitable independent of verbal content. It is the positive quality of singing-in-itself: just singing. It is one of those aesthetic qualities that seem to invite immediate recognition even while they elude definition; its indefinability is part of its character. There is a sense of immediate intimate contact between the listener and the subject behind the voice. This contact is both an aesthetic relationship and an indication of the specific fantasy-structure that underlies the experience of songfulness. Another perspective on songfulness can be gained by considering the difference between instrumental and vocal realizations of the same melody. Songfulness may be considered the complement of what is elsewhere called overvocalization, “the purposeful effacement of text by voice” associated with “emotional and metaphysical extremes, blurrings of ego boundaries, and instability of identity.” Songfulness doesn't exactly constitute a resistance to or escape from the symbolic, but an interlude of imperviousness to it. Overvocalization is extraordinary, songfulness is a condition that shows no need of the extraordinary; it is the ideal ordinariness of song.

Keywords:   songfulness, overvocalization, vocalization, Lacanian, Heidenröslein, verbal content, overvocalization

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