Title: Deixis in musical narrative: musical sense-making between perceptual experience and its symbolic counterparts
Authors: Reybrouck, Mark # ×
Issue Date: 2013
Conference: The 11th World Congress of Semiotics. Global Semiotics: Bridging Different Civilizations location:Nanjing date:4-10 october 2012
Musicology has espoused traditionally a structural approach to the study of music, conveiving of music as an ontological object that can be reified in a rather static way. The musical experience, however, is characterized by a processual approach to the sounding articulation over time. Music cognition, accordingly, can be considered as the result of epistemic interactions with the sounds. These interactions can proceed ‘in time’ (the perceptual level) or ‘out-of-time’ in a kind of symbolic space. As such, there has been a paradigm shift in recent musicological research that introduces the listener and the role of the musical experience with a major emphasis on musical knowledge construction and sense-making while listening to music as it sounds. There are already some theoretical contributions to this field, but there is need of a more elaborate theoretical framework to deal with this distinction.

The major aim of this contribution is to bring together the domains of deixis, narrative and semiotics as related to musical sense-making. Conceiving of music as discourse, it introduces the concept of narrative comprehension as a kind of mental journey through the music, stressing the dynamic-vectorial as well as the symbolic field of meaning. As such, it explores the possibilities of mental maps as organizational tools for musical sense-making, both as the result of sensory experience and cognitive processing by the listener.

This contribution elaborates on previous contributions about knowledge construction in music listening. Starting from the conceptual framework of deixis and indexical devices, it elaborates on the concept of pointing as a heuristic guide for sense-making, allowing the listener to conceive of sounding elements in terms of salience, valence and semantical weight. This act of pointing can be predicative in either a nominalistic or processual way, giving a descripton of the temporal evolution of the music (processual) as against episodic nominalizations that refer to just a single instance of the process. Relying on existing concepts such as cue abstraction, route-description and cognitive maps, it introduces an operational framework that does justice to the mental organisation of the music-as-heard. This involves the extraction and denotation of singular particulars from the sounding flux as well as their relational continuity. To the extent that the latter can be conceived as a mental map of a kind of story, it is possible to introduce an aspect of discursivity and narrative comprehension in the temporal organization of the music, relying heavily on some older philosophical theories of time.

The introduction of deixis in musical sense-making stresses the role of focal attention as a means for singling out those elements that can be denoted as being meaningful. It entails three domains for future theoretical and empirical research: the delimitation of the elements (which elements are selected and how to measure them?), the mutual relations of these elements (the structure of the music) and the mental operations of the listener (cognitive processing and narrative comprehension).
Publication status: accepted
KU Leuven publication type: IC
Appears in Collections:Studiegebied Onderwijs VIVES-Zuid
Musicology, Leuven
× corresponding author
# (joint) last author

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