Mahler's Sixth Symphony: A Study in Musical Semiotics by Robert Samuels

By Robert Samuels

The phrases of structuralist and post-structuralist concept were commonly debated in the box of song research lately. even if, only a few analyses have tried to handle the repertoire of enormous orchestral works of the flip of the century - works which appear most glaringly to flee the types of traditional research. This examine makes use of a semiotic idea of signification which will examine kinds of musical verbal exchange. Musical which means is outlined on numerous degrees from buildings immanent to the paintings, via questions of culture and style, to attention of the symphony as a story along different modern non-musical texts. rules from Eco, Barthes, and Derrida are deployed in the context of shut research of the ranking that allows you to unite in particular analytical insights with cultural hermeneutics.

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This chapter will consider the production of signs which are composed entirely of signifiers with a material trace — in other words, structures of pitch, duration, timbre and so forth — and whose referential scope is entirely 'intramusical', and initially even 'intratextuaT, requiring no interpretant (to use Peirce's term) drawn from outside the work in hand. The most often-discussed musical process which fulfils these criteria is, of course, that of motivic repetition and development. A motivic analysis will identify motives within the musical text, derive them from each other, and assign value to the patterns of recurrence and deviation which result.

The table, as was remarked above, actually represents a continuum, from the simple (and therefore semiotically neutral) rhythm of column I to the rhythms of columns IV and V, where the paradigmatic shape is inflected in a typically Mahlerian fashion. Column IV, in particular, is a strong idiolectic reference; and it is noticeable that this column is used in the return of the opening melody, at bars 101 and 160, to give motivic differentiation to what was, at bar 2, a very ordinary point of repose.

The combination of motivic and Schenkerian perspectives has often been attempted in the discussion of late nineteenth-century music. Allen Forte, in a notable article on the Adagietto of Mahler's Fifth Symphony, argues that the replication of foreground motives at middleground levels accounts in a large part for the hierarchical organisation of the movement (Forte 1985).

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