Melody as representation

Authored by: David Lidov

The Routledge Handbook of Music Signification

Print publication date:  March  2020
Online publication date:  March  2020

Print ISBN: 9780815376453
eBook ISBN: 9781351237536
Adobe ISBN:


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This essay reflects on two of Beethoven’s last Bagatelles in op. 126, after some prefatory remarks on melody in general. I attend to melody as a perceptual construct mediating our absorption in passages of music and our general experience of feelings. Although much of my semiotics writing insists on a dialectic of reference and abstraction, that concern is quite neglected here. I have not censored any of my own imagery as too determined or too picturesque. Recent decades of musical research have offered us extensive, brilliant, and boldly original projects demonstrating cultural, historical, and biographical validations of our attributions of feeling to music. I think my different direction here can be characterized as “phenomenological” without abuse of a term which, like “semiotic,” lacks a clear, consensual definition. My hope is to demonstrate a type of interpretive logic, not to construe an aesthetically balanced and persuasive interpretation.

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