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Decoding the Musical Message via the Structural Analogy between Verbal and Musical Language

Abstract

The topic approached in this paper aims to identify the structural similarities between the verbal and the musical language and to highlight the process of decoding the musical message through the structural analogy between them. The process of musical perception and musical decoding involves physiological, psychological and aesthetic phenomena. Besides receiving the sound waves, it implies complex cognitive processes being activated, whose aim is to decode the musical material at cerebral level. Starting from the research methods in cognitive psychology, music researchers redefine the process of musical perception in a series of papers in musical cognitive psychology. In the case of the analogy between language and music, deciphering the musical structure and its perception are due, according to researchers, to several common structural configurations. A significant model for the description of the musical structure is Noam Chomsky’s generative-transformational model. This claimed that, at a deep level, all languages have the same syntactic structure, on account of innate anatomical and physiological structures which became specialized as a consequence of the universal nature of certain mechanisms of the human intellect. Chomsky’s studies supported by sophisticated experimental devices, computerised analyses and algorithmic models have identified the syntax of the musical message, as well as the rules and principles that underlie the processing of sound-related information by the listener; this syntax, principles and rules show surprising similarities with the verbal language. The musicologist Heinrich Schenker, 20 years ahead of Chomsky, considers that there is a parallel between the analysis of natural language and that of the musical structure, and has developed his own theory on the structure of music. Schenker’s structural analysis is based on the idea that tonal music is organized hierarchically, in a layering of structural levels. Thus, spoken language and music are governed by common rules: phonology, syntax and semantics. Fred Lerdahl and Ray Jackendoff develop a musical grammar where a set of generating rules are defined to explain the hierarchical structure of tonal music. The authors of the generative theory propose the hypothesis of a musical grammar based on two types of rules, which take into account the conscious and unconscious principles that govern the organization of the musical perception. The structural analogy between verbal and musical language consists of several common elements. Among those is the hierarchical organization of both fields, a governance by the same rules – phonology, syntax, semantics – and as a consequence of the universal nature of certain mechanisms of the human intellect, decoding the transmitted message is accomplished thanks to some universal innate structures, biologically inherited. Also, according to Chomsky's linguistics model a musical grammar is configured, one governed by wellformed rules and preference rules. Thus, a musical piece is not perceived as a stream of disordered sounds, but it is deconstructed, developed and assimilated at cerebral level by means of cognitive pre-existing schemes.

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“My” “Musical” “Language” ?

Abstract

The problem associated with the musical “language” of a particular composer can be understood either literally, i.e. with some possible analogies to natural language, or metaphorically, as a substitute of style, technique, or manner. I try to combine both usages. In fact, my approach to composing music is not so much - to develop a consistent language ready for use in multiple instances and thus to attain a recognisable personal style, but rather - to try to build a tool for use in one particular composition on many levels of musical “grammar”. Another basic problem is the proportion between impulse and design as defined in a well-known book by Andrzej Panufnik.

The examples discussed illustrate some core problems of the music creation process, such as the deliberately incomplete ‘‘monadic’’ form (Gamma from String Quartet No. 3); the evolution of style in the process of composition and its dependence on the medium (Rondeau for wind quintet); and purely intuitive composition (Con tenerezza from Cinque pezzi diversi).

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The Musical Language of Kazimierz Serocki in the Light of the Composer’s Self-Reflection

Musicology 7. Poznań: Wydawnictwo Naukowe UAM, pp. 185-210. Kienik T. (2004). Związki między barwą a wysokością dźwięku w wybranych utworach K. Serockiego [The Colour-Pitch Relations in Selected Works by Kazimierz Serocki], Muzyka. Vol. ILIX, No. 3, pp. 61-90. Kienik T. (2004). Sonorystyka w twórczości fortepianowej K. Serockiego [Sonoristic Elements in Serocki’s Piano Works] In: J. Krassowski (Ed.), Muzyka fortepianowa XIII [Piano Music XIII]. Gdańsk: Wydawnictwo Akademii Muzycznej, pp. 233-245. Kienik T. (2013). The musical

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Between Emotion and Intellect. On the Musical Language of Andrzej Panufnik (1914–1991)

Abstract

Andrzej Panufnik’s (1914-1991) key objective as a composer was to achieve a balance between emotion and intellect. The composer very often emphasised the role of the relation between these two elements in his works. This topic is the leitmotiv of texts about his own music left behind by the composer. From those texts, it is clearly evident that symmetry (and in later years also geometry) played a central role in the composer’s formal concepts. The impulse for the study of the possibility of using geometric shapes for the construction of musical forms came from his 1972 composition for the BBC television entitled Triangles - for three flutes and three cellos.

The geometricisation of the formal structures of Panufnik’s works (frequently represented by means of sophisticated diagrams included in the scores) was correlated with a systematic reduction of musical language, based from 1968 on the three-note intervallic cell of E-F-B. In the course of the composition, this unit was submitted to a succession of symmetrical processes, such as transpositions and mirror reflections, superimposed on one another both on the melodic and harmonic levels, which was responsible for the specific sound climate of Panufnik’s music. The fullest realisation of the composer’s systematic thinking based on the principles of geometry can be found in his Symphony No. 5 - Sinfonia di Sfere (1974), in which every element was submitted to the principles of geometric symmetry represented in a diagram based on the perfect geometric figure of a circle.

