The Semiotics of Music: A Schema by Jerry Everard

My friend Jerry recently posted this semiotic schema of music on his blog asking for feedback. I think its amazing, and for anybody grappling with multimodal text analysis it is invaluable. I’ll post the schema to save flipping back and forth but note it is Jerry’s work:

Music: A Semiotic Schema

FUNCTION >RANK
\/
IDEATIONAL
(Propositional/representational)
INTERPERSONAL
(Modality)
TEXTUAL
(Compositional)
SCHOOL/PERIOD
(Ideological base)
Religious/Secular
Canonical/Popular
Orientation
i)Form (eg Classical)
ii)Ornament (eg baroque)
iii) Sense (eg romantic)
Genre
WORK Type of orchestration/Intertextuality Modality
– fantasy
-description
-irony
-etc
as expressed by:
-voicing
-key
-dynamics
-’weight’ etc
Frame
eg song/folk dance/tonepoem/sonata/etc
MOVEMENT Interplay of
i)thematic structure
ii)sub-themes
eg: statement, recapitulation,cadence (ending), conjunction
Mood
eg slow movementMode
eg -major
-minor
-dorian
-lydian
-chromatic
-pentatonic etcRange
-pitch
-volumeInstrumentation
Textual coherence :
-interplay of theme
-conjunctions/transitions
-sub-themes
modulations:
-to different key
-to different mode
-tonal ambiguities
PHRASE
(Verbal group)
Theme+rhythm:
anticipation
recapitulation
cadence
conjunction
Modifiers
-rhythmic
-tempo
Contrast options:
-rhythm
-tempo
-pitch
-dynamic range(loud/soft)-pauses
THEME
(nominal group)
Play of figures
(nominal ‘characters’)
Characterisation:
relation to hearer – ‘gaze’
-pointers to key tonality
-colour
-dynamics
-line (melodic sequence)
Deixis:
Tonal qualifiers – flat 5ths/7ths etcKey statementCadences (endings)
MOTIF
(Morphemes)
Lexical content
recognisable figuresrecurrent patterns
Lexical Register:
Modified motifs:
-changed mode
-changed key
-inversions
-changed rhythm
Collocations:
-position in theme
-posn in movement
-posn in Work
parallelism/contrasts
NOTE
(Phoneme)
Basic unit of information:pitch+lengthdegree of scale:
8-octave
7-leading-note
6-sub-mediant
5-dominant
4-sub-dominant
3-mediant
2-supertonic
1-tonic
Oppositions:sound/silence
long/short
loud/quiet
high/low (pich)
chord/single note
Position in harmonic seriesdistributioncollocationintervals

voicing


I think when Theo van Leeuwen speaks about movement he uses the terms figure, ground and field to distinguish which musical themes are foregrounded (the figure) or backgrounded (the field) at any one time. These are categories of interpretation and relate to how the listener perceives and interprets their position within the soundscape. These relate to the same principles of perspective that we also use when speaking about images. Similarly, he uses the principles of social distance when speaking about the interpersonal meanings of dynamics.

Van Leeuwen also discusses the use of silence as both an ideational and textual resource to mark turning points in the musical conversation.

I am especially interested in the study of multimodal texts and how the semiotic modes are deployed to make narrative meanings, so the idea of which sounds are diegetic (used to construct narrative meaning) and which ones are non-diegetic (don’t signify any narrative meaning) is something I’ve been looking at. I am also interested in the way the narrative is passed around and through the semiotic modes, or how they are multiply textured (and I’ve stolen the term multimodal complexity from Royce to describe this) to signify meaning.

One interesting thing to note is that many musicians emphaise the interpersonal resource above and beyond the other metafunctions because they believe that their music transcends all else but to make that connection with the audience. But there is just so much work to be done in this area and it seems to me that the SFL-ers are just way behind – so work like Jerry’s here is incredibly helpful to bounce off. I went to a seminar earlier in the year where Jim Martin and Theo van Leeuwen were both lamenting the lack of work being done and urging new SFL scholars to take up this challenge. I went to the seminar expecting a lot of answers and guides and discussions of schema such as this one but was quite shocked when they said they just didn’t know much yet about multimodal texts in general.

But now a question for Jerry – do we have anything acting as adverbial group in rank?  Oh also, hmmm there’s some of the interpersonal evaluation resources such as attribution, affect, grading and so on….  there’s a lot to cover here🙂

4 thoughts on “The Semiotics of Music: A Schema by Jerry Everard

  1. Thanks for this Angela – come to think of it there’s no adjectival group either. I think if there were an adverbial element it would have to be in the mood aspect – particularly in the choice of mode (major/minor/etc). At the same time I’m not sure you can stick rigidly to purely linguistic structures when dealing with multimodal texts. Hallidayan linguistics is a powerful tool but other systems of signification will not necessarily translate fully onto a linguistic map. Many thanks for your insightful comments🙂 Jerry

  2. Pingback: Mindsigh » Blog Archive » Semiotics of music - blogged!

  3. Pingback: Semiotics of music - blogged! « Four Strings

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s