We provide the outline of a semantics for music. We take music cognition to be continuous with normal auditory cognition, and thus to deliver inferences about “virtual sources” of the music. As a result, sound parameters that trigger inferences about sound sources in normal auditory cognition produce related ones in music. But music also triggers inferences on the basis of the movement of virtual sources in tonal pitch space, which has points of stability, points of instability, and relations of attraction among them. We sketch a framework that aggregates inferences from normal auditory cognition and tonal inferences, by way of a theory of musical truth: a source undergoing a musical movement m is true of an object undergoing a series of events e just in case there is a certain structure-preserving map between m and e. This framework can help revisit aspects of musical syntax: Lerdahl and Jackendoff’s (1983) grouping structure can be seen to reflect the mereology (“partology”) of events that are abstractly represented in the music. Finally, we argue that this “refentialist” approach to music semantics still has the potential to provide an account of diverse emotional effects in music.
Research Article| September 01 2017
Outline of Music Semantics
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Philippe Schlenker; Outline of Music Semantics. Music Perception 1 September 2017; 35 (1): 3–37. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/mp.2017.35.1.3
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