Visual Metaphors in Music Analysis and Criticism

Authored by: Gurminder Kaur Bhogal

The Routledge Companion to Music and Visual Culture

Print publication date:  September  2013
Online publication date:  July  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415629256
eBook ISBN: 9780203629987
Adobe ISBN: 9781135956462


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The “naturalness” with which art and music terminologies have co-existed in discussions on musical performance, analysis, and interpretation since the nineteenth century is intriguing and complicated. Pedagogues have been particularly skillful in creating analogies between music and the visual arts; those of us who have learned to play a musical instrument might recall how effectively a simile or metaphor could strike our imaginations, thereby changing our performance of a phrase or entire piece almost instantaneously. The aims of composers and music critics have been somewhat less strategic, but still oriented toward captivating their audiences. Although these figures routinely appropriated such terms as line, color, shape, and (somewhat later) texture from the art world, their subdued interest in acknowledging the source of their borrowed language, or considering the precise nuance and significance of visual correlates, seems to suggest that the visual origin of these terms was of little consequence. What seemed to matter more was how markers of visual practices could shed their original roles and meanings to accrue new ones upon entering the domain of music. For artists, musicians, and their critics, metaphors did more than establish broad parallels between disciplines; they also catalyzed the transformations of style and technique that propelled their respective media toward making contact.

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