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MUSICSMEANINGS

TheMassMediaMusicScholarsPress(MMMSP)
87WestBrooksideDrive,Larchmont,NY10538(USA);
DepartmentofMusicandMusicTechnology,
UniversityofHuddersfieldHD13DH(UK)
www.tagg.org/mmmsp
PhilipTagg,20122013
BIBLIOGRAPHICALDATA
Tagg,Philip
MusicsMeanings:amodernmusicologyfornonmusos
NewYork&Huddersfield:TheMassMediaMusicScholarsPress,2012
ebookversion2.4.2,20130514,710pages,ISBN9780970168450
asfirsthardcopyedition,20130306,710pages,ISBN9780970168481
Firstpublished(version1.0)asebook,20120926
KEYWORDS
music,musicology,musemes,analysis,semiotics,signification,signtype,connotation,
denotation,logogenic,musogenic,communication,dualconsciousness,historyofideas,
epistemology,education,emotion,gesturality,intersubjectivity,intertextuality,
interobjectivity,interdisciplinarity,structuraldesignation,aesthesis,poesis,genre,style,
extendedpresent,expression,emotion,affect,metaphor,time,space,motion,touch,
texture,timbre,tone,rhythm,metre,speed,tempo,surfacerate,periodicity,loudness,
volume,voice,vocalpersona,form,episodes,diataxis,syncrisis,anaphones,
etymophony,synecdoche,figureground,melody,accompaniment,muso,nonmuso,
filmmusic,classicalmusic,popularmusic.
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ProofreadbyTommiUschanov,YngvarSteinholtandtheauthor.l
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ForDaveLaingandSimonFrith
whotoldmealongtimeago
thatIshouldwritethisbook;
andformydaughter,Mia,
andalltheotherintelligent
peoplewhodontknowwhat
adiminishedseventhisbut
whoareaspassionateasIam
aboutmusicandwhowantto
knowmoreabouthowitworks.
MUSICSMEANINGS
AMODERNMUSICOLOGYFORNONMUSOS
goodformusos,too
PhilipTagg
NewYork&Huddersfield:TheMassMediaMusicScholarsPress,Inc.,2013.
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CONTENTS
Overviewoffigures,tablesandlistsvi; Acknowledgementsix
Preface1
Background1:nonmuso3;Readershipandaims4;Background2:muso7;
TLTT17;Terminology19;Overviewofchapters20;Appendices24;
Publicationissues29;Formalia(typography,timings,etc.)31
1.Howmuchmusic?35
2.Themostimportantthing43
Definitionandaxioms44 Conceptualcomparisons50
Evolutionanddevelopment54 Musicandsocialisation58
Crossdomainrepresentationandsynaesthesis62
Aquicktriparoundthebrain68 Emotion,moodandmetaphor74
3.Theepistemicoiltanker83
Articlesoffaithandmusicalpoweragendas84
Classicalabsolutism:musicismusic89
Absoluteandnonabsolute91 Absoluteandarseholeart94
Postmodernistabsolutismandtextdenial101
Musicalknowledges115
Structuraldenotation116 Skill,competence,knowledge118
Notation:Ileftmymusicinthecar121;Summaryandbridge130
4.Ethno,socio,semio133
Ethno133; Socio137; Semio145; Bridge151Prowlingbeasts152
5.Meaningandcommunication155
Conceptsofmeaning155
Signandsemiotics155;Semiosis:yourauntsdogandasteelguitar156
Semantics158;Semioticsandsemiology159;First,second,third160;
Icon,index,arbitrarysign161; Denotationandconnotation164
Polysemyandconnotativeprecision167
Conceptsofcommunication172
Basiccommunicationmodel174 Codalincompetence179
Codalinterference182 Representingimmigrants186
Somaticandconnotative189 Summary192
6.Intersubjectivity195
Aesthesicfocus196;Ethnographicintersubjectivity199;Receptiontests200
Unguidedassociation204 Classifyingtestresponses208
VVAtaxonomyissues215Lissaandlibrarymusic222Summary227
iv
7.Interobjectivity229
Intro229;Basicterminology:Objectandstructure230;Museme232
Interobjectivecomparison238;CollectingIOCM241
Askamusician241;Caveat244;Recommendersystems246;
Themorethemerrier248;Reverseengineering1:fromIOCMtoAO249
Reverseengineering2:recomposition251
Commutation253; Structuraldesignation256
Unequivocaltimecodeplacement256;Paramusicalsynchrony260
8.Terms,timeandspace263
AboutChapters812263
Basicconcepts(1):Genreandstyle266;Paramusicalexpression268
Parametersofmusicalexpression271
Basicconcepts(2)272(incl.Extendedpresent,Note,Pitch,Tone,Timbre)
Duration281(Micro281;Meso283;Mega288);Speed288
Tempo,beatandpulse288;Surfacerate289;Harmonicrhythm291
Rhythmandemphasis291;Metreandgroove293;Space,auralstaging298
9.Timbre,loudnessandtonality305
Timbre305
Instrumentaltimbre306;Ethnicstereotyping306;
Conventionsofmoodandstyle307;Acousticinstrumentdevices309
Effectsandeffectsunits309(incl.Distortion,Filter,Modulation,effects).
Loudness313 Pitchandtonality315
Pitch316;Melodiccontour318;Tonality319;Tuningsystems321
Intervals322;Tonalvocabulary:modesandkeys325
Structuraltheory326 Modeandconnotation332
Melody335
Tonalpolyphony337
Drone337;Heterophony338;Homophonyandcounterpoint338
Harmony339
Chordtypesandharmonicidiom339;Chordprogressions340
10.Vocalpersona343
Personaandvernacularsources344
Dontworryaboutme345 Areyoutalkingtome?347
Poetic,acousticandaesthesicdescriptors350
Vocalcostume360
Spokencostumes361 Sungcostumes364
Singingascostume365 Suitingupforopera 369
Groupidentitycostumes371 Genrespecificvocalcostumes373
Graspingvocalpersona376
Vocalparody380
v
11.Diataxis383
Threetypesofform383 DiataxisinFernando386
Cyclicalprocessuality 392
Generaldiatacticschemes395
Popularsong395
Chorus,refrain,verse,AABA395 PostYesterdaydiataxis401
Extensionaldiataxis404
Megaduration405;Sonataformandothereuroclassicaldiataxis409
Harmonyasepisodicparameter414
Conclusionsandquestions415
12.Syncrisis417
Overviewandmusogenicscenes418 Densityandsparsity420
Singularityandmultiplicity424
Figure/ground=melody/accompaniment:musicalmonocentrism425
Psychotherapists&thesoundscape433;Sonicpowerandsubjectivity435
Bikes,guitardistortionandheavymetal436;Postbikerparadigms442
Syncrisisandsocialanaphones446 Participants,strands,layers446
Syncriticorganisationandsocialmeaning449
Solo,unison,heterophony,homophonyandcounterpoint449
Crossrhythm457
SubSaharancrossrhythm457 Hemiola458
Transatlanticcrossrhythm463 Funkandhocket465
Grouptypemanifestations467 Responsoriality470
Figuregroundrelativity474
Secondaryfigures475Returntothescenes479Summary483
13.Asimplesigntypology485
Sonicanaphones487 Nonvocalanaphones488
Vocalanaphones489(linguisticandparalinguistic)
Tactileanaphones494(sensuousstringpads;roughandgrainy)
Kineticanaphones498(grossmotoric,finemotoric,holokinetic)
Spatialanaphones500(gesturalinterconversion502)
Compositeanaphones509;(galloping,stabbing,newscasting)
Socialanaphones514
Diataxemes515
Episodicdeterminantsandepisodicmarkers515
Unidimensionalmarkers516
Propulsivereiteration518 Finalitymarkers520
Breaks520 Bridgesandtails521
Diataxis(narrativeformpatterns)522
Styleflags522
Styleindicator523 Genresynecdoche524
Sowhat?528
vi
14.Analysingfilmmusic529
Invisiblemusic 529 Coursedescription531
Beforetheanalysis534
History534
Introducingconcepts541
Cheaptricks542 Lissasfilmmusicfunctions546
Otherusefulconcepts552 Bridge(scribal)556
Theanalysisproject556
Overviewandaims556
Choiceoffilm558 Producingacuelist558
Choiceofanalysisscene562 Feedback562
Writtenwork564
Preliminaries564 Tableofmusicalideas565
Indepthanalysis567
Diaboliinmusica567 Sickstrings.567
Graphicscore568 Discursiveanalysistext572
Generaldiscussionofmusicthroughoutthefilm573
Appendices,procedure,presentation,technicalconsiderations575
Toomuch?577
Appendices579
Glossary581
References607
Index653
Overviewoffigures,tablesandlists
PhoneticsymbolsforstandardsouthernUKEnglish32
Averagedailydoseofmusic36
Crossdomainrepresentation63
Classicalandpopularmusic:institutionalisedfieldsofstudy103
Typesofmusicalknowledge119
TypicaltopicsforETHNOandSOCIOstudiesofmusic144
IdealtopicsforSEMIOstudies145
Smokealarm:connotationassuperelevationofcodes166
Austria:JulieAndrewsinTheSoundofMusic168
[a]Timoteiad;[b]ElviraMadigan,VHScover168
Castletown:samegeography,differentrepresentations169
Communicationmodelinasocioculturalframework174
Ethnocentricselectionofconnotativespheres176
Bulgarianwomensingingharvestsongs181
VVAtaxonomyoverview209215
vii
Selectionoflibrarymusicdescriptivetags225
Thealogogenicblackbox:escaperoute1229
Nationalanthemmusemes:symphonyorchestraordrunks236
Thealogogenicblackbox:twoescaperoutes238
Numericalkeypads241
JamesBondTheme:screencaptures258
Periodicandaperiodicsoundwaves275
Attack,decay,sustainrelease:fourenvelopes278
Soundwavesforflute,clarinet,trumpetandpiano280
Whatdidyousay?fourpatternsofmicroduration282
GayGordonssteppatternsat112bpmover8bars284
UsualWesterntimesignatures,bars,beatsandsubbeats294
Auralstaging3Dmodel(frontalview)301
Speakerplacementfor2channelstereoand5.1surround301
Melodicphrasecontourtypes319
Pianokeyboard:oneoctave321
Westernintraoctaveintervals:aselectioninjusttemperamentanddescendingorder
withtonic(keynote)settoC323
Westernheptatonicmodesonthewhitenotesofapiano326
Fiveanhemitonicpentatonicmodesplusonehemitonic331
Aesthesicvoicedescriptioncategorieswithexamples356357
Fernando(Abba,1975):tableofmusematicoccurrence387
OveralldiataxisinFernando,withcommutation391
Centripetal(recursive)process:(a)onaunidirectionaltimeaxis;
(b)ascentreandperiphery;(c)fromcentretoperipheryandback;
(d)withcentrifugalending392
VerserefrainpatterninFernandoascentripetalprocess394
Commontypesofcyclicaldiataxisinpopularsong:(a)strophic;
(b)verserefrain;(c)chorusbridge/AABA/jazzstandard396
Episodesin32barjazzstandardchorus(AABAdiataxis)399
Abba:TheNameOfTheGame:episodicoverview401
Beatles:ADayInTheLife(1967):episodicoverview402
GentleGiant:TheHouse,TheStreet,TheRoom:episodicoverview404
Averagedurationsofrecordingsindifferenttypesofmusic407
Sonataformdiagram:Mozarts40thSymphonyK550410
Respighi:FontanadiTrevi;Borodin:SteppesofCentralAsia420
CentralAsiansteppeandNorthAmericanprairie422
Constable:TheCornfield423
Monocentricmusicalpositioning427
Brueghel:MassacreoftheInnocents428
Gainsborough:Mr&MrsAndrews429
Tomkins:TurnuntotheLord,bars2743430
Threefiguregroundtextureextracts432
Quasimodo:Thebells!TheBells!435
PeterFondainEasyRider;JamieLeeCurtisinPerfect442
Musicmarketinggroinfixationandyouthunemployment443
BrokenPlayground:artworkforglitchsiteonlineclubber.com446
Thewalkinghemiolascheme(2hemiolas,6seconds)458
viii
Clinkclinkversusboomthwack460
23and32clavepatternsovertwobarsof4/4464
Compositecrossrhythmovertwobarsof4/4464
Responsoriality:fourgeneraltypes471
SyncrisisasinterrelatedPMFCs:KojakandFernando480
Signtypology:basicoverview486
Anaphonicdescriptors:onomatopoeicverbs488
Anaphonicdescriptors:animalsounds,etc.489
Anaphonicdescriptors:paralinguistic,stateofmindwords,
verbalinteractionmodetypes,andinterjections492
ProfileoftheClwydianrangeviewedfromtheNortheast503
DeevalleylookingeastfromPlsBerwyn(Llangollen)504
BeachinBajaCalifornia;clipartofEdwardianwoman505
Morales(c.1568):VirginandChild506
TVadvertforPantneProPlusShampoo507
Nonfluidgesturalinterconversion:computermotherboard,
Chicagoskyline,radiator,Nazirally509
Gallop:diddledum(giddyup)ordiddledydum?510
Herrmann:ShowerscenemusicfromPsycho(score)511
Diddlediddledrumfillaspropulsivereiteration518
MusicandtheMovingImagecourseoverview532
MotionPictureMoodsforPianistsandOrganists(onepage)544
Filmmusicfunctions(Lissa)547
Finalcuelist0:00:000:04:22inTheMission(1986)559
MusicalideasinTheMission(sampleextract)567
TheMission0:00:370:02:15Graphicscore569571
Symbolsusedinthereferenceappendix606
ix
Acknowledgements
Imindebtedtomyteachersandmentorswhoencouragedmetomake
musicandtothinkaboutmusicasifitreallymeantsomethingotherthan
itself. Im thinking in particular of Jared Armstrong, Ken Naylor, Au
breyHickmanandJanLingwithoutwhomIdoubtIwouldhaveseen
any of this through. Id like also to thank Wilfrid Mellers for having
blazedatrailformusicologistsinterestedinmatterspopularandsemi
otic. Thanks also to Margit Kronberg without whom I would never
havedaredmakeconnectionsbetweenmusicandsomanyothersorts
ofsomethingelse.
Iwanttothankthosefriendsandcolleagueswhoaskedmeagesagoto
writethisbook,particularlyDaveLaing(London)andSimonFrith(Ed
inburgh).Thanksalsotoallthosefriends,colleaguesandresearchstu
dents who provided me with valuable input and feedback over the
years,inparticularCorinAharonin(Montevideo),GillianAnderson
(Boston & Bologna), Bob Clarida (New York), Martin Cloonan (Glas
gow),KarenCollins(Waterloo),BobDavis(Huddersfield),FrancoFab
bri(Milan),SerenaFacci(Rome),SusanaGonzlez(MexicoCity),Stan
Hawkins(Oslo),MarkusHeuger(Kln),BruceJohnson(Sydney),Peter
DKaye(SantaMonica&Paris),MikeJones(Liverpool),SergeLacasse
(Qubec),ArisLanaridis(London),LauraLeante(Durham),FredMaus
(Charlottesville),MortenMichelsen(Copenhagen),RichardMiddleton
(CastleDouglas),SueMiller(Cambridge),PieroMilesi(Milan),Yngvar
Steinholt(Troms),OlaStockfelt(Gteborg),GarryTamlyn(Brisbane),
Martha Ulha (Rio de Janeiro), Peter Wicke (Berlin), Tim Wise (Man
chester); and (all Montral) Simon Bertrand, Line Grenier, Laura Jor
dn, Franois de Mdicis, JeanJacques Nattiez and Shawn Pitre.
ThanksalsotoTommiUschanov(Helsinki)forimpeccableproofread
ingandafewsalutarycorrectionsoffactualerror.
ImalsogratefultoallthosestudentsinGteborg,Liverpool,Mon
tral and elsewhere who tested my methods to the limits and pro
duced some really good work (Alison Beck, Solne Derbal, Joanne
Fellows,AnneLaureFeron,FranoisGauthier,MarieGoffette,Andr
x
Lambert,HlneLaurin,NicolasMasino,GuillaumeSamson,Jonathan
Shave,LuanaStan,NickThompsonandothers).InfactImgratefulto
allstudentswhoenrolledforoneofmyclassesineitherPopularMusic
AnalysisorMusicandtheMovingImage,whointroducedmetosomuch
music Id never heard before and whose insights, questions, frustra
tions, curiosity and enthusiasm taught me so much about how music
communicateswhattowhomwithwhateffect.
SincerethanksgotoBobDavisandhisfamilyfortheirwarmwelcome
andgeneroushospitalitywhenIfinallyreturnedhomeaftersomany
yearsworkingabroadandtoBobinparticularforhispatience,intelli
genceandexperiencewhenIfeltunsureaboutwhatIwaswriting.Last
butnotleast,thanksgotomydaughter,MiaTagg,forkeepingmeat
leasthalfsaneandforjustbeingtherewhereverIwasduringthelong
trekofteaching,talking,thinking,learning,listening,playing,arrang
ing,arguing,ranting,laughing,crying,editing,composing,computing,
travelling,readingandwritingthatculminatedinthisbook.Ithasbeen
alongjourney.
Huddersfield,September2012February2013.
Apracticalnoteaboutfootnotes
Thesoftwareusedtoproducethisbookhasoneirritatingdefect:ifthere
isnt enough roomatthe bottom of thecurrent page for thecomplete
textofafootnote,itputstheentirefootnotetextatthebottomofthefol
lowingpage.Therefore,ifthereisnotextatthebottomofthepageon
which a footnote flag number occurs in the main body of text, dont
panic:thecompletefootnotetextwillappearatthebottomofthefol
lowingpage.Forexample,thetextforfootnoteflag1attheendofpage
1 appears at the bottom of page 2. For more substantial information
aboutfootnotesseepp.2527.
xi
xii
Tagg:MusicsMeanings 1
Preface
EX is as good a word as any with which to start this book.
Thatsnotso much because itsanobvious attention grabber
asbecauseWesternattitudestowardssexsharemuchincom
mon with widespread notions about music: both are charac
terisedbytheepistemicdissociationofpublicfromprivate.Sincesuch
dissociationlurksbehindkeyissuesaddressedinthefirstpartofthis
bookIdbetterexplainwhatImean.
Nooneintheirrightmindwouldclaimthatsex,oneofthemostinti
mate aspects of human behaviour, has nothing to do with society be
cause no society can exist without human reproduction and because
differentculturesregulatetherelationbetweensexandsocietyindif
ferentways.Threesimpleexamplesservetoprovethisobviouspoint.
[1] Public celebrities (politicians, film stars, sports personalities, etc.)
are often publicly censured for intimate behaviour relating to their pri
vateparts.[2]Awifewhohasextramaritalsexinprivatecan,insomeso
cieties,belegallystonedtodeathinpublic.[3]IntheWestweareoften
subjectedtothepublicdisplayofprivatesexualfantasiesinadvertsplas
teredonbillboards,orbroadcasttomillionsofTVviewers,allofwhom
have to hear intimate voiceovers breathing in their ears or to see ex
tremecloseupsofbodyparts,allfromtheaudiovisualperspectiveofa
asexualpartnerinaprivatespaceand,atthesametime,allmassdif
fusedbycableorsatellite.
Musicalsooscillatesbetweenprivateandpublicbecausemusicalexpe
riencesthatseemintenselyintimateandpersonalareoftenperformed
publiclyordiffusedglobally.Mediacorporationsrelyonsharedsubjec
tivityofmusicalexperiencenotjusttosellasmuchofthesamemusic
toasmanyaspossiblebutalsotoinvolveusemotionally inthefilms
andgamestheyproduce,tohelpmarkettheproductstheywantusto
buy,andeventosellusasatargetgroup,definedbycommonalityof
musicaltaste,toadvertisers.
1

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2 Tagg:MusicsMeaningsPreface
IncontemporaryWesternculturethedifferencesbetweenprivateand
public spheres in the fields of both sex and music involve a dual con
sciousnessinthatoursenseofidentityandagencyinprivateisdissoci
ated from whatever sense we may have of ourselves in the public
sphere.
2
Deepfissurescanarisebetweenhowweseeourselvesassex
ualbeingsinprivateandhowwerespondtodisplaysofsexualityinthe
media,justasourintenselypersonalmusicalexperiencesseemtobeat
theoppositeendofthenotionalspectrumtoallthetechnical,economic
and sociocultural factors without which much of the music that so
deeplymovesuscouldnotexist.
Having served its purpose to kick start the central issue of dual con
sciousness,sexcannowbedumpedandattentiondrawntotheration
ale behind this book about music. Clearly, I must have thought there
wasaproblemtosolve,alacunatofill,oratleastsomeerrororhalf
truthtocorrect,otherwiseIcouldhavesavedmyselfthebotherofwrit
ingthesewordsandyouofhavingtoreadthem.Thepointisthatdur
ingmycareerinmusicstudiesIcametorealisethatthecentralproblem
inunderstandinghowmusicworksderivesnotfromthedichotomies
ofprivateandpublicorofsubjectiveandobjectiveinthemselves,but
from the dual consciousness of individuals unable to link the two poles of
thosedichotomies.Thatisofcourseanepistemologicalobservation.It
meansthatovertheyearsIverepeatedlyfoundprevailingpatternsof
understandingconnectionsbetweenthevariousspheresofhumanac
tivityrelatingtomusictobeinadequate.Now,ifthatssupposedtobe
areasonforwritingabook,itsalsoastatementinneedofsubstantia
tion.InChapters24Ipresentevidencesupportingthestatement.Here
inthispreface,however,Ithinkitsbettertoexploretheproblemfrom
amoredowntoearthandpersonalperspective.
1. Commercialformatradiosmainbusinessaimis,asRothenbuhler(1987)explains,to
sellaudiencestoadvertisers.SeealsoKarshner(1972).
2. DualconsciousnessisatermcoinedbyFrantzFanon(1967)whousesittodenote
thewayinwhichcolonisedsubjectshavetoassumetwoidentitiesatthesametime:
inrelation[1]tothecolonisersand[2]tofellowcolonisedsubjects.Ivetakenthelib
ertyofextendingtheconceptheretoincludedissonancesofidentitybetweenthe
privateandpublicspheres.
Tagg:MusicsMeanings 3
Background1:nonmuso
Before concretising this books rationale let me first explain what I
meanbymusoandnonmuso.Iusemuso(withoutthenon)colloquially
todenotesomeonewhodevotesalotoftimeandenergytomakingmu
sicortalkingaboutit,especiallyitstechnicalaspects.Amusoisinother
words someone with either formal training in music, or who makes
music on a professional or semiprofessional basis, or who just sees
him/herselfasamusicianormusicologistratherthanasasociologistor
culturalstudiesscholar.Nonmusosaresimplythosewhodontexhibit
thetraitsjustdescribedanditstheywhofeatureinthisbookssubtitle.
TheobviousquestioniswhyIasamusothinkIbothcanandoughtto
writeaboutmusicfornonmusos.
Thebasicideabehindthisbookstartedtotakeshapeintheearly1980s
when music videos, cable TV, and academics specialising in popular
musicwerenovelties.Thatbizarreconjuncturewas,Isuppose,onerea
sonwhyIwasaskedonseveraloccasionstotalkaboutmusicvideos,a
topiconwhichIveneverbeenanexpert.Theinvitationscamemostly
frompeopleinmediastudies,linguistics,politicalscienceandthelike,
morerarelyfromfellowmusiceducatorsorscholars.
3
Thosecolleagues
inotherdisciplinesseemedtofindmusicvideosproblematicbecause,
ifIunderstoodthemrightly,standardnarrativeanalysiswasunableto
make much sense of audiovisuals that clearly spoke volumes to their
(then)youngMTVviewingstudents.Someofthosenonmusoteachers
hadofcoursededucedthatpopvideonarrativemadeadifferentsortof
sensewhenitfunctionedasvisualisedmusicratherthanasvisualnarra
tive with musical accompaniment. Those colleagues, all qualified to
talkaboutsocioeconomicaspectsofmusicandaboutHollywoodfilm
narrative, seemed in other words to be asking me, a musicologist, to
helpsolveepistemologicalproblemsrelatingtomusicasasignsystem.
Awareof musicologys embarrassing inability at thattime to help fel
low educators and scholars outside our discipline solve an important
problem, I have to admit that, faced with the task of deconstructing
musicalnarrativefornonmusosandtheirstudents,Ifeltatthebestof
3. Intheearly1980sIgavesuchpresentationsmainlyinSweden(e.g.Gteborg,Hel
sjn,Karlstad,Kristianstad,Landskrona,Lund,Skurup,Sdertlje,Stockholm).
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4 Tagg:MusicsMeaningsPreface
timesliketheoneeyedman(withseverelyimpairedsighttoboot)in
thelandoftheblind.
4
SincethenIveacquiredpartialvisionintheother
metaphoricaleye.ThatslightimprovementmeansIthinkIcannowsee
enough,howeverblurred,towritethisbook,ataskIwishwereunnec
essary and which I wouldnt have undertaken if I didnt think music
wasimportant.Troubleisthat,judgingfrommusicshumblestatusin
thepeckingorderofcompetenceshousedinmostinstitutionsoflearn
ing,itsalltooeasytobelievethatmaths,naturalsciencesandlanguage
mustallbemoreusefulthanmusicwhosepigeonholingasartorenter
tainmentimpliesthatitslittlemorethanauditoryicingonthecakeof
real knowledge.
5
As well see in Chapters 13, everyday extramural
realitytellsquiteadifferentstory.
Readershipandaims
Althoughthisbookwillhopefullyalsointerestmusos,itsprimarilyin
tendedforpeoplelikeDaveLaing,SimonFrith,mydaughterandthe
teachersjustmentioned,i.e.educatedindividualswithoutformalorprofes
sionalqualificationsinmusicormusicologynonmusoswhowantto
knowhowthesoundsofmusicworkinthecontemporaryurbanWest.
Itsforthosewhowanttounderstand:[1]howmusicssoundscancarry
which types of meaning, if any; [2] how someone with no formal musical
trainingcantalkorwriteintelligentlyaboutthosesoundsandtheirmeanings.
Tocoverthatterritoryinasinglebook,simplificationsandgeneralisa
tionswillbeunavoidable.Atthesametime,inordertomakesenseof
theterritory,itwillalsobenecessarytosummarisebasictenetsofmu
sicsspecificityasasignsystemandtodefusesuchepistemicbombsas
ABSOLUTEMUSICandMUSICASAUNIVERSALLANGUAGE(Chapters23).
Thisbookwillnottellyouhowtomakemusic,nordoesitprovidepot
tedaccountsofcomposers,artists,genresorofthemusicindustry;nor
willitbeofanyusetostudentscrammingformusictheoryorhistory
exams. It certainly wont help you bluff your way through conversa
tionsaboutjazz,folk,rap,rock,dubstep,classicalmusicorworldmu
4. Taggisdeeenooginhetlandderblinden(LeoSanamaintheDutchdailyHaagse
Post,19800531:5455).
5. Seecommentsaboutmusicasauditorycheesecakeonpage62.
Tagg:MusicsMeaningsPreface 5
sic. And under no circumstances whatsoever will it claim the
superiorityofonetypeofmusicoveranother:theresalreadyplentyof
literatureofallthetypesjustmentioned.Thisbooksjobistopresent,
withoutresortingtomorethananabsoluteminimumofmusicalnota
tion andin termsaccessible tothe averageuniversitystudentoutside
music[ology],waysofunderstandingthephenomenonofmusicasamean
ingfulsystemofsonicrepresentation.
The appearance of this book is further motivated by factors linked to
theemergenceofpopularmusicstudiesasafieldofinquiryinhigher
education.
6
Themajorityofscholarsinthisfieldhavetendedtocome
fromthesocialsciencesandthenonmusohumanities(communication
studies, cultural studies, film studies, political science, sociology, an
thropology, cinema, literature, etc.) rather than from departments of
musicormusicology.Liketheteachersflummoxedbypopvideonarra
tiveintheearly1980s,thesecolleagueshaveunderstandablytendedto
steer clear of the MUSIC in POPULAR MUSIC, leaving an epistemic void
whichmusicologistshaveonlyrecentlystartedtryingtofill.Sincethe
early1980s,whenIconductedreceptiontestsontitletuneconnotations
and, more notably, since the 1990s, when I started teaching popular
musicanalysistostudentswithnoformalmusicaltraining,Iveseenre
peatedproofofgreatmusicalcompetenceamongthosewhoneverset
footinsidemusicalacademe.Itsalargelyuncodifiedvernacularcom
petence that has with few exceptions been at best underestimated,
moreoftentrivialisedorignored,notonlyinconventionalmusicstud
iesbutalsobythoseindividualsthemselves.Thiskindofcompetence
isdiscussedinChapter3andusedasonestartingpointforthemethod
andanalysissectionsinthisbook.
Itwouldatthisstagebefairtoask,givenmusicologysembarrassing
inability to help fellow educators and scholars outside [the] disci
pline,howamusicologist,withallthebaggageofthatdiscipline,can
possiblyexplainanythingusefulaboutmusictononmusos.
6. BothIASPM(InternationalAssociationfortheStudyofPopularMusic)andthe
CambridgeUniversityPressjournalPopularMusicwerefoundedin1981.
6 Tagg:MusicsMeaningsPreface
Althoughinitiallytrainedasmusicianandcomposer,myinvolvement
inpopularmusicstudies,includingmusicandthemovingimage,has
brought me into contact just as much with nonmusos as with fellow
musicians and musicologists. That contact with nonmusos ought, I
hope,tohavetaughtmeenoughtoknowwhatsortofthingsneedex
plainingaboutthespecificsofmusicasmeaningfulsoundtothosewho
haveheard,enjoyedorotherwisereactedtoitbutwhoarentspecialists
atmakingitorverbalisingabouthowitsmade.Nevertheless,sinceits
impossibletogaugeeachreaderspriorknowledgeinoraboutmusic,I
havetoapologiseinadvanceifImisjudgethereadersintelligenceor
musicalcompetence.Imustalsoapologisetoeventualmusoreadersif,
intheinterestsofaprojectednonmusoreadership,Ioversimplifythe
complexities and subtleties of music making. With those two caveats
out in the open, I have to mention a third risk of misunderstanding,
particularlyaboutthefirstpartofthisbook(Chapters15).
Ifoneofthebooksaimsistohelpsealtheepistemicfissureofdualcon
sciousnessinrelationtomusic,thenIwill,likeitornot,havetovisitar
eas of knowledge in which I myself have no formal training. The
troubleisthatthenotionalgapsbetweenmusicassubjectiveexperience
andeverythingelsetowhichitsclearlyrelatedaremorelikelytobeex
acerbatedthanhealedbydisciplinaryboundariesinstitutionallydelin
eating distinct areas of competence. This means that if, as a muso, I
crosstheborderinto,say,sociology,semiotics,neurologyorcommuni
cationstudies,IriskoffendingspecialistswhoseinstitutionalterritoryI
enterwithoutthemandatoryvisaofdisciplinarycompetence.Insuch
instancesIcanonlyapologiseandbegauthoritiesintheterritoryIam
judgedtohaveviolatedtotreatmenoworsethantheywouldanunin
formed but inquisitive tourist with honourable intentions. Notwith
standingthatapology,itmightbemoreconstructivetointerpretatleast
some of my illegal entries in terms of a nave but potentially useful
challengetotheforeigndiscipline.Afterall,challengesintheopposite
directionagainstmusicstudiesfromthenonmusooutsideworld
informmanyofthisbookskeyissues.
Tagg:MusicsMeaningsPreface 7
Background2:muso
When, as described above, those nonmuso teachers asked me to ex
plainhowthemusicinpopvideosworkedtheywereindirectlyques
tioningmydiscipline.Theyseemedtobeassumingthatmusicology
couldcometotherescueatatimewhenthedisciplinerarelyshowed
interest ineither popular music ormatters of musical meaning.Their
assumptioncouldinthatsensebeconsiderednavebecauseitdidntac
count for the institutional reality of conventional musicology; but it
alsoindirectlyand,Ibelieve,justifiablyquestionedourdisciplinesuse
fulness and legitimacy. Be that as it may, their nonmuso assumption
aboutwhatmusicologyoughttobedoingresonatedwithmyownmis
givingsaboutthediscipline,particularlyintermsofitsapparentreluc
tance to deal with matters popular or semiotic. My questioning was
differentfromtheirsonlyinthatitderived,asIseeit,frommainlymuso
experience.Thatexperienceisworthrecountingforseveralreasons.[1]
Ithelpsmeretrospectivelysortoutkeyeventsinfluencingmyinvolve
mentinandideasaboutmusic.[2]Somefamiliaritywiththatprocess
makesmypersonalandideologicalbaggagemoretransparenttoread
erswhocanthenseewhereImcomingfromandapplywhateverfil
terseemsappropriatetoanypassagewithwhichtheymaydisagree.[3]
Theaccountthatfollowsalsoillustratescentralproblemsintheepiste
mologyofmusicandpartiallyexplainswhythisbookhasbeensucha
longtimeinthemaking.
Briefmusoautobiography
IcanthavebeenmucholderthanfourwhenIfirstregisteredthatmu
sicwasassoundconnectedtothingsotherthanitself.Irememberbash
ingclustersonthetopnotesofapianoandscreaminglightning,then
thumpingaloudclusteronitslowestnotesandyellingthunderasI
sat under the keyboard in delighted trepidation at the threatening
sounds Id produced. Not even then (1948) did I actually believe that
the top notes were or even meant lightning and the bottom ones
thunder, althoughI might well have said so if asked,
7
but I was even
8 Tagg:MusicsMeaningsPreface
thenclearthatthehighsoundscouldnotpossiblybelinkedtothunder
andthatthelowoneswereunthinkableintermsoflightning.Having
patientlyputupwiththissortofcacophonyonthepianoforayearor
two,myparentsdecided,forthesakeofthefamilyssonicsanity,thatI
shouldbegivenpianolessons.
8

In 1952, aged eight, I was blessed with a piano teacher, Jared Arm
strong, who, identifying the motoric torpor of the fingers on my left
hand,lookedoutofthewindowatsnowfallingfromagreyskyandjot
ted down an eightbar piece called North Streetin a Snow Storm, com
pletewithamournfulmelodytoexercisemylefthandandbare,static
sonorities to occupy the right. In the summer he swapped my hands
aroundinBytheBanksoftheNene,anothereightbarminipiecewhich
thistimefeaturedaquasifolktuneintherighthandandastaticbag
pipelike drone in the left. As with the THUNDER and LIGHTNING, I
didntthinkNorthStreetinaSnowStormwasorevenmeantasnow
storm in the street outside our house any more than I believed the
banksofourlocalrivertoactuallybeinBytheBanksoftheNene.Ijust
instantlyrecognisedthesortofmoodmypianoteacherhadintendedto
putacrossandwasinnodoubtwhatsoeverastowhichtitlebelonged
towhichpiece.
9
Iknewinotherwordsthatthepiecesneithersounded
norlookedlikewhattheirtitlesdenoted,butIdidthinktheysounded
likewhatitmightfeelliketoseeortobeinthescenedesignatedbyeach
title,eventhoughIwasobviouslyincapableatthatageofdistinguish
ing,albeitinsuchsimpleterms,betweenthattypeofconnotationand
othersortsofsignification.
10

7. Afouryearoldcannotbeexpectedtotheoreticallydistinguishbetweendifferent
meaningsoftobeandtomean.
8. MyTHUNDERANDLIGHTNINGmemoriesarefromaneighbourspiano.Itwasnotuntil
afterwemovedinSeptember1948thatIrememberanypianoinourownhome.
9. Thisexcellentpianoteacher(exetercollege.net/design/pdfs/08Register.pdf)also
introducedmetotheWHOLETONESCALEwhich,afterseveralvisitstothelocalcinema,
Iwasabletolinkwithmystery.ThatpromptedmetoproduceashortpiecewhichI
thoughtsoundedspookyenoughbutwhichfranklyjustmeanderedaimlesslyand
didnotatallimpressMr.Armstrong.Atthattime(195253)welivedonNorthStreet
inthesmalltownofOundle(Northamptonshire,UK),tenminuteswalkfromthe
RiverNene [nin].
10. SeeChapter5,p. 164ff.andp. 189formoreonconnotationandmusicalmeaning.
Tagg:MusicsMeaningsPreface 9
OneyearlaterIhadtotakelessonsfromadifferentpianoteacherwho
made me sit national piano exams for which I had to prepare pieces
drawn mainly from the euroclassical repertoire. Then, aged twelve, I
wasawardedamusicprize.Itwasinfrontofthewholeschoolthatalo
calclassicalmusiccelebritypresentedmewithacloyingbiographyof
MozarttheWunderkindandmadeashortspeechinwhichheseemedto
implythatthetinyclassicalparodyIdrecentlywrittenwassomething
ofwhichtheyoungMozartwouldnothavebeenashamed.Well,Mo
zart might not have been but I was. That the local celebrity had mis
taken my facetious parody for a straight style composition was one
thing; worse was the resentment I felt, caused partly by the Mozart
bookprizeandpartlybythelocalcelebrityswords,atbeingcompared
to a sadfreak in a powdered wig who used boyish charm and pretty
musictoingratiatehimselfamongdotingrichandfamousgrownups
inlateeighteenthcenturyAustria.
11
Itstruckmethatclassicalmusics
localrepresentativesmypianoteacher,thecelebritydishingoutthe
prize,etc.weretreatingmetooasaprecociousfreak,perhapshoping
that, if flattered enough at regular intervals, Id join their ridiculous
ranks,and,likeanobedientdog,performmoremusicaltricksforthem.
In retrospect I suppose that recruiting another circus animal might
havehelpedboosttheircredibilityintheARTISTICTALENTstakesoftheir
ownsocialaspirations,butatthetimeIfeltangryandinsulted.Want
ingnopartintheirweirdworldIresolvedtooutruneveryonebothin
the200metresandontherugbypitch,togoforlongerbikerides,and
todevotemyselfattheearliestopportunitytomusicthatseemedtoac
tuallywork,thathadsomerealuseandthatdidntponceabout.
12

Asluckwouldhaveitmynextteacher,KenNaylor,heldnofascination
forfreaks.Hewasanaccomplishedpianist,composerandchurchor
ganistwhoranchoirsandorchestraswithgreatskill,whowrotemean
closeharmony arrangements and who taught me how to play jazz
11. IendedupbythrowingawaythebookindisgustbutIdorememberoneparticu
larlycloyingpagewithadrawingoftheboywonderscribblingawayatadeskand
thecaption:LittleWolfgangwaslockedupinaroomwithsomemanuscriptpaper.
Whatdoyouthinkhedid?Iwasrelievedtodiscoverthatmyfatheralsofoundthe
bookquitenauseating.
10 Tagg:MusicsMeaningsPreface
standards. He encouraged me to compose and improvise, and intro
ducedmetoBartk,StravinskyandCharlieParker,aswellastothean
themsandmadrigalsofElizabethancomposers.Asmyorganteacher,
healsomademetransposehymnsintomoremanageablekeysforthe
congregation,andencouragedmetochangetheirharmoniesinthelast
versetoaddabitofdramatothedrabroutineofdailyprayers.Heeven
helped me overcome my Mozart trauma by drawing attention to the
composers ability to transform prettiness and wit into passages of
wondrously disturbing regret. Ken Naylors professional eclecticism
waslivingproofthatnotypeofmusiccouldbeseenasintrinsicallysu
periororinferiortoanother,andthatmusiclearntandproducedbyear
was just as legitimate as what you played or sang from notation. Of
more obvious direct relevance to the analysis parts of this book were
hispracticaldemonstrationsofrelationsbetweenmusicassoundand
somethingotherthanitself,moststrikinglythewordpaintingskillsI
learntfromhimwhenaccompanyinghymnsintheschoolchapel.
13
Following through on the vows Id made aged twelve, I joined a trad
jazzcombowhilestillatschoolandlater,atuniversity,aScottishcoun
try dance outfit and an R&B/soul band. In those three ensembles, as
wellasinothernonclassicalgroupsIsubsequentlyworkedwith,Iwas
theonlymemberwithanyformalmusicaltraining.Beingintheminor
ity,Ihadtocurbmyspecialisttonguewheneverweneededtodiscuss
thesortsofsoundwewantedtomake.Fortunately,verbaldenotation
ofmusicalstructurewasrarelynecessarybecausedifferencesofopin
12. ThepianoteacherwasMonicaOkell,theschoolSt.Faiths(Cambridge,UK,1953
1957)andthelocalclassicalmusiccelebrityAllenPercivalwhoseOrchestraforBoys
andGirlsappearedthesameyear(Percival,1956).TheexamsItookwerethe(UK)
AssociatedBoardsGrades1through5.Otherexplanations.[1]the200metreswasat
thetimearaceof220yards.[2]PonceisderogatoryUKslangforamangivento
ostentatiousoreffeminatedisplayinmanners,speech,dress(thefreedictionary.com);
poncingaboutmeansposturinglikeaponce,wastingtimewithpointlessactivities,
etc.ThesortofmusicIhadinmindasnotponcingaboutconsistedatthattimeof
jazz,popandfilmmusic.
13. Iowealottothisexceptionalmanandmusician,KenNaylor(19311991),headof
musicduringmytimeatTheLeysSchool,Cambridge(UK),19571962.Theword
paintingtechniquesareexemplifiedonpages152153.
Tagg:MusicsMeaningsPreface 11
ion were almost always settled practically using actual or imagined
sound to compare musical idea x with alternative y. At no time did I
everthinkthatmyfellowbandmemberslackofformalvocabularyde
noting tonal structure meant that their musical skills and knowledge
wereinanywaylessvalidorlesssystematicthanthoseIhadlearntin
formalstudiesoftheEuropeanclassicalrepertoire.Onthecontrary,it
soonbecameclearthatthearsenalofstructuraltermsIdhadtoacquire
inordertoobtainaB.A.inmusicwasquiteinadequate,notleastwhen
itcametoissuesofrhythmic/motivicbounceanddrive(asingrooves
andriffs),evenmoresowhendenotingthedetailsoftimbresoimpor
tantinsomanytypesofpopularmusic.
ItalsobecameclearthatIwasinhabitingatleasttwodifferentsociomu
sicalworldswithdifferentrepertoires,technologies,functions,values
andmodesofmetadiscourse.
14
However,IneverreallybelievedthatI
wasmyselflivingtwomusicallyseparatelives.
15
True,theinstitutional
and social dividing lines between the official version of euroclassical
musicandalltheothermusicswithwhichIdcomeintocontactwere
realenough;butjustasmypersonalityremainedbasicallyintactwhen
Ilearnedtospeakotherlanguages,IfeltIwasthesamemusicalperson
regardlessofwhichevermusicalidiomIhappenedtobeplayinginor
listening to. The problem, I insisted perhapsarrogantly, was not with
mebutontheoutside.IfthatweresoIwould,inthesocialrealityout
sidemyhead,sotospeak,havetoconfrontonesphereofmusicalactiv
itywithanother.Thatsortofconfrontationinvolvednotonlyeffortsto
persuadefellowrockmusicianstojoinmeataperformanceofBachs
MatthewPassionandfelloweuroclassicalmusicstudentstolistentomy
Beatlestapes;italsoinvolveddevelopingverbaldiscourse,comprehen
sibletomembersofwhichevergroupIwasarguingwith,thatcouldex
14. SeealsoChapter3underStructuraldenotation(p. 115, ff.).Formoreaboutunno
tatedparametersofmusicalexpressionseeintroductiontoChapter8(p. 263, ff.).
Obscurebandreferences:[1]leaderofthenamelessschooltradband(195860)was
DaveLane(altosax);[2]gatheringsoftheCambridgeUniversityScottishDance
Society(196263);[3]TheSoulbenders(R&B/soul,Cambridge196365);[4]The
FinesilverKerrQuintet(Manchester196566);[56]TheNazzandTheDisturbance
(Filipstad/Karlstad/Sffle,196668);RdaKapellet(Gteborg197276).
15. SeethemusicaldoublelivesofKorngold,RzsaandMorricone(p. 90).
12 Tagg:MusicsMeaningsPreface
plainintheirtermstheexpressiveandcreativequalitiesofwhichever
musicwasunfamiliarin theirsociomusicalsphere. Thisstubborn in
sistence,inspiredinnosmallpartbyKenNaylorslivingproofofmu
sicaleclecticismsobviousadvantages,meantthatIacquiredpractical
training in verbal mediation between musos and nonmusos, rockers
andjazzos,classicalbuffsandpopfans,etc.Thatpracticaltrainingwas
alsousefulpreparationforwritingthisbook.
Thesortofconfrontationjustdescribedseemedingeneraltogodown
betterwithpopularmusicacquaintancesthanwiththeireuroclassical
counterparts.Oneprobablereason,Ithink,isthattheformerhadnoth
ing to lose in opening up to the latter whereas those whose career,
mortgage payments or metaidentity depended on attaining or main
tainingahighersocioculturalstatusdid.AsexplainedinChapter3the
CLASSICALMUSIC=HIGHCLASSequationwasfuelledbythemetaphysical
aestheticofabsolutemusicwhich,bytheoreticallylocatingthealleg
edlymostnobleofmusicalexperiencesoutsidethematerialworld,en
abled the privileged classes not only to feel culturally superior by
appearingtotranscendmundanematerialrealitybutalsotodivertat
tentionfromthefactthatitwastheywhowieldedtherealpoweractu
ally in the material world. Given that noone likes losing their
privileges,even(orespecially)iftheyareillusory,itwasinretrospect
naveofme,ifnotplainstupid,toexpectthosewithavestedinterestin
maintaining the ABSOLUTE MUSIC aesthetic as part of the CLASSICAL =
CLASSequationtorecogniseequalvalueinothermusicsortowelcome
thediscussionofmusicasifitmeantanythingexceptitself.Butthings
werentthatsimplebecausetheworldofeuroclassicalmusic,asIknew
itin1960sBritain,washighlycontradictoryaboutsuchmatters.
While I knew very well, from working at the Aldeburgh Festival and
fromfrequentvisitstoevensongatKingsCollegeChapel(Cambridge),
thateuroclassicalmusicwastrulyperformedasifitreallymeantsome
thing beyond itself, the music degree programme I followed at Cam
bridge focused mainly on technical and archival tasks. We had to
completethismotetinthestyleofPalestrinawithoutconsideringthe
expressiveimperativeofwordslikecrucifixusorresurrexit,todecipher
lutetablaturewithoutsparingathoughtforDowlandswordpainting,
Tagg:MusicsMeaningsPreface 13
and to write essays about Wagner without linking his work to the
moral, philosophical or political ideas of the composer or his times.
Noneofitseemedtomakeanysense.MeanwhileIcarriedongigging
sporadicallywiththeR&Bbandinpubs,inclubsandonstudentdance
nights, performing numbers like Ill Go Crazy, Walking The Dog and
Route66.
16
Thatsortofmusicalactivity,ontheotherhand,madevery
obvioussocialsensetome.
ItwaswithreliefthatIlefttheRenaissancethemeparkofCambridgein
1965todoateachingdiplomainManchesterwherethepragmaticsof
musiceducation,includingitssocialimplications,wereclearlyonthe
agenda.ItwasattheheightofthepopboominnorthernEnglandandI
wasencouragedtosubmitanendofyearminithesisaboutthepossi
bleusesofpopinmusiceducation(Tagg,1966).Ialsomanaged,during
my teaching practice, to keep a class of usually rowdy pupils quietly
and enthusiastically occupied writing horror film scenarios following
the third movement of Bartks Music for Strings, Percussion and Ce
lesta.
17
FourteenyearslaterStanleyKubrickrepeatedthesameexercise,
usingthesamemusictounderscorethreescenesinTheShining(1980).
IfitwasOKforKubricktolinkmusicandpictureinthatway,Iargued
retrospectively, it cant have been wrong for me or my pupils to have
triedourhandsatit,evenifthescenariosweproducedwerenowhere
nearasgoodasKubricks.Anyhow,itwasmoregristtothemilloflink
ingmusictootherthingsthanmusicitself,anditwasfurtherevidence
of unquestionable musical competence among a nonmuso majority
thatincludedbothKubrickandmysecondaryschoolpupils.
Despite considerable encouragement from my supervisor for what
mustatthetimehaveseemedquitebizarreideasformusiceducation,
18
other endofyear examinerswere more conservativeand predictable.
Theyseemedtodislikemylackofenthusiasmforsubjectingboysaged
thirteen through sixteen to intensive vocal training and they disap
16. SeeRefAppxforBrownJ(1960),ThomasR(1963)andRollingStones(1964).
17. Bartk(1936);PlantHillComprehensiveSchool,Manchester,JanuaryMarch1966.
18. Iamverygratefultomysupervisor,DrAubreyHickman,outstandinghumanist,
violaplayerandchainsmoker,forhiscriticismandencouragementduringmyyear
attheDepartmentofEducationattheUniversityofManchester(196566).
14 Tagg:MusicsMeaningsPreface
provedofmyreluctancetomakeproperuseoftheschoolsOrffinstru
ments.
19
Then, when I looked in the Times Education Supplement for
music teaching jobs, my heart sank deeper as I discovered Id be ex
pectedtorunrecordergroupsinoneschool,enterpupilsforAssociated
Board exams in another, to teach piano and at least one wind instru
mentinathird,andsoon.Ihadtoconcludethattherewasnojobined
ucationforsomeonepassionateaboutthepopularandsemioticsidesof
music,plentyforthoseploddingdownthesameoldpathofperform
ingtheclassics.ThatswhyIdumpedmusiceducationasacareerop
tionandtookajobinSwedenteachingEnglishasaforeignlanguage,
keepingmusiconasjustahobby(196668).
Iwasmuchhappierwithmusiconthesidelines,so,aftertwoyearsat
mynewjobinSweden,Idecidedtoretrainasalanguageteacher(1968
71).IenrolledattheUniversityofGteborgandchangedmymusical
sidelinefrombeinginarockbandtosinginginachoir.Now,oneofthe
altosinthechoir(Britt)wasmarriedtoamancalledJanLing,whohad
recentlybeenaskedbytheSwedishgovernmenttosetupanewmusic
teachertrainingcollege.Lingtoldmethatpopularmusicwouldbeon
thecurriculumandthatIwastheonlypersonhehadmetwiththetri
axialprofile:[1]degreeinmusic,[2]teachingdiploma,[3]experienceof
makingpopularmusic.Whenaskedtoteachsomemusicanalysisatthe
new college in 1971 I leapt at the opportunity. I was eager to try out
ideasthathadlaindormantsinceabandoningmusicasacareeroption,
butIsoonranintodifficulties.
20
ThemainproblemwasthattheideasIhadaboutmeaninginpopular
music were mostly intuitive, informed by musicmaking experience,
not by any process of analytical reasoning. I had no coherent theory
codifyingthatintuitiveknowledgeandonlyverypatchyempiricalev
idenceofstructuralaspectsrelatingtomusicalsemiosisinanyshapeor
19. Orffinstrumentsarebasicallyinexpensivexylophonesandmetallophoneswhose
individualtonebars(keys)canbedetachedsonoonecanplayanunwantednote.
Thereisacompleteaesthetic/educationaltheorybehindtheuseoftheseinstruments
(OrffSchulwerk)whichIneverfoundtotallyconvincing.
20. FormoreaboutJanLingandtheimportanceofGteborginthehistoryofpopular
musicstudiesandeducation,seeTagg(1998a).
Tagg:MusicsMeaningsPreface 15
form.Itwasclearthatifthoseideasweretobeofanyuseineducation,
they would have to be tested in various ways until viable patterns
startedtoemergethatinthelongertermmighttogetherconstituteanat
leastpartiallycoherentbodyoftheoryandmethod.Mostoftheinitial
testingtookplaceinanalysisclasseswherethestudentsrecurrentmis
takes,questionsandinsightsforcedmetoformulatepotentiallyuseful
patternsofanalyticaltheoryandapproach.
21
So,armedwithmyown
experiencesofmusicandmusicmaking,withcommentsandquestions
frommusicstudents,withDaveLaingsappealforasemioticdimen
siontothestudyofpopularmusic(Laing,1969:1946),andwithafew
rudimentary concepts imported into musicology from hermeneutics
andsemiotics,Iendedupproducingadoctoralthesisin1979aboutthe
meaningsofthetitlemusictotheTVseriesKojak.
The Kojak thesis generated plenty of encouraging reactions but it was
alsocriticisedforconcentratingononesinglepieceofmusicandforits
lack of empirical underpinning. Thats why, in the 1980s, I conducted
numerousreceptiontestsontentitletunes(notjustone)and,withBob
Claridas help, started dealing with response data, transcriptions and
musicalanalyses.Theideawastoinvestigatelistenerresponsesinrela
tiontostructuralelementsinthetenthemetunesand,intheprocess,to
thoroughly test, finetune and improve the analytical methods pro
posedintheKojakthesis.Duemainlytothewealthoflistenerresponses
and their often complex connection to the musical structures eliciting
them,TenLittleTitleTunes(TLTT)provedtobeamammothundertak
ing.Inaddition,logisticalfactors,includingfulltimeteachingcommit
ments,theacademicimperativetopublishayearlyquotaofarticlesor
die, and moving continents, meant that the 914page book was not
completeduntilDecember2003.
22

Even though Id been encouraged, at various points during the 1980s


and1990s,byrespectedfriendsandcolleagueslikeDaveLaingandSi
monFrithtoproduceabooklikethisone,andeventhoughIdbeenap
21. Onesuchapproachtograduallyemergeinthoseearlyyears(197276)wasinterob
jectivecomparison,themaintopicinChapter7ofthisbook.
22. TheearlierworkisinTagg(2000a,b).The914pagebookisTagg&Clarida(2003).
ForexplanationofworkonTLTT,seep. 17, ff.
16 Tagg:MusicsMeaningsPreface
proachedbyarespectedpublishinghouseinterestedinabookwiththe
workingtitleMusicsMeanings,Ifeltunabletostartworkonitbefore
completingTLTT(TenLittleTitleTunes).Itjustdidntfeelrighttowrite,
let alone publish, Musics Meanings until the theory and method I
wantedtoproposeinithadbeentested.TLTTdocumentsthatprocess
oftestinginconsiderabledetail.Itsoftenusedasasourceforideasand
informationinthisbook(seep.17).
Justasimportantinlayingthegroundworkforthisbookareallthestu
dents who since 1971 attended my analysis classes. Between October
1993,whennonmusos first joined my MAseminarinLiverpool,and
December2009,whenIretired,Ispentover2,000hoursteachingsome
sort of semiotic music analysis to around 800 students.
23
That means
lotsofanalysesmarked,lotsofquestionsasked,lotsofdiscussionand
lotsofopportunitytoobservewhichideasandmethodscausedprob
lems or led to good results. Much of this book relies heavily on that
teachingexperienceandonthelessonsIlearntaboutwhatdidanddid
notwork,whatwasunnecessary,whatneededclearerexplanation,etc.
Thisbookalsodrawsondecadesofhavingtoconfrontreceivedwis
domaboutmusicandmusicallearning.Imreferringtovarioustaboos
and articles of faith according to which music is considered as an al
mostexclusivelysubjective,magicalandirrationalphenomenonofhu
man experience that needs to be kept in a conceptually separate
compartment from any systematic or rational notion of how knowl
edgeandmeaningarecreatedandmediated.Mypersonalcredoisthat
failure to be rational and objective about what is habitually pigeon
holedasirrationalandsubjectiveistantamounttointellectualtreach
eryinacultureandsocietywhichexploitsourdualconsciousnessfor
shorttermgoalsofpoliticalorfinancialgain.Therefore,inordertopre
23. 13yearsoffulltimeteaching(6inLiverpool,7inMontral)4courses(modules)at3
hoursperweekforanaverageof26teachingweeksperyear(12persemesterinLiv
erpool,14inMontral)=4056hours,minusthe2nonanalysiscourses,oratotalof
2028hoursanalysisteaching19932009.Studentnumbersareestimatedasfollows:
graduateseminarsmin.10,undergraduateclassesmax.60,average=30studentsin
2analysisclassesperyearfor13years(30213)=780students.Roughlyonethird
ofthestudentsinoneanalysisclassperyearwerenonmusos(78032=130).
Between1971and1993Ihadprobablytaughtsomesortofmusicanalysistoabout
500studentsinSweden(c..
Tagg:MusicsMeaningsPreface 17
parethewayforthesortoftheoryandmethodpresentedinChapters
614, I have to examine, explain and deconstruct the articles of faith
which have for such a long time obstructed the development and
spread of viable and democratic ways of talking about music as if it
meantsomethingotherthanitself.
Inshort,extensivetestingofanalysisproceduresintheclassroomand
repeatedexposuretoreceivedwisdomaboutmusicmeansthatIfelt
confident enoughin 2007 to start work on this book so that the back
ground,theoryandpracticeofthoseanalysisprocedurescouldbepre
sentedtoawiderpublic.
TLTT
TLTT(TenLittleTitleTunes;Tagg&Clarida,2003)isa914pagetometo
whichIoftenreferinthisbook. Toavoidhavingtoexplaintherationale
andproceduresofTLTTeachtime,heresabriefresumofinformation
relevant to its use in this publication. My back cover sales pitch for
TLTTincludedthefollowingstatements.
24

[TLTT]documentstheassociationsofhundredsofrespondentstoten
extractsofmusic,eachheardwithoutvisualaccompanimentbutused
asfilmorTVtitlemusic.Itdealswithlinksbetweenlistenerconnota
tions and musical structures in the global, AngloUSAmerican mass
mediacultureofthelatetwentiethcentury,analysingmusogeniccate
goriesofthoughtwhichownseriousideologicalpotential.
UnderheadingslikeMinorAmenandcrisischords,Sighingsixthsandsev
enths, Country & Latin clipclop, Bigcountry modalism, Ethnic folk lutes,
Anaphonictelegraphy,Busyxylophonesandcomicbustle,TheChurchofthe
FlattedFifthandP.I.Cool,Latinpercussionandeyeshadow,etc.,[TLTT]re
vealshownotionsofgender,love,loneliness,injustice,nostalgia,sad
ness, exoticism, nature, crime, normality, urgency, fashion, fun, the
military,etc.aremusicallymediated.
Thebasicstoryisthatbetween1980and1985,andformethodological
reasons already mentioned (p. 15), I played the ten title tunes to indi
24. Thecompletebackcoverblurb,amoredetailedoverviewofitscontents,opinions
aboutitandalinktodownloaditareallattagg.org/mmmsp/10Titles.html [110218].
18 Tagg:MusicsMeaningsPreface
vidualsattendingoneofmylecturesorseminars.Mostofthe600odd
respondentssubjectedtothethisexercisewereSwedish,butthetunes
were also tested on 44 Latin Americans. Many respondents were stu
dentsstillin,orwhohadrecentlyleft,tertiaryeducation,somewerein
secondaryeducation,othersinadulteducation.Therepresentationof
men and women as well as of musos and nonmusos was roughly
equal.Thebasicreceptiontestprocedures,includingtheirconstruction,
implementationandresultclassificationaredescribedinChapter6.
TLTTinvolvedalotofstatisticalandanalyticaldonkeywork.Sinceone
mainaimwastofindoutHOWMUCHOFWHATrespondentsimaginedas
associatedwithWHATinthetenpieces,eachtunehadtobetranscribed,
asdidalltherelevantbitsofIOCM;
25
andresponseshadtobegrouped
incategoriessothat,forexample,thenumberofmenorwomenimag
inedinconnectionwithonetunecouldbereasonablycomparedwith
thenumberofmenorwomenassociatedwithanother.Thatcompari
son provoked an enlightening but disturbing discussion of the repre
sentationofmaleandfemalethroughmusic.
26
Sufficeitheretosaythat
responsestatisticsfromTLTTcitedinthisbookcanbeinterpretedusing
thefollowingexample.
Over50%ofrespondentsmentionedsomethingineitherofthecatego
riesLOVEorMALEFEMALECOUPLEonhearingthefirsttuneinthetest
battery.
27
Bearing in mind that the average number of concepts re
portedperpersonpertunewasgreaterthanthreeandthatthetestwas
one of unguided association, 50% is a very high score indicating that
everyotherrespondentindependentlychosetowritedownwordslike
LOVE,ROMANCEorCOUPLEonhearingthepieceandthatsexcluding
responseslikeSTROKING,FLOATING,SLOWMOTION,EMBRACING,KISSING,
DREAMING and WONDERING. Associations in the campestral category
(GRASS, MEADOWS, FIELDS, etc.) were also common (15%), as were re
sponses like WALKING THROUGH/OVER/ACROSS the scene (14%), in
25. IOCM:seeGlossary(p.592)andChapter7,esp.p.238,ff.
26. SeechapterTitleTuneGenderandIdeology(TLTT:665679).Readersrequiring
furtherdetailsofthedonkeyworkinTLTTareinvitedtoconsultTLTTsappendices
16(pp.683804)anditsChapter3(esp.pp. 107150).TLTTcanbeobtainedbyvisit
ingtagg.org/mmmsp/publications.html [120418].
27. TheDreamofOlwen(CharlesWilliams,1947).
Tagg:MusicsMeaningsPreface 19
SPRINGorSUMMER(13%)sometimeintheNINETEENTHCENTURY(8%),
mostlikelysomewhereinNORTHWESTERNEUROPE(5%),definitelynot
in Asia, Africa or anywhere on the American continent (all 0%). Nor
wereanydetectives,spies,cowboys,villains,crime,streets,disorder,or
moderntimesmentionedbyanybody:therewasnothingfast,cosmic,
urban, inimical, threatening, eruptive, conflictive, military, asocial or
anything else of that type evoked by one or more of the other nine
pieces,inanyrespondentsimaginationonhearingthepiece.Theper
centagessimplyrepresenttheprobabilityofanyoftheindividualtest
subjectscomingupwithaparticularconnotationinunguidedresponse
to one of the ten test tunes, or of mentioning a connotation subse
quentlyclassifiedinoneofthecategorieslistedintheVVAtaxonomy
shownasTable61(p. 209, ff.).
Terminology
ToavoidunnecessaryconfusionIvetriedasmuchaspossibletostick
to established concepts and definitions when writing this book. The
onlytroubleisthatestablishedterminologyissometimesthecauseof
confusion, not its remedy. This is partly true for semiotic concepts in
needofadaptationtospecificallymusogenictypesofsemiosis,whence
neologisms like ANAPHONE, GENRE SYNECDOCHE and TRANSSCANSION
(seeChapter13andGlossary).Muchmoreseriousisanembarrassingly
illogicalandethnocentricsetofkeyconceptsusedinconventionalmu
sicstudiesintheWesttodenotemusicalstructuresbearingontheor
ganisation of pitch. Ive dealt with these issues in The Troubles with
TonalTerminology(Tagg,2011f)andsuggestedmoreadequatedefini
tions of words like NOTE, TONE, TONALITY, MODE, POLYPHONY and
COUNTERPOINT.Themostimportantofthoseclarificationsaresumma
risedinChapter8(p.272,ff.).
JustasproblematicisthenotionofFORMwhichinconventionalmusic
theorymeansthewayinwhichepisodes(sections)inapieceofmusic
arearrangedinsuccessionintoawholealongtheunidirectionalaxisof
passingtime.Thatisindeedoneaspectofmusicalform,butthereisan
other,equallyimportantandarguablymorefundamentalaspectof
formwhichseemstohavelargelyescapedtheattentionofconventional
musical scholarship. Im referring to now sound as form created
20 Tagg:MusicsMeaningsPreface
throughthearrangementofsimultaneouslysoundingstrandsofmusic
intoasynchronicwholeinsidetheEXTENDEDPRESENT(p. 272, ff.).With
out the shape and form of those batches of now sound, the conven
tionally diachronic aspect of musical form cannot logically exist. Its
sometimes called texture but thats only one aspect of synchronic
form. Obviously, if both types of form constitute form, other words
are needed to distinguish between the two. To cut a very long story
short,Iwasunable,afterextensiveinvestigationandepistemicagonis
ing,tofindanyadequateconceptualpairoflabelstocovertheessential
distinctionbetweenthosetwotypesofmusicalform.Ihadnoalterna
tive but tointroducethe terms DIATAXIS todenotethe diachronicand
SYNCRISISthesynchronictypesofmusicalform.Thetwoconceptsare
explainedinalittlemoredetailatthestartofChapter11.
28

OverviewofchaptersinMusicsMeanings
This book falls roughly into two parts. Part 1, Meanings of music
(Chapters 15), clears the conceptual and theoretical ground for the
bulkofthebookinPart2,Meaningsofmusic(Chapters614),which
focusesonanalysingmusicasifitmeantsomethingotherthanitself
andontheparametersofmusicalexpression.
Part1Meaningsofmusic?
Chapter1Howmuchmusic?(pp.3541)estimatestheimportanceof
musicintermsoftimeandmoneyintheeverydaylifeofpeopleliving
intheurbanWest.
Chapter2Themostimportantthing(pp.4382)startswithdefini
tionsofandaxiomsaboutmusic,includingtheconceptofconcertedsi
28. ThetermsarealsodefinedintheGlossary.Ihaveyettowriteuptheprocessofter
minologicalelimination,butherearesomeoftheproblematicconceptualpairsthat
passedreview:formv.texture,syntagm[a]v.paradigm,diachronyv.synchrony,narrative
v.immediateform,longtermv.shorttermform,extensionalv.intensionalform;horizontal
v.verticalform;passingtimev.presenttimeform.Otherpotentialbutunsuitabletermi
nologicalcandidatesforthejobweresyntax,nowsound,diathesisandsynthesis.The
primeconsiderationwastofindtermsthatunequivocallydesignatedeachphenom
enonandnothingelse.Anotherconsiderationwastheabilityofthewordstoform
adjectivalandadverbialderivatives(diactactic[al][ly],syncritic[ally]).
Tagg:MusicsMeaningsPreface 21
multaneity, the nonantagonistic contradiction between musics intra
andextragenericaspects,andthebasictenetthatmusicisnotauniversal
language. After an intercultural comparison of words denoting what
wecallmusicandashorthistoryoftheconceptinEuropeanthinking,
musicsrelationtoothermodesofhumanexpressionisdiscussedusing
observations from the anthropology of human evolution as well as from
theories of crossdomain representation, synaesthesis and the cognitive
neuroscienceofmusic.Thechapterfinisheswithasectiononaffect,emo
tion,feelingandmood,followedbyafinalwordabouttheuseofverbal
metaphorsofperceivedmusicalmeaning.
Chapter3Theepistemicoiltanker(pp.83132)confrontsthenotion
ofabsolutemusic,tracingitshistory,demystifyingitsarticlesoffaith,in
cludingthoseofitslatterdaypostmodernistcounterpart,anddecon
structing its ideological implications. The chapters second part
identifiesinstitutionalsplitsinmusicalknowledge(poeticv.aesthesic
etc.) that exacerbate the polarities of dual consciousness. It also helps
explainwhy,inWesterninstitutionsoflearning,notationwasforsuch
alongtimeconsideredtheonlyvalidmusicalstoragemedium.
Chapter4Ethno,socio,semio(pp.133154)discussesthethreemain
disciplinarychallengestoconventionalmusicstudiesinthetwentieth
century:ethnomusicology,thesociologyofmusicandthesemioticsofmusic.
Ithighlightstheircontribution,realorpotential,todevelopingaviable
sortofsemioticmusicanalysis.Itunderlinestheimportanceofethno
musicologyandempiricalsociology.Italsoaddressestheproblemsof
musicsemioticsindealingwithsemanticsandpragmatics.
Chapter 5 Meaning and communication (pp. 155193) is the books
semiotic theorychapter. It explains keyconceptslikesemiotics,semiol
ogy,semiosis(incl.objectsigninterpretant),semantics,syntax,pragmat
ics, sign type (icon index arbitrary sign), denotation, connotation,
connotative precision, polysemy, transmitter, receiver, codal incompetence
and codal interference. All these concepts are essential to the adequate
treatmentofthebooksmainanalyticalquestionsaboutmusicalmean
ing.
22 Tagg:MusicsMeaningsPreface
Part2Meaningsofmusic
Chapter 6 Intersubjectivity (pp. 195228) presents the first of two
waysofgettingtogripswiththemeaningofamusicalANALYSISOBJECT
(Glossary, p. 582). Six reasons for prioritising the aesthesic rather than
poeticpolearefollowedbyabriefpresentationofhowethnographicob
servationcanhelpinthesemioticanalysisofmusic.Muchofthechapter
deals with reception tests, the categorisation of verbalvisual associa
tions (VVAs), the establishment of paramusical fields of connotation
(PMFCs)andotherimportantstepsinthecollectionandcollationofre
sponsedata.Thechapterendswithashortsectionontheuseoflibrary
musicinsystematisingreceptiontestresponses.
Chapter 7 Interobjectivity (pp. 229261) focuses on intertextual ap
proachestotheinvestigationofmeaninginmusic.Afterthedefinition
ofessentialtermsobject,structure,musemethetwostageprocessof
interobjective comparison is explained, complete with advice on collect
ing interobjective comparison material (IOCM) and on the establish
ment of paramusical fields of connotation (PMFC). Verification
procedures recomposition, commutation are also explained and the
chapterendswithasectionthatshouldallaynonmusoanxietiesabout
thedesignationofmusicsstructuralelementsasanessentialpartofanaly
sisprocedure.
Chapter8Terms,time&space(pp.263303)isthefirstoffivetofo
cusonparametersofexpression,i.e.onstructurallyidentifiablefactorsde
termining how music sounds and what it potentially communicates.
Thefirstsectionsummarisesparamusicalparameters(audience,venue,
lyrics,images,etc.)andtheirroleintheconstructionofmusicalmean
ing.Italsoincludesexplanationsofbasictermsessentialtosubsequent
discussiongenre,style,note,pitch,tone,timbreandtheextendedpresent.
Mostofthechapterisdevotedtosimpleexplanationsoftemporalspatial
parameters,includingduration,phrase,motif,period,episode,speed,pulse,
beat,subbeat,tempo,surfacerate,rhythm,accentuation,metreandgroove.It
ends with a section on aural staging, i.e. the placement of different
soundsindifferent(orsimilar)typesofacousticspace,bothinrelation
toeachotherandasawholeinrelationtothelistener.
Tagg:MusicsMeaningsPreface 23
Chapter9Timbre,loudnessandtone(pp.305342)coversthesecond
set of parameters of musical expression. After reviewing instrumental
timbre(vocaltimbreiscoveredinChapter10)andhowitcreatesmean
ing,anoverviewofacousticdevicesanddigitaleffectsunitsexplainseve
rythingfrompizzicatoandvibratotodistortion,filtering,phasing,limiting
andgating.Then,afterashortsectiondealingwithloudness,volumeand
intensity,therestofthechapterprovidesarudimentaryguidetothings
tonal, including pitch, octave, register, interval, mode, key, tonic, melody,
tonal polyphony, heterophony, homophony, counterpoint, harmony, chords
andchordprogressions.
Chapter10Vocalpersona(pp.343381)concentratesononecomplex
of parameters of musical expression whose meaningful details non
musostendtoidentifyandlabelmoreeasilythanmusosdo.Theseaes
thesic and vernacular characterisations of spoken and singing voices are
sortedintoataxonomyincludingdescriptorsofvocalcostume,aswellas
thosederivedfromdemographics,professions,psychologicalandnarrative
archetypes.Practicalwaysofrelatingvocalsoundtopostureandattitudeare
explainedsothatitsmeaningscanbemoreeasilygraspedandverbal
isedaspartofthesemioticanalysis.
Chapter 11 Diataxis (pp. 383416) is thefirst of two long chapters
aboutcompositemacroparametersofmusicalexpression.Itdealswith
thenarrativeshapeandformofmusicsepisodes,withitsdiachronic,ex
tensional and chronologically more horizontal aspects. It focuses on
conceptslikeverse,chorus,refrain,hook,bridge,strophicform,AABAform,
sonata form and the ways in which such ordering of musical episodes
createsmeaning.
Chapter12Syncrisis(pp.417484)dealswiththesynchroniccom
bination of sounds in music, with the intensional and chronologically
more vertical aspects of form, with issues of singularity, multiplicity,
densityandsparsity,etc.Themelodyaccompanimentdualismisexamined
as musical parallel to the perceptual grid of figureground in other art
forms and leads to a discussion of how different types of subjectivity
and patterns of social organisation can be heard in contrapuntal poly
phony,heavymetal,electronicdancemusic,unisonsinging,heterophony,ho
mophony,crossrhythm,responsorialpractices,basslines,etc.,aswellasin
24 Tagg:MusicsMeaningsPreface
various grouptype manifestations, e.g. rock bands, symphony orchestras.
Thechapterendswithexamplesofthedualfiguregroundrelationship
heard in innumerable pop songs and title themes, and with a brief
glimpseintofigurelessorbodilesstypesofsyncrisis.
Chapter13Asimplesigntypology.Withpotentiallymeaningfulmusi
calstructures(musemes,musemestringsandstacks,diataxisandsyn
crisis) identified and linked to possible fields of paramusical
connotation,thischapterpresentsworkablewaysofcheckingthevia
bilityofthoselinks.DoesthemusemerelatetoitsPMFCasananaphone
throughtheprocessofgesturalinterconversion,orasagenresynecdoche
by referring to other music and its connotations, or is it an episodic
markersignifyingstart,endorbridge?Ordoesit,asastyleindicator,
identify a home style in relation to other styles of music? Or is it a
combinationofmorethanoneofthosebasicsigntypes?
Chapter 14 Analysing film music illustrates how ideas and proce
durespresentedinthebookcanbeputintopractice.Afteradescription
ofthecourseMusicandtheMovingImageandadiscussionofconceptual
prerequisitestothesubject,therestofthechapterfocusesonthestu
dent assignment Cuelistand analysisofa feature film,concentrating on
underscoreandpresentingwaysofexplaininghowmusiccontributes
totheoverallmessageofbothindividualscenesandtothefilmasa
whole.
Appendices
Glossary
TermsthatIveborrowed,adaptedorhadtocoininordertodesignate
phenomena relevant to the ideas presented in this book are listed al
phabeticallyanddefinedintheGlossary(p. 581,ff.).Specificallymuso
termsthatmayneedexplanation(e.g.pizzicato,sulponte)andarentin
cludedintheGlossarycanbeeasilycheckedonlineusing,say,thereli
able Wikipedia glossary of musical terminology at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
Glossary_of_musical_terminology [120111].Pleasenotethatindicatesaweb
address(URL,seeInternetreferences,below).
Tagg:MusicsMeaningsPreface 25
References
Tosavespaceandtoavoidconfusionaboutwhichappendixtoconsult
when checking source references, this book has only ONE reference ap
pendix,theREFERENCEAPPENDIX(abbreviatedRefAppx).Othersub
stantialreasonsforincludingeverythinginoneappendix,aswellas
alltheiconsusedtosavespace,areexplainedatthestartoftheRefer
enceAppendixonpage607.
Footnotes
The software used to produce this book, Adobe FrameMaker v.8, has
oneirritatingdefect:ifthereisntenoughroomatthebottomofthecur
rentpageforthecompletetextofafootnote,itputstheentirefootnote
textatthebottomofthefollowingpage.Therefore,ifthereisnotextat
thebottomofthepageonwhichafootnoteflagnumberoccursinthe
mainbodyoftext,dontbealarmed.Thecompletefootnotetextwillap
pearatthebottomofthefollowingpage.
Youmayalsooccasionallyfindthesamefootnotenumber,likethelittle
29 here,
29
occurring in the main text twice in succession, like this.
29
Dontfret.Bothnumbersintentionallyrefertothesamefootnote.
I know that some readers find my use of footnotes excessive and an
noying. While I sincerely regret causing readers irritation, I persist in
mystrugglefortherighttofootnoteforthefollowingeightreasons.
1. Manyfootnotesconsistofeitherreferencestootherworkorof
extendedargumentationabout,orexemplificationof(see2),a
topicwhich,forreasonsofspaceandclarity,cannotbeincludedin
themainbodyoftext.ReadersscepticalaboutsomeofthethingsI
trytoputacrossneedtoknowifIhaveanybackingforwhatI
write.Sinceitwouldbeunfairtolumberallreaderswiththatsortof
extraevidence,Itrytomakeitasunobtrusiveaspossiblebycon
signingittofootnotes.
2. Manyfootnotesrefertoactualpiecesofmusicexemplifyingobser
vationsmadeinthemaintext.Allthosemusicalreferencesare
listedintheRefAppx,togetherwithsourcedetails.Asubstantial
proportionofthosesourcesincludedirecthyperlinkstorecordings
thatcanbeheardattheclickofamouse.SinceIcannotpossibly
29. Bothfootnoteflagsreferintentionallytothissamesinglefootnote.
26 Tagg:MusicsMeaningsPreface
knowwhichofmycommentsaboutmusicwillbeunderstandable
withoutexemplificationtoeveryreader,evenlessknowwhich
musicexampleswillbefamiliartoeachandeveryone,andsinceit
wouldbeunfairtolumbereveryreaderwithtextthatmaybeobvi
oustosome,Iputreferencetothosemusicalexamplesinfootnotes
forthosewhowanttohearwhatitsoundslike.
3. AfairnumberoffootnotescontainURLs,someofwhicharenotori
ouslylongandcannotbeincludedinthemainbodyoftextwithout
seriouslyupsettingtheflowofreading.
4. Somereadersaresimplyinquisitiveandjustwanttoknowabit
moreaboutatopicthatIcantfullycoverinthemainbodyoftext.I
trytoprovidepointersforthosereadersifandwhenIcan.
5. Sincethisbookiswrittenwithamainlynonmusoreadershipin
mind,Ivepainstakinglytriedtoreducebothmusicalnotationand
musicologicaljargontoanabsoluteminimuminthemainbodyof
text.Onafewoccasions,however,additionalstructuralinforma
tionpotentiallyusefultomusoshasbeenconsignedtofootnotes.
6. Despitethedonkeyworkinvolvedinwritingfootnotes(about50%
oftheeffortinvestedinproducingthisbook),Ithinkthatacademic
proceduresforsourcereferencingareimportantsoreadersknow
whentheauthorisawareofusingsomeoneelsesideas.Itsalso
important,Ithink,forreaderstobeabletofindverbal,musicaland
audiovisualsourcematerialsrelevanttowhatIwriteabout.The
mainbodyoftextwouldbemuchlessreadableifitincludedall
thosereferences.Footnotesprovideacompromisesolutiontothat
problem.
7. AsItrytoexplaininChapter2,musicisacombinatoryandholistic
symbolicsysteminvolvingcrossdomainrepresentationandsyn
aesthesis.Thatinturnmeansthattalkingorwritingaboutmusic
can(andmaybeshould)gooffinalmostanydirection.AlthoughI
makevalianteffortsinthisbooktotoetheonedimensionallineof
thewrittenword,itwouldbedishonesttogivereaderstheimpres
sionthattherichnessandprecisionofmusicalmeaningcanbereal
isticallyexplainedusingthelinearityofverbaldiscourseand
nothingelse.Therefore,whilesuchlinearitycanbeusefulwhen
discussingmusicsmeanings,thereareoccasionswhenitbecomes
inappropriateandwhengoingoffatatangentistheonlyviable
discursivestrategy.Thatsaid,ifIweretoputeverypossibletan
Tagg:MusicsMeaningsPreface 27
gent,everypertinenttrainoflateralmusogenicthought,intothe
mainbodyoftextitwouldatbestreadlikeabadparodyofpas
sagesfromTristramShandy(Sterne,175967).Ithereforetakethe
occasionallibertyofputtingsomeoftheinevitablylateralthinking
thatcomeswiththeterritoryofmusicintofootnotes.
8. Contradictionsinsideconventionalmusictheory,aswellas
betweenmusicalandverbaldiscourse,aresometimesdownright
comical.Iveincludedafewsuchitemsinthemaintext,for
instancethedubiousassumptionthatmusicispolysemicandthe
implicationthatatonalmusiccontainsnotones.Afewotherjokes
areperipheraltothemainargumentandhavebeenrelegatedto
footnotes.Typicalexamplesoffootnotefrivolityare:[1]inthesec
tionontransscansion,whereIsuggestgormlesswordsyoucould
singtotheStarWarstheme(Williams,1977);[2]inthesectionon
sonicanaphones,whereIraisetheissueofwhetherornotlivepoul
trywasusedinPsychoChicken(TheFools,1980).
ItsfortheseeightreasonsthatIbeseechthoseirritatedbyfootnotesto
treatthemindulgently,totoleratetheirpresenceor,ifneedbe,tosim
ply ignore them. Reading footnotes is after all an option. They arent
forcedonyouand,unlikeadvertisingandothertypesofpropaganda,
theydontassumeyoureaninfantilemoron.Ifthefootnotesstillbother
you, just treat them like bonus features on a DVD: you dont have to
watchthoseanymorethanyouhavetoreadmyfootnotesoropenon
lineadlinks.Youdecidewhatyouwanttoread.Idont.
Selfreferencing
Iwasinitiallyembarrassedbythenumberofreferencesmadeinparts
of this book to my own work. Rest assured that Ive nothing to gain
fromselfpromotionnowthatImapensionerandmycareerisover.I
havetorefertomyselfsimplybecausethisbookdrawsmuchmoreon
myownexperienceasamusicpractitioner,teacherandscholarthanon
anyoneelses.Ijustthoughtitbetter,whereappropriate,torefertomy
own work than to pretend that nothing Id produced could possibly
providealittlemoremeatonthebone.
28 Tagg:MusicsMeaningsPreface
Intextandfootnotesourcereferences
Audiovisualandmusicalsourcereferencesfollowthesameprinciples
asbibliographicalsourcereferences.Forinstance,Norman(1962)re
fersuniquelytopublishingdetailsenteredintheReferenceAppendix
(RefAppx, p. 607) for the original recording of The James Bond Theme
(p. 637).
SinceIcannotpredicthowfamiliareachreaderwillbewitheachtopic
discussedinthisbook,Iveincludedmanyinternalcrossreferencesto
pageswhereparticulartopicsarecovered.Ifyourereadingthisasan
ebookusingAdobeReader,mostofthoseinternalreferenceswillwork
asactivehyperlinks.
Moreover, many internet references in the electronic version of this
bookworkasactivehyperlinks.Clickingthelinktagg.org,forexam
ple,shouldtakeyoutomyhomepage.Ifitdoesnt,youreeitherread
ing this as hard copy, or youre not connected to the internet, or
someonehasremovedmywebsite,oryoureusingbookreadingsoft
warethatdoesntsupporthyperlinksinPDFfiles(seeunderFormats,
platformsanddevicesonpage29).Thissameprovisoappliestointer
nalpagereferencesinsidethebook.
Internetreferences
To save space in the References Appendix (RefAppx) and footnotes,
URLsareshortened,wherepossible,byreplacingtheinternetaddress
prefixes http://, http://www. etc. with the internet download icon .
Datesofaccesstointernetsitesarereducedtosixdigitstringsinsquare
brackets. For example: tagg.org [120704] means a visit to my home
page(http://www.tagg.org)on4
th
July2012.
YouTubereferencesarereducedinlengthfrom42to13charactersby
usingtheunique11charactercodeappearingintheirabsoluteURLad
dress,precededbytheYouTubeiconm.Forexample:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=msM28q6MyfY(42chars.)
isrenderedasjustm msM28q6MyfY (symbol + 11 chars).
30
Most of
theseYouTubereferencesareactivehyperlinks.
Tagg:MusicsMeaningsPreface 29
Publicationissues
Formats,platformsanddevices
Thisversion(2.4)isavailableasbothebookandinhardcopy(version
1).Errorsdetectedinearlierversionshavebeencorrectedandthebook
hasbeenprovidedwithanextensiveindex.
31

Since the functionality of relevant software and hardware varies con


siderably and is in a constant state of change, information about de
vices,fileformats,bookreadingapps,etc.isgivenonline.Ebookusers
are therefore advised to consult Publication format and devices at
tagg.org/mmmsp/BookFormats.html.
32
Page numbering and hyperlinks
(bothinsidethisbookandtotheinternet)arefullytestedusingAdobe
ReaderXversion10.1.3onbothPCandMac,andAdobeReaderver
sion10.2.1onanAndroidtablet.
Caveataboutinternetreferences
Pleasebeawarethatmaterialontheinternetcanbedeleted,moved,re
named,orremovedforanynumberofreasons.Inaccessibilityofinter
netmaterialreferredtointhisbookisduetocircumstancesbeyondmy
controlassimpleauthor/editor.Icannotguaranteethefunctionalityof
anysuchreference.
Ifyoureusingatablettoreadthis,youmayalsooccasionallyseetheer
ror message The author has not made this [content] available on mobiles.
Youcaneithernotbotheraboutthereferenceorviewitonacomputer
instead.AnothererrormessagemightbeAccessmaybeforbidden.This
usuallyturnsupwhenthereferenceistoapayforknowledgesiteof
the JSTOR type. Ive tried to keep reference to such sites to a mini
mum.
33
Hereagain,youcaneitherignoreoruseacomputerinaninsti
tutionthatcanaffordaJSTORtypesubscription.
30. WorthknowingaboutYouTubeuniquefileidentities:ifyoucopythe11characters
(e.g.msM28q6MyfY)andpastethemintotheYouTubesearchbox,youwillbetakento
thatvideoandnoneother,andyouwillnotbetoldwhatelseyoumightenjoy!
31. Tosenderrata,pleasegoto fd2.formdesk.com/tagg/ErrataMMMSP.
32. Ifyourereadingthisashardcopy,orusingbookreadingsoftwarethatdoesntsup
porthyperlinksinPDFfiles,andifyouwanttoknowmore,proceedasfollows.[1]
Gotoacomputerwithanonlineconnection.[2]Useawebbrowserandtype
tagg.org/mmmsp/BookFormats.htmlintheaddressbar.[3]Readthetext!
33. Ithinksuchsitesareundemocratictagg.org/rants/Pay4Knowledge0901a.htm.
30 Tagg:MusicsMeaningsPreface
Sometimesyoumayfindthatavideooraudiohyperlinkdoesntplay.
Thatsusuallybecausetheyreinaformatforwhichyourcomputeror
tablethasnoplugin.Pleasealsonotethatcompactedfilesontheinter
net(e.g.ZIPformat)sometimesneedtobefirstdownloadedtoyourde
viceandtobeopenedinothersoftwarethantheoneyouareusingto
readthisbook.
Copyright
Manyofthemusicalandaudiovisualworksreferredtointhisbookhave
atonetimeoranotherbeenissuedcommercially.Itwouldintheearly
1990shavebeenabsurdtoexpectreaderstohaveaccesstomorethana
very small proportion of those works. In 2012, however, it is in most
casesaverysimplematterifyouknowwheretolook.Fearingprosecu
tionforinducementtoillegalacts,Icantbemorepreciseherethanto
saythatthereareseveralwellknownwebsiteswhereyoucanhearthe
majorityofrecordedworks,audiooraudiovisual,Irefertointhisbook.
Someofthosesitesarepayperdownloadandlegal,somearelegaland
free, while other free sites may have posted recordings illegally. This
muchIcansay:anonlinesearchfor Police "Dont Stand So Close To Me"
(withthequotemarks)produced32,200hits[20090613],thefirsttwo
of which, when clicked, took me to actual online recordings (on
YouTube)oftheoriginalissueofthetune(Police,1980).Usingtheon
screen digital timecode provided by YouTube, I was able to pinpoint
the radical change fromverse to chorusat1:48.The whole process of
checking a precise musical event in just one among millions of songs
tooklessthanaminute.Pleasebeawarethatwhileitisnotillegaltolis
tentomediapostedonline,downloadingworksundercopyrightwith
outpermissionorpaymentmostprobablyis.
34
Ihave,forthereaders
convenience,includedmanyreferencestoYouTubepostingsortopost
ingsonmysite.Thesereferencesaremainlytotwotypesofwork:those
inthepublicdomainorwhichIveproducedmyself,andthosewhich
were,atthetimeofpublicationandtomyknowledge,unavailableor
34. ThankstoBobClarida,mediaandcopyrightattorneyatReitler,Kailas&Rosenblatt
(NewYork)forclarifyingthesepoints.
Tagg:MusicsMeaningsPreface 31
otherwisenotreadilyaccessible.Ifyoufindanysuchreferencetobein
breach of copyright legislation please inform me (tagg.org/infocon-
tact.html)andIlleithertakeitdown,deletethereferenceorcontactmy
legal advisor. For more on publishing knowledge about music in the
modernmedia,pleasevisittagg.org/infowhy.html#Copyright.
Index
Sincethisversion(2.4)oftheebookisalsopublishedashardcopy,it
has been provided with an index (pp. 653691) featuring page refer
encestoallpropernamesappearinginthemaintextandthefootnotes.
Notonlydoesitincludeauthors,editors,performers,composers,etc.,
aswellastitlesofmusicalworks,songs,tracks,albums,films,TVpro
ductionsandsoon;italsocontainspagereferencestoallimportanttop
icsandconceptscoveredinthebook.Formoreabouttheindex,please
seetheexplanationsonpage653.
Formalia
Typography
1. AsmallTahomafontisusedtosavespace,especiallywheninternet
URLsarepresented,e.g.tagg.org/mmmsp/index.html.
2. Sans-serifisusedfortwootherpurposes:[i]todistinguishcompu
terkeyboardinputfromthewordsaroundit,forexample:a
Googlesearchfor Police "Dont Stand So Close To Me"produced
32,200hits;[ii]todistinguishtheheadingsoftablesandfigures
fromthesurroundingtext.
3. Bold Courier lower-caseisusedtodistinguishnotenames(a
b$ b8 c# =A,Bflat,Bnatural,Csharp,etc.)fromotheruses
ofsinglelowercaseletters.
4. AphoneticfontisoccasionallyusedtoindicatetheUKpronuncia
tionofpotentiallyunfamiliarwordsaccordingtothesymbols
showninTableP1overleaf.
32 Tagg:MusicsMeaningsPreface
Table P-1. Phonetic symbols for BBC English
Capitals
CAPITALSareingeneralusedaccordingtothenormssetoutinsection
6.9ofAssignmentandDissertationTipsattagg.org/xpdfs/assdiss.pdf.
SMALLCAPITALSareusedforfivepurposes,thefirstfourofwhichoccur
inthemainbodyoftext,thefirsttwoofthosederivingfromtheirusage
inLakoffandJohnson(1979).
1. Tosavespaceandtoavoidhavingtoinsertaplethoraofhyphens
andinvertedcommaswhenintroducingashortstringofwords,
oftenusedadjectivally,todenoteanintegralconcept,forexample:
TheMUSICISMUSICmythisasymptomofdualconsciousness.
2. Todistinguishbetweentypicallyauthorialwordsandthoseofreal
orimaginarylistenersrespondingtomusic,forexample:itsessen
tialtoknowhowmuchAUSTRIAratherthan,say,BRAZILorJAPAN,and
howmuchSHAMPOOratherthanGUNSorCIGARETTESrespondentsimag
inedonhearingthereceptiontestpiece.
o:
ah!,harp,bath,laugh,half
a
hot,what,want,Australia

hat,cat,map,Africa
o:
or,oar,awe,war,all,taught,ought
ai
eye,I,my,fine,high,hifi,why
ai
boy,coil,Deutschland
ao
down,about,Bauhaus,cow,
now(notknow[noo]),
plough(cf.o:andoo)
o
about,killer,tutor,nation,currant,
current,colour,fuel,little,liar,lyre,
future,India,confer,persist,adapt

the,that,breathe,clothes,
although,weather(cf.O)
o:
circumspect,fern,fir,fur,learn,
d
jazz,John,gin,footage,bridge,
Fiji,Django,Gianni(cf.)
oo
no,know,toe,toad,cold,low,
although,(cf.ao,o:)
c
help,better,measure,leisure
]
shirt,station,Sean,champagne,Ni
c:
air,bear,bare,there,theyre
I]
church,itch,cello,future,Czech,hek
ci
date,day,wait,station,email,
Australia,patient,hey!
O
think,throw,nothing,cloth(cf. )
i
it,fit,minute,pretend
r
but,luck,won,colour
i:
eat,sees,seas,seize,Fiji,email
u:
food,cool,rule,rude,through,threw
i:
hear,here,beer,pier
o
foot,look,bush,put
j
yes,yak,use,Europe,Gteborg
ju:
use,few,future,newmusic,tune
q
singing,synchronise,think,
gong,incredible,

genre['o:nr],vision,measure,Joo,
montage,Rzsa,Zhivago,iek(cf.d)
=startofstressedsyllable =longvowel
Tagg:MusicsMeaningsPreface 33
3. TohighlightanIMPORTANTTERMintroducedforthefirsttime
(romanfont),ortorefertoatermexplainedelsewhereinthesame
chapterorintheGLOSSARY(italic).
4. Tosavepagespacewithfrequentlyