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Recent literature encourages an exploration of musical meaning through
metaphor, as the affective character of music is allusive, evocative and seldom
literal. But while in theory metaphor can explain aspects of musical meaning, in
practice the definitions of metaphor are as vague and various as the abstract
sounds that they would elucidate. Scholars have not handled the awkward
historical slipperiness of metaphors which, like language, change over time. Using
the example of low notes, this article historicizes the metaphorical motif of deep
sounds, showing how ‘high’ and ‘low’ follow a suggestive vein of poetic intuition.
Historically, ‘high’ and ‘low’ carry persistent social and moral connotations.
Examining the philology behind conceptions of lowness from antiquity to the
baroque, this article proposes that low notes—and low instruments and their
parts—have different meanings to their higher-frequency counterparts; in
particular, it inquires into how much the prevailing associations of evil and
inferiority are induced upon low registers and under what conditions this
‘baseness’ may be redeemed. Proposing patterns for the simultaneous terror and
benign authority of lowness from fields beyond music, the article argues that the
backdrop of evil in bass and base (basso) is a necessary semantic element in the
aesthetic development of European multi-voiced music. The moral or
psychological metaphor is thus integral to the aesthetic content of music.
The author, Robert Nelson is Associate Director Student Learning Experience at Monash University (Melbourne, Australia), where he was also Head of Department of Theory in what is now the Faculty of Art Design and Architecture. He holds Masters and PhD degrees in Art History from La Trobe University and has been art critic for The Age for 20 years. He was also the scene painter for the photographic artist Polixeni Papapetrou (polixenipapapetrou.net). Robert has published many articles and books concerning the overlap of the aesthetic and the moral across several genres, from performance to furniture. In his research, he tries to explain the structure of imaginative expression by connecting it with the history of ideas.
Read Robert Nelson's article here
This article comprises a comparative exploration of the
conception of temporality by Iannis Xenakis and Brian Ferneyhough, as well as a
study of their compositional responses to this conceptualization. Xenakis
remarked that music exists primarily “outside of time,” whereas Ferneyhough
reflects on the “tactility of time.” These ideas are developed here within a
phenomenological framework, with particular reference to concepts by Jean-Luc
Nancy, mainly those of sense and resonance. When cross-examined,
Xenakis’s and Ferneyhough’s approaches, although quite different, are shown to
resonate with each other, as both developed compositional methods based on
sieves: the former for the production of sonorities and the latter as a means
to formal articulation.
The author, Dimitris Exarchos, is a theorist and musicologist specialising in contemporary music. He holds a PhD in Theory and Analysis from Goldsmiths. He has published in books and journals, delivered talks in the UK and abroad, organised symposia at Goldsmiths' Contemporary Music Research Unit (CMRU) and curated concerts and events (Southbank Centre, Goldsmiths). For a number of years he also taught Music Analysis and History at the University of Surrey. Recently he was a Research Fellow at the State Institute for Music Research in Berlin, Germany and is currently Visiting Research Fellow at CMRU. His research explores the intersections between post-structuralist philosophy and contemporary composition, including computational and mathematical approaches.
Read Dimitris Exarchos' article here
The author, Torben Sangild, was a scholar and lecturer at Department of Arts and Cultural Studies at University of Copenhagen 1997-2013, with a PhD as well as two postdoctorals. His main research field is contemporary art, aesthetics, philosophy, music and sound. He is now a freelance writer, critic, lecturer, editor, radio host and consultant. He has published two books in Danish: Støjens æstetik (The Aesthetics of Noise) and Objektiv sensibilitet (Objective sensibility) as well as numerous articles in English, German, Swedish and Danish.
Read Torben Sangild's article here.
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