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Association of Meaning in Program Music: On Denotation, Inherence, and Onomatopoeia


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We tested three theses on the construction of extramusical meaning in program music: (1) that some excerpts contain an “inherent” musical structure which facilitates the interpretation aligned with the composer's intentions; (2) that “onomatopoeia” , musical imitation of natural sounds, is a frequent subclass of this “inherence”; and (3) that providing the title of the piece further facilitates the “proper" interpretation of intended meaning. Two hundred and one students were given six musical stimuli (three based on “inherent” and three on “arbitrary” association) and asked to write a one-sentence description of extramusical meaning associated with the examples. In the first trial, all participants provided descriptions without a suggestion. In the second, they were randomly assigned to three groups, receiving suggestions that were neutral, aligned with the composer’s program, or deliberately worded to contradict this program. Three raters then coded the responses on the basis of conformity with the composer's intentions and presence of onomatopoeia. The result was (a) no difference in the numbers of conformant descriptions to “inherent” as opposed to “arbitrary” examples; (b) a negligible number of onomatopoeic descriptions; (c) a strong influence of “false”, but not “true” suggestions. We discuss some implications for further studies of extramusical meaning.
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Research Report:
Association of Meaning in Program Music: On Denotation, Inherence, and Onomatopoeia
Mihailo Antović, Dušan Stamenković, Vladimir Figar
University of Niš, Serbia
in press: Music Perception,
Mihailo Antović,
Faculty of Philosophy,
Center for Cognitive Sciences,
University of Niš,
Ćirila i Metodija 2, 18000 Niš, Serbia;
We tested three theses on the construction of extramusical meaning in program music: (1)
that some excerpts contain an inherent musical structure which facilitates the interpretation
aligned with the composers intentions; (2) that onomatopoeia , musical imitation of natural
sounds, is a frequent subclass of this inherence; and (3) that providing the title of the piece
further facilitates the proper interpretation of intended meaning. Two hundred and one
students were given six musical stimuli (three based on inherent and three on arbitrary
association) and asked to write a one-sentence description of extramusical meaning
associated with the examples. In the first trial, all participants provided descriptions without a
suggestion. In the second, they were randomly assigned to three groups, receiving
suggestions that were neutral, aligned with the composers program, or deliberately worded
to contradict this program. Three raters then coded the responses on the basis of conformity
with the composers intentions and presence of onomatopoeia. The result was (a) no
difference in the numbers of conformant descriptions to inherent as opposed to arbitrary
examples; (b) a negligible number of onomatopoeic descriptions; (c) a strong influence of
false, but not true suggestions. We discuss some implications for further studies of
extramusical meaning.
Keywords: extramusical meaning, inherent and arbitrary association, onomatopoeia,
connotation, denotation.
Association of Meaning in Program Music: On Denotation, Inherence, and Onomatopoeia
Musical meaning is a much discussed concept, which scholars approach from
numerous angles. While some authors reject the idea that music can have semantic content
(Kivy, 2002), supporters too take a variety of positions, looking for the meaning of music in
the form alone (Bernstein, 1976), in musical affect (Jackendoff & Lerdahl, 2006), in
emotions triggered by the music (Juslin & Laukka, 2003), in image schemas (Brower, 2000)
or conceptual metaphors underlying music perception and analysis (Zbikowski, 2002), in
conceptual blends of music and the extramusical (Brandt, 2008), or in broader semiotic
connections between music and the world of experience (Hatten, 2004; Agawu, 2008).
Introducing some system behind such diversified approaches, Koelsch (2013, §10)
proposes a useful tri-partite classification into intramusical, musicogenic, and
extramusical meaning. The first class pertains to formal, intrinsic structural relations
among musical elements, the second to physical, emotional or personal effects elicited by the
music, and the third to conceptual meaning, where a musical sign relates to a referent from
the world of experience.
The present study deals with extramusical meaning. It empirically tests three interrelated
ideas on the interpretation of composer intentions in program music: (1) that some program
pieces contain an inherent musical structure which facilitates proper extramusical
interpretation; (2) that there is a subclass of such inherent structure in which this
interpretation is based on the recognition that the music physically imitates a natural sound;
and (3) that the provision of a short verbal clue explicitly introducing the composers
program helps the participants to reach, and ultimately verbally report, this proper
Our three research ideas have been inspired by various authors attempts to provide a
finer-grain classification of extramusical semantic phenomena. For instance, Koelsch (2013)
follows Karbusicky (1986) and ultimately Peirce (1931/1958) in proposing that extramusical
meaning can be iconic, with the musical information resembling the sounds or qualities of
objects, indexical, emerging from the inner states of the individual, and symbolic,
coming from arbitrary extramusical associations. Davies (1994, pp. 29-36) defines five
classes of extramusical meaning, from natural and unintended to arbitrary and symbolic,
while Cross (2011) offers an essentially binary distinction, based on either (culturally-
shaped) association, or a fit between the acoustical characteristics of a musical fragment and
its inferable communicative function (p. 118).
The first question of the present study derives from this last distinction, revived recently
in Pérez-Sobrinos (2014) classification into two categories of semantic inference in program
music: inherent and ad hoc subsidiarity, which are subclasses of what she calls
dependency enrichment. It is important to stress that the present work is not investigating
the complex classifications of metonymic processes in music internal to Pérez-Sobrinos
theoretical model. Rather, we are using the broad distinction into inherent and ad hoc
exemplified by six musical excerpts from her article as inspiration for our own research
question: whether composer-intended extramusical meaning is more transparent to
participants in the inherent class. As our study deals with associative processes, we label
the first group inherent association (resembling HaCohen and Wagners [1997] inherent
and Koelschs iconic) and the second arbitrary association (close to Koelschs symbolic
meaning, Davies intentional, arbitrary stipulation of stand-alone meaning, or Crosss
culturally-shaped association).
With regard to the second question, we search the participants descriptions for lexical
items invoking the imitation of natural sounds. We take this to be indicative of the
extramusical meaning construction process which, following numerous authors
comprehensively listed in Castelões (2009), we label musical onomatopoeia. The concept
corresponds to the first subclass of Koelschs iconic meaning (musical information
resembling the sounds of objects) and is also closely related to Pérez-Sobrinos echoing
an operation whereby music directly imitates a sound from the physical world, as in the
violin trills in Vivaldis Spring which echo the warble of birds (2014, p. 137).
Our third question revisits HaCohen and Wagner (1997), who applied Osgoods semantic
differential and an original method labeled the semantic integral onto participants
interpretation of Wagners leitmotifs. Their participants first rated predefined connotations on
Likert scales, and then invented denotative titles for the leitmotifs. Overall, the results
confirmed both that the leitmotifs bore inherent meaning and that the relationship between
their connotative and denotative aspects was complementary (p. 145). Thus we define
musical descriptions with no prior contextual clue as based on musical connotations, and
descriptions following the explicit verbal prompt as derived from musical denotations.
We put forward the following hypotheses:
1. [Inherence]: The classification into inherent and arbitrary association fails with
or without explicit verbal prompts, participants do not report the intended extramusical
meaning in the former group significantly more often than in the latter.
2. [Onomatopoeia]: Descriptions of music with lexical items referring to the imitation of
natural sounds are rare, even in excerpts claimed to explicitly utilize imitation (Vivaldi).
3. [Denotation]: The subsequent provision of context, in the form of the title of the piece
and one additional sentence aligned with the composers program, changes the extramusical
interpretation, biasing the description toward the composers intention.
There were 201 participants, nonmusicians, students of the English Department,
University of Niš (M = 21.37 years, SD = 1.27, 69.15% women).
We used six musical excerpts investigated in Pérez-Sobrino (2014). Three were based
on inherent association: violin trills in Vivaldis Spring imitating the chirp of birds;
Schuberts Gretchen by the Spinning Wheel in which circular patterns in the piano
resemble the image of a wheel that revolves; and Griegs In the Hall of the Mountain King in
which the staccato maps onto the walking of the main character, Peer Gynt. The remaining
three were based on arbitrary association: Papagenos piccolo motive in The Magic Flute,
Ravels use of the pentatonic scale to introduce an oriental mood in Laideronette, Empress of
the Pagodas, and Wagners sword motif from The Ring of the Nibelung. The arbitrary
examples were selected based on the global musical similarity with the inherent excerpts
(all classical pieces, one in each group is played by the piano, a medium-sized and a full-
blown orchestra, there is a person singing in German in one piece in each group). All six
stimuli contained the particular parts of scores indicated by Pérez-Sobrino and were 28
seconds in length.1
While not identical, our methodology was inspired by HaCohen and Wagners (1997)
semantic integral method. These authors used participants freely invented titles to
assemble modular names of Wagners pieces, in an effort to predict the range of possible
extramusical meanings that listeners from the same cultural circumstances could ascribe to
the leitmotifs. Our study took a different turn: we looked for free-form associations to
programmatic musical motives, played either alone or after pre-devised titles, where the
appropriateness of these titles to the composers intention was controlled for. Rather than
compiling more generic extramusical meanings, we assessed the conformance of the
descriptions to the composers alleged intentions, ensuring the objectivity of assessment
through the calculation of inter-rater agreement. Our protocols find support in Osgoods
representational mediation theory, where a meaning of the (musical) sign is established
through association with its (nonmusical) significate, and the linguistic description
(behavioral response) is a consequence of mediated, internal self-stimulation (cf. Berlyne,
1971, esp. p. 111). In Osgoods own words Whenever some stimulus other than the
significate [e.g. the violin trill] is contiguous with the significate [e.g. the chirp of birds], it
will acquire an increment of association with some portion of the total behavior elicited by
the significate as a representational mediation process (Osgood, Succi, & Tannenbaum,
1957, p. 6).
We thus asked the participants to listen to six musical examples and write a single-
sentence report on what the pieces reminded them of. The experiment took place in identical
small classrooms, with 18 to 25 participants per session. The stimuli were played on a laptop
computer with a pair of Genius 2.1 CH surround speakers. Their order was counterbalanced
across participants.
The participants heard every stimulus three times: after the introductory trial, they
were asked to write down the name of the composer/piece. Those who did this correctly were
excluded from calculations for the particular stimulus (54 situations, or 4.48%). Naturally,
answers to the remaining stimuli by the same person were retained, in practice resulting in a
slight variation to total numbers of answers per stimulus. Upon the second listening, the
participants were required to write down, in one sentence of their native language what, from
the world of experience, the segment reminded them of and why. In the final trial, they were
asked to repeat the task, however after reading a short text, which contained two sentences.
Here the participants were randomly assigned to three groups: control was given neutral
instructions, describing only the formal musical parameters, such as the number of bars and
size of the orchestra; experimental group 1 was given proper instructions, containing the
title of the piece and one more sentence in line with the composers program; experimental
group 2 was given wrong instructions, where we invented an antonymic title of the piece
followed by one sentence deliberately opposite of the composers program (see Footnote
Data analysis
Respondents free-form descriptions were coded into quantifiable variables. Relating
to Hypothesis 1, the variable conformance had two values: salient and nonsalient,
where salient responses were in line with the composers apparent intentions, in two levels
of polysemy: (1) Vivaldi anything related to birdsong or birds (cf. Pérez-Sobrino, 2014, p.
133); (2) Schubert: a wheel or an object rotating around an axis (p. 138); (3) Grieg: human or
any animate footsteps (p. 143); Mozart: hunter of birds or any animal that can be hunted (p.
142); Ravel: any invocation of Asia or the Orient (p. 144); Wagner: any association to a
sword or fight (p. 147).
The second variable (onomatopoeia) related to Hypothesis 2, and was coded as
onomatopoeic (pure sound, e.g., buzz, whir, screech, twitter), and nononomatopoeic. In
relation to the common thesis of music cognition theorists affiliated with cognitive linguistics
that musical meaning is based on image schemas (e.g., Saslaw, 1996; Zbikowski, 1998;
Cox, 1999), we additionally divided the nononomatopoeic category of descriptions into
image-schematic (images, spatial movement, interaction of forces, e.g., a battle, a person
walking, a waterfall), and non image-schematic (technical terms, e.g., low tones,
emotional qualities, e.g. sad, descriptions of contexts where similar music was heard rather
than of the music itself, e.g. Its like The Lord of the Rings).
With regard to Hypothesis 3, we compared the number of salient responses before
and after the suggestion, in all three groups. We also tested if the participants anyhow
changed their opinion after the suggestion, based on the presence of new concepts in the latter
description. Finally, we checked if any change in experimental group 2 was in line with the
false suggestion, containing at least one new concept from the false suggestion.
The coding was conducted independently by two raters. Cohens Kappa (κ) for all
relevant variables taken together was .77 (indicating substantial agreement, Landis & Koch,
1977). The value for conformance alone (salient/nonsalient) was .86 (almost perfect
agreement). Agreement on the number of onomatopoeias was total (1.0). Yet, when we broke
down the nononomatopoeic category in two segments (image-schematic and non image-
schematic), κ reduced to .66 (still in the range of substantial agreement). In other words,
there was a bit of controversy on whether some responses were image-schematic, but no
dissent on onomatopoeias.
Finally, the two coders and the third author met to decide on instances of
disagreement. The final decision was almost always unanimous, with only six cases requiring
a majority vote, after which the final database was compiled.
The distributions of salient and nonsalient responses to pieces based on
inherent and arbitrary association did not significantly differ after the first listening, i.e.
in the entire sample without a suggestion: ϰ2(1) = 0.88, p = .35, V = .03 (Table 1):
Table 1
Moreover, there were no differences in these distributions after neutral and false
suggestions in control and experimental group 2 control: ϰ2(1) = 0.47, p = .49, V = .04;
exp 2: ϰ2(1) = 0, p = 1, V = .01. After proper prompts in experimental group 1 there were
significantly more salient responses to arbitrary and not inherent stimuli: ϰ2(1) = 7.38, p <
.01, V = .15 (Figure 1):
Figure 1
To test if there was still a gradation in the number of salient descriptions from the
arbitrary toward the inherent category, we allocated the descriptions into three groups by
the number of salient answers (based on the analysis of confidence intervals, p < .05, Figure
Figure 2
We did not get a scale in which inherent pieces slowly give way to arbitrary ones
in terms of the degree of inherence. Rather, the distribution into three categories was
relatively even, making Wagner as highly inherent as Grieg, Mozart and Ravel as medium
inherent as Vivaldi, and Schubert alone least inherent.
In terms of the relative transparency of intended extramusical meaning in the three
examples from the inherent association group, Grieg was interpreted correctly without
prompts most often, followed by Vivaldi, and then by Schubert (p < .05, Figure 2).
As for Hypothesis 2, we had 54 onomatopoeic and 1,096 nononomatopoeic responses,
of which 764 could be classified as image-schematic and 364 as non image-schematic. In
other words, there were about twenty times fewer onomatopoeic than nononomatopoeic
Per response, the number of onomatopoeias was negligible. The most cases were
noted in Ravel (12 instances, or 6.06%) and Vivaldi (22 descriptions, or 11.89%). With
Ravel, seven onomatopoeic responses invoked the sound of raindrops or flowing water
(perhaps interesting as the princess in Ravels program is taking a bath). In Vivaldi, of 22
onomatopoeic answers, only 11 (5.95%) invoked birdsong (chirp, twitter), while the rest had
nothing to do with birds, their song or even spring.
With regard to Hypothesis 3, there were no significant differences in the number of
salient responses before and after the suggestion in control and experimental group 1
control: ϰ2(1) = 0.56, p = .45, V = .03; exp 1: ϰ2(1) = 0.01, p = .92, V = .01, but there was a
statistically significant decrease in this number after the false suggestion in experimental
group 2: ϰ2(1) = 15.85, p < .01, V = .15 (Figure 3):
Figure 3
The number of changed descriptions increased after suggestions in experimental
group 1 as compared with control, ϰ2(1) = 31.02, p < .01, V = .20, and rose further in
experimental group 2, as compared with both control and experimental group 1 in this last
case, ϰ2(1) = 26.14, p < .01, V = .19. Of the total 265 changes in experimental group two,
203 were related to the content of the suggestion (76.60%).
HaCohen and Wagners study demonstrated that the leitmotifs bear inherent
meaning and substantiated the existence of complementary relations between the
connotative and denotative aspects of the leitmotifs, [...] disclosing essential characteristics of
the semantic structure of music in general (p. 154). It appears that our experiment has
provided a result opposite to theirs, as the relations between connotations and denotations in
our examples were hardly complementary. First, providing proper titles did not increase the
number of responses aligned with the composers program (denotation did not enhance
connotation). Second, titles deliberately contradicting the composers intention sparked a
significant decrease in the number of salient responses (thus the wrong denotation
managed to override the apparent connotation). One caveat is necessary here, however.
HaCohen and Wagner explicitly focused on Wagners leitmotifs. Since in our study, too, the
sole example by Wagner fared quite high on the inherence scale, we believe a composer-
specific follow-up is warranted.
The present work was also inspired by Pérez-Sobrinos (2014) broad classification
into inherent and ad hoc subsidiarity. While we reiterate that our methodology has not
tested the specific predictions on musical metonymy from this model, our results seem to put
to question some of its underlying assumptions about the bases of musical meaning. For
instance, Pérez-Sobrino claims that the identification of the chirp of birds in the Vivaldi
segment should be easy and manifest, exemplifying the most direct form of perceived
similarity between the music and the extramusical program (p. 137). Likewise, she expects
that familiarity with the title, at least in Vivaldi and Grieg, will facilitate the listeners
understanding of the composers intended meanings (p. 133 and 143). Neither of these
assumptions has been corroborated in the present work.
We therefore propose that prior to engaging in the very important theoretical debates
about the nature of the cognitive process through which participants understand composers
programmatic intentions (e.g., associations, conceptual blending, metonymy...), we should
first empirically establish the phenomenon (Merton, 1987): under what conditions are these
intentions actually grasped. In the present study inherent structure and explicit two-
sentence prompts have not motivated an increased number of correct interpretations. This
of course does not deny the concept of meaning generation in program music, but only
vouches for further work on what conditions need to be met for proper, composer-intended
extramusical interpretations to be induced. Further studies should look into the minimum
degree of suggestion needed to entrench the association between the music and the
extramusical (a longer text, repeated exposure to the text, visual animations rather than verbal
suggestions…). Likewise, once the proper extramusical interpretation has been entrenched,
one could wonder how it may motivate and/or constrain subsequent extramusical meanings
associated with the musical theme. This is especially relevant as we often witness in the
media that well-known music gets (ab)used in originally unintended contexts.
Methodologically, the present work has used a technique based on free-form associations,
supported by Osgoods notion of representational mediation. Further studies could resort to
more established experimental methods, perhaps the full semantic differential protocols. We
still hope that our results, especially the apparent openness of listeners to interpretations that
counter the intentions of the composer, provide some contribution to the fledgling discipline
of musical semantics.
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Author Note
Mihailo Antović, PhD, is an associate professor in the Department of English, Faculty of
Philosophy, and also researcher and head of the Center for Cognitive Sciences at the
University of Niš, Serbia. He teaches cognitive linguistics, psycholinguistics and conducts
research on music and language cognition. He has presented papers at numerous conferences
in Europe and the USA, and published his work in journals such as Metaphor and Symbol
and Musicae Scientiae. He was a Fulbright visiting scholar at Case Western Reserve
University and a research scholar at the University of Freiburg.
Dušan Stamenković, PhD, is an assistant professor in the Department of English, Faculty of
Philosophy, University of Niš, where he teaches contemporary English and gives tutorials in
cognitive semantics and semiotics. He has presented his papers in the United Kingdom,
Ireland, Argentina, Romania, Sweden, Spain, Bosnia and Hezegovina, and Serbia, whereas he
has published his work in a number of journals, including Games and Culture, Studia
Neophilologica and Perspectives: Studies in Translatology. His interests include cognitive
linguistics, semiotics, game studies, visual language, and multimodality. He is the secretary
of the Center for Cognitive Sciences (University of Niš), and a member of RaAM, SCLA,
Vladimir Figar (MA) is a teaching assistant in the Department of English, Faculty of
Philosophy, University of Niš, where he gives tutorials in contemporary English and
cognitive linguistics. He has presented papers at conferences in Poland, Sweden, and Serbia.
His area of interest includes conceptual metaphor, conceptual blending, and political
The present research was supported by the Serbian Ministry of Education, Science and
Technological Development (grant no. 179013).
1. The complete stimuli and verbal suggestions are available online at:
Table 1.
Distribution of salient and nonsalient responses inherent vs. arbitrary association (in the
entire sample, without a suggestion)
442 (78.23%)
565 (100%)
443 (75.73%)
585 (100%)
885 (76.96%)
1150 (100%)
Figure Captions
Figure 1. Distribution of salient and nonsalient responses per participant group after
the suggestion (second trial).
Figure 2. Ordering of the percentages of salient responses by stimulus with confidence
intervals for each stimulus. Overlaps in 95% confidence intervals are shown in shaded areas.
Figure 3. Numbers of salient responses before and after the suggestion, per participant
Figure 1.
Figure 2.
Figure 3.
... A previous experiment asked naive participants to provide descriptions of any associations invoked in them by six programmatic musical pieces, with or without the provision of prior context. It turned out, for instance, that a segment from Grieg"s famous musical piece "In the Hall of the Mountain King" invoked generic "movement" in many participants, mid-specific "heavy but quiet steps" in a few of them, and the highly detailed "fat lion from a cartoon walking furtively, on its fingertips" uttered by just one person (Antović, Stamenković and Figar 2016). ...
... It seems, thus, that most proposals opt for some type of schematic relations underlying cross-space mappings, such as paths interlinking roads of our lives and musical themes, e.g. the "walking" one by Grieg. Yet, looking at concrete datae.g. the free-form descriptions of excerpts from programmatic musical pieces mentioned above (Antović, Stamenković and Figar, 2016)reveals that participants seldom speak of paths, and paths only. Rather, the appreciation of their, as a rule much more elaborate, linguistic descriptions of cross-modal phenomena requires the introduction of a richer experiential and social context. ...
... After the first listening, they just provided free descriptions; before the second listening, they were given three types of verbal promptsneutral, aligned or misaligned with the composer"s programme. The responses showed a strong recognition of formal gestalten and patterns of tension, yet without any particular tendency toward the "correct" description that would follow the pieces" titles (Antović, Stamenković and Figar, 2016). ...
Full-text available
This article extends the author"s theory of multi-level grounding in meaning generation from its original application to music to the domains of visual cognition and poetry. Based on the notions of ground from the philosophy of language and conceptual blending from cognitive linguistics, the approach views semiosis in works of art as a series of successive mappings couched in a set of six hierarchical, recursive levels of constraint, or grounding boxes: (1) perceptual, parsing the stimulus into formal gestalten; (2) cross-modal, motivating schematic correspondences between the stimulus so structured and the listener"s embodied experience; (3) affective, ascribing to this embodied appreciation dynamic sensations, as in the distinction between tense and lax parts of the perceptual flow; (4) conceptual, drawing analogies between such schematic and affective appreciation and elementary experiential imagery, resulting in outlines of narratives; (5) culturally rich, checking such a narrative outline against the recipient"s cultural knowledge; and (6) individual, adding to the levels above idiosyncratic recollections from the participant"s personal experience. The goal of the analysis is to show that the interpretation of constructs from different semiotic modes (music, vision, language) may rely on the same grounding levels as it ultimately depends on the same perceptual, embodied, and contextual circumstances. Specifically, the paper uses the system to analyse the possible reception of a section from the romance for violin and orchestra "The Lark Ascending" by Ralph Vaughan Williams, the painting "The Last Supper" by Leonardo da Vinci, and the poem "No Man Is an Island" by John Donne.
... In an attempt to bridge the gap between disparate epistemological approaches mentioned above, in the present proposal the blueprints of a system are provided that might capture both cross-cultural diversity and schematic invariants underlying some frequent, yet seemingly different musical concepts across languages and populations. Beyond that, three groups of common linguistic descriptions of short musical fragments will be reanalyzed, as obtained in experiments from naive participants of various age, cultural and linguistic background, and cognitive status (Antović, 2009;Antović, Bennett, & Turner, 2013;Antović, Mitić & Benecasa, 2017;Antović, Stamenković, & Figar, 2016). Including this introduction, the article consists of four parts: section two provides essential information on conceptual blending, along with its recent applications to music cognition, and then revisits some of the most interesting verbal labels that participants used to describe musical concepts in previous studies. ...
... Similar results emerged from descriptions of other musical constructs: a staccato and a legato line was commonly "abrupt and linked" or "hopping and walking"; a piano and forte note sounded "weak and strong" or "letting go and pushing". Finally, in the most recent studies by the same group, which asked nonmusician students to provide descriptions of any meaning provoked in them by pieces of programmatic music, with or without prior linguistic prompts, an actual musical excerpt (So grüss ich die Burg from The Ring of the Nibelung) was found to resemble "growing tension" resulting in a "path of two armies that are about to clash", but also reminded some of "growth, since the tonality elevates" (Antović, 2016;Antović et al., 2016). ...
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This article offers a new theoretical approach to the conceptualization of music, based on Conceptual Blending Theory, with a reinforced role ascribed to the constructs of generic space and the grounding box. Three analyses of typical conceptualizations of music from prior experiments with children and adults are provided to postulate that the ultimate linguistically reported concept comes from blending the intramusical Gestalt (input space 1) with a rich image from an appropriate experiential domain (input space 2). However, the mapping is not haphazard, but rather based on the invariant structure in the generic space, which takes the form of an image-schema family. In the blended space new conceptual elements emerge: one such typical resultant concept generates the idea that music “moves”, and in specifically articulated ways. While more basic verbal reports from experiments may be constrained by image-schema families alone, richer descriptions additionally require the theoretical notion of the grounding box, which hosts experiential information that participants add to the description as they progress in building musical meaning. The proposed model relativizes two common dichotomies in music cognition: (1) the distinction between “intramusical” and “extramusical” meaning, since both participate in the process of creating the ultimate blended concept; and (2) the strict divide between universalism and linguistic relativity in musical concept formation, since the present proposal has sufficient theoretical constructs to account for both schematic invariants and experiential diversity.
... Dentro de la muestra escogida para dicho estudio se discute La primavera, en concreto el pasaje de su primer movimiento en relación con el canto de los pájaros (Figura 2), desde la noción del eco metonímico (Ruiz de Mendoza Ibáñez 2011, 113). Los ejemplos musicales de este estudio se han llevado al terreno empírico de la psicología arrojando resultados desalentadores (Antovic, Stamenkovic y Figar 2016): en particular, la relación entre el canto aviar y la música de Vivaldi fue apenas detectada por los participantes en el experimento, incluso por quienes habían recibido información del trasfondo programático del pasaje musical. Por este motivo, y aunque en ocasiones me veré obligado a hacer inferencias desde mi propia experiencia como oyente, intentaré evitar en este artículo generalizaciones inductivas. ...
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Este artículo pretende mostrar cómo algunos elementos del autoanálisis musical pueden ser reveladores de importantes aspectos cognitivos sobre la composición. Propongo primero un marco metodológico derivado fundamentalmente de algunas consideraciones sobre la semiología desde las neurociencias y la lingüística cognitiva aplicadas a la música en las investigaciones de Stefan Koelsch y Lawrence M. Zbikowski. Este marco es aplicado a continuación al estudio de Viento de otoño (1998) de José Manuel López López, junto a diversas fuentes del propio compositor directamente relacionadas con su composición. El análisis de este estudio de caso permite tanto un mejor entendimiento de las prácticas creativas del compositor como una evaluación de los potenciales y límites del marco metodológico presentado.
... (1) present the basic tenets of this emerging "multi-level grounded" musical semantics; (2) focus on the importance of embodiment in all five levels of signification that the theory proposes; (3) reanalyze 1,200 actual participant descriptions of musical pieces from a previous experiment (Antović, Stamenković, & Figar, 2016) to highlight the prevalence of references to bodi(ly action). ...
... In the blend, the analogical use of the linguistic and musical elements enhances the condor's features, creating a series of connections that motivate the emergent structure in which the condor seems to be soaring higher and higher. Again, one may of course wonder if these "intended" extramusical interpretations would be natural and transparent to an uninformed or only basically informed audience (cf. the arguments in Pérez-Sobrino 2014 and the experimental protocol in Antović, Stamenković and Figar 2016). Given some current empirical results obtained by my associates and myself, it is unlikely that just hearing the music, or even hearing it after a short textual clue, would result in a stable range of connotations, unequivocally mapping, for instance, the guitar accompaniment onto the movement of wings. ...
This book approaches persuasion in public discourse as a rhetorical phenomenon that enables the persuader to appeal to the addressee’s intellectual and emotional capacities in a competing public environment. The aim is to investigate persuasive strategies from the overlapping perspectives of cognitive and functional linguistics. Both qualitative and quantitative analyses of authentic data (including English, Czech, Spanish, Slovene, Russian, and Hungarian) are grounded in the frameworks of functional grammar, facework and rapport management, classical rhetoric studies and multimodal discourse analysis and are linked to the constructs of (re)framing, conceptual metaphor and blending, mental space and viewpoint. In addition to traditional genres such as political speeches, news reporting, and advertising, the book also studies texts that examine book reviews, medieval medical recipes, public complaints or anonymous viral videos. Apart from discourse analysts, pragmaticians and cognitive linguists, this book will appeal to cognitive musicologists, semioticians, historical linguists and scholars of related disciplines.
It is an interesting question whether the problem of “words and worlds” really applies to musical phenomena. After all, according to many, music is best experienced if not talked about; likewise, it often seems to operate just fine in its own ontological environment, without the need to “refer” to anything extrinsic. This at least has been the position of countless “formalist” approaches in music aesthetics, semiotics, and more recently cognitive science. In response to such occasional objections, the present contribution aims to discuss precisely the problem of intentionality: can music be “about” anything in the extramusical realm and can the notion of metaphor help shed light on such a music-to-the-world connection?The present paper uses the cognitive-linguistic theories of conceptual metaphor and conceptual blending and the author’s proposal for a “multilevel-grounded semantics” to suggest that the form/content dichotomy in music is in fact a matter of degree. To support this, the paper provides an overview of musical descriptions resulting from historical texts, instances of criticism, or experimental studies, showing how they are metaphorical on a variety of levels, from apparently very simplistic “low tones moving upward” located in didactic Czerny etudes to highly descriptive “birds singing” as in Vivaldi’s Spring.To illustrate the complexities of the phenomenon, the text provides a detailed analysis of the possible reception of a well-known programmatic musical piece – Introduction and Royal March of the Lion from Saint-Saens’ Carnival of the Animals. With an aim to suggest that the use of metaphor at the same time constrains the broad array of musical interpretations and allows for vast creativity in the music reception process, the model proposes six hierarchically interrelated levels of meaning generation that motivate musical metaphor, spanning perceptual constraints, cross-modal interactions, affective responses, construction of elementary conceptual imagery, culturally rich narrative elaborations, and finally optional personal associations.
In this highly-interdisciplinary volume, we systematically study the role of metaphors and analogies in (mis)shaping our understanding of the world. Metaphors and Analogies occupy a prominent place in scientific discourses, as they do in literature, humanities and at the very level of our thinking itself. But when misused they can lead us astray, blinding our understanding inexorably. How can metaphors aid us in our understanding of the world? What role do they play in our scientific discourses and in humanities? How do they help us understand and skillfully deal with our complex socio-political scenarios? Where is the dividing line between their use and abuse? Join us as we explore some of these questions in this volume.
Is it possible to speak of musical thought as independent of the human being’s other mental domains? Much has appeared to prove the contrary, and the findings of this study are intended to support that hypothesis. In particular, it examines how ideas from physics played a decisive role in the musical practice of the Catalan composer Hèctor Parra. We analyse two types of pre-compositional evidence: the composer’s sketches for his String Trio and Caressant l’horizon, and his meetings with the astrophysicist Jean-Pierre Luminet and the computer music designer Thomas Goepfer in order to compose a new work. To that end, we apply various theories from psychology and cognitive linguistics that propose models describing the mental bases of metaphorical thought.
Musical virtuosity is often studied with an emphasis on the outstanding skills of the performer and their sensory and emotional effects on the listener. However, Franz Liszt, one of the main virtuosos in music history, was convinced that what matters in virtuosity is its specific function within the semantic and communicative processing of music. This article proposes a theoretical framework to further investigate Liszt’s intuitions in light of contemporary research on musical meaning and communication. First, we analyze philological data concerning Liszt’s creative process in the Mazeppa works, a set of works including both his virtuoso and program music. Second, we compare our results with recent research on music semantics based on inferential processes about the composer/performer’s intentions (Antović, Stamenković, & Figar, 2016; Schlenker, 2017). We criticize the associationist hypothesis (the idea that the composer’s intention is that the listener infers an association between the music and a real or fictional state of the world) and we defend a causalist hypothesis (the idea that the composer’s intention is that the listener recognizes the music as being an intentional “rewriting” of the states of the world, mental or physical, that are the causes of the music itself). Third, we suggest that what distinguishes Liszt’s virtuoso and program music rewritings are the visual and gestural components of two listening experiences: the virtuoso music “rewrites” its episodic causes (memories, personal experiences) whereas the program music “rewrites” its genetic causes (the work’s creative path and intertextual relations).
The subject of musical onomatopoeia, or imitation of environmental sounds by musical instruments, has long been dismissed as marginal and unimportant in the context of Western art music. The purpose of this article is both to counter this dismissal and to propose the development of a field of study focused on musical onomatopoeia. After explaining the choice of the term musical onomatopoeia to refer to this compositional practice, based on the criteria of historical pertinence, frequency of use in the literature, and terminological coherence, I examine a number of factors that have determined the views of nineteenth- and twentieth-century commentators on the subject. The article closes with a brief catalogue of examples from the Western art music repertoire.
The question of whether music has meaning has been the subject of sustained debate ever since music became a subject of academic inquiry. Is music a language? Does it communicate specific ideas and emotions? What does music mean, and how does this meaning manifest itself? Working at the nexus of musicology, ethnomusicology, and music philosophy and aesthetics, the book presents a synthetic and innovative approach to musical meaning which argues deftly for the thinking of music as a discourse in itself-composed not only of sequences of gestures, phrases, or progressions, but rather also of the very philosophical and linguistic props that enable the analytical formulations made about music as an object of study. The book provides demonstrations of the pertinence of a semiological approach to understanding the fully-freighted language of Romantic music, stresses the importance of a generative approach to tonal understanding, and provides further insight into the analogy between music and language.
We explore the capacity for music in terms of five questions: (1) What cognitive structures are invoked by music? (2) What are the principles that create these structures? (3) How do listeners acquire these principles? (4) What pre-existing resources make such acquisition possible? (5) Which aspects of these resources are specific to music, and which are more general? We examine these issues by looking at the major components of musical organization: rhythm (an interaction of grouping and meter), tonal organization (the structure of melody and harmony), and affect (the interaction of music with emotion). Each domain reveals a combination of cognitively general phenomena, such as gestalt grouping principles, harmonic roughness, and stream segregation, with phenomena that appear special to music and language, such as metrical organization. These are subtly interwoven with a residue of components that are devoted specifically to music, such as the structure of tonal systems and the contours of melodic tension and relaxation that depend on tonality. In the domain of affect, these components are especially tangled, involving the interaction of such varied factors as general-purpose aesthetic framing, communication of affect by tone of voice, and the musically specific way that tonal pitch contours evoke patterns of posture and gesture.
Wagner's leitmotifs were intentionally constructed as compact, discrete musical units charged with extramusical meaning. Should they be considered merely as arbitrary signifiers, whose signifieds are discovered only through the dramatic context of their appearance? The research reported here rejects this possibility, demonstrating experimentally that the leitmotifs bear inherent meaning. It is this meaning that grants them their communicative potential and provides a basis for the specific message given them in the setting of the specific musical work. A selection of nine representative leitmotifs from Wagner's Ring cycle was played to subjects during the course of a two-part experiment. The first part, which was designed on the basis of the semantic differential technique, yielded several significant factors that defined an inclusive connotative space. The second part of the experiment was designed and evaluated according to the "semantic integral" method, which was developed for the purpose of adding a denotative dimension, using titles given to the leitmotifs by the subjects. The results substantiated the existence of complementary relations between the connotative and denotative aspects of the leitmotifs. Findings of this sort should assist in explaining how the leitmotifs function within the dramatic context. The methods applied, as well as the findings arrived at, disclose, we believe, essential characteristics of the semantic structure of music in general.
== Publisher's description (long) == This book continues to develop the semiotic theory of musical meaning presented in Robert S. Hatten's first book, Musical Meaning in Beethoven (IUP, 1994). In addition to expanding theories of markedness, topics, and tropes, Hatten offers a fresh contribution to the understanding of musical gestures, as grounded in biological, psychological, cultural, and music-stylistic competencies. By focusing on gestures, topics, tropes, and their interaction in the music of Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert, Hatten demonstrates the power and elegance of synthetic structures and emergent meanings within a changing Viennese Classical style. == Table of contents == Contents Acknowledgments Introduction Part I. Markedness, Topics, and Tropes 1. Semiotic Grounding in Markedness and Style: Interpreting a Style Type in the Opening of Beethoven's Ghost Trio, Op. 70, no. 1 2. Expressive Doubling, Topics, Tropes, and Shifts in Level of Discourse: Interpreting the Third Movement of Beethoven's String Quartet in B Major, Op. 130 3. From Topic to Premise and Mode: The Pastoral in Schubert's Piano Sonata in G Major, D. 894 4. The Troping of Topics, Genres, and Forms: Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Bruckner, Mahler Part II. Musical Gesture Introduction to Part II 5. Foundational Principles of Human Gesture 6. Toward a Theory of Musical Gesture 7. Stylistic Types and Strategic Functions of Gestures 8. Thematic Gesture in Schubert: The Piano Sonatas in A Major, D. 959, and A Minor, D. 784 9. Thematic Gesture in Beethoven: Sonata for Piano and Cello in C Major, Op. 102, no. 1 10. Gestural Troping and Agency Conclusion to Part II Part III. Continuity and Discontinuity Introduction to Part III 11. From Gestural Continuity to Continuity as Premise 12. Discontinuity and Beyond Conclusion Notes Bibliography Index of Names and Works Index of Concepts
This book shows how recent work in cognitive science, especially that developed by cognitive linguists and cognitive psychologists, can be used to explain how we understand music. The book focuses on three cognitive processes: categorization, cross-domain mapping, and the use of conceptual models, and explores the part these play in theories of musical organization. The first part of the book provides a detailed overview of the relevant work in cognitive science, framed around specific musical examples. The second part brings this perspective to bear on a number of issues with which music scholarship has often been occupied, including the emergence of musical syntax and its relationship to musical semiosis, the problem of musical ontology, the relationship between words and music in songs, and conceptions of musical form and musical hierarchy.