What is particularly important, this prominent constructivist current in Panufnik’s works always coexisted, as the composer himself claimed, with powerful emotional expression in his music. Did he manage to achieve the intended ideal balance between emotion and intellect in his music? Everyone can judge by themselves. This paper discusses the principal qualities of Andrzej Panufnik’s musical language.

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Aspects of Musical Semantics from the Perspective of Structuralism, Semiotics and Narratology

Abstract

Music is a universal force, a widely spread mean of communication on the entire planet, because it has a strong ability to influence human emotions, even without words (when referring to instrumental or symphonic music). Thus, music is one of the most challenging arts in ‘deciphering’ the hidden message of its creator. The present paper is focused on three analytical techniques which imposed themselves in the musicology field of the 20th century – structuralism, semiotics, narratology. Our purpose is to offer a general outlook on these perspectives and some specific principles of applicability when approaching a musical score, in terms of formal construction, sonorous structures, equivalence classes applied to musical elements, energetic potential of musical isotopes using modal verbs, essential aspects in determining the narrative frame (spatiality, temporality, actoriality). Structuralism, semiotics and narratology emerged as independent sciences successively, during half a century, influencing each other in a stimulating coexistence which enabled a wide scientific opening until present.

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Four Centuries of Lied with Grigore Constantinescu
Review

Abstract

Grigore Constantinescu has a unique value in the Romanian musical journalism, a warm yet firm musical pen, a unitary and recognizable style, by surprising the audience continuously through novelty argued with nobility. And if today’s young musicologists often ask themselves: are there consistent, high quality books that contain information with immediate reference to the famous triad of history-style-language, they only have to have the time and patience to read and especially to understand the fascinating trajectory of certain genres, revealed by Grigore Constantinescu so close to each of our souls, in the books Four Centuries of Opera and Four Centuries of Lied.

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The Perception of Sound in the Liturgy: Changes in Times of Change

Abstract

If anything has changed during the twentieth century, it is the perception of the phenomenon of music. The irruption of sound into our lives is accompanied by changes in the use, understanding and enjoyment of music. The liturgy employs music as a sensible element for celebrating the Word and singing the same Word in the sacraments, in the liturgy of the hours and in prayer. For centuries the music was a bridge for the transcendent, today this element is thoroughly affected by the influences of the omnipresence of sound and of the challenge of real sound, that is of authenticity. We will try to respond to the question of what is changing in our societies in the matter of listening, while the liturgy continues to use sound as an element of perceiving the Mystery of God. The attention to the theological weight of these questions will underline the importance of paying attention to the contemporary world of sound for a liturgical understanding.

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Paweł Szymański’s Self-Analyses Reread

Abstract

The article is an attempt to present important categories of composer Paweł Szymański’s musical language, based on his self-analytical statements, which were in major part answers to musicologists’ questions. Luciano Berio pointed out why the situation of a composer who would like to address questions about his or her music is difficult - a lack of necessary detachment would be one of the reasons. A musicologist, on the other hand, is tempted to construct their own supposedly objective analytical view of a composer’s musical language. The dialogistic approach proposed by anthropological musicology may be a solution to these dilemmas. Other main topics mentioned in the article are related to the role of meta-concepts in Szymański’s musical language.

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Myth and Music - Enhancers of Balance. Between Tradition and Modernity

Abstract

Along with literature, music, through the suggestiveness of the means of expression, manages to render in different compositional forms and genres the specific atmosphere and traits of the mythical universe. The Romanian musical creation has been dynamically asserted in an original manner over time, through the diversification of artistic means and a permanent adaptation of musical language to the aesthetic requirements of each compositional period. Skillfully wielding the processes of modern musical language, composers George Enescu, Aurel Stroe and Cornel Țăranu have given the contemporary public artistic masterpieces which impress by the personal manner of transposing into modernity the transcendent message of the myths of Oedipus and Orestes. The richness of the compositional means employed by the three composers creates bridges between antiquity and modernity, between the imaginary and the real universe.

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Number 13 / Part I. Music. 9. A Research of The Musical Education at George Breazul and Dmitri Borisovich Kabalevski

Abstract

The musical language structure consists of living elements (because inside them the human`s musical language is synthesized), rich elements (because through them, people expressed their ideas and feelings), various elements ( as all cultures have formed and developed throughout history, their own and inexhaustible structures, transmitted through the ages, taken over, selected, enriched, extended). George Breazul was the first Romanian musician, who tried to conceptualize the embodiment of musical education through song, music play, and listening, starting from the specific acoustic universe, namely, children‟s folklore. Dmitri Kabalevski propsed the accomplishment of the musical education, based on the interpretation and listening of songs, belonging to a group of genders, which could represent musical styles and forms organized on themes. Originality and viability of the two visions, can be further noticed, because the logical organization of the acoustic material creates the circumstances for the listener‟s emotional auditory perception of the artistic message. The mutual interrelation and conditioning of elements which form the musical language generated the emphasizing and prominence of each one, within the musical speech, which is reflected in the educational process.

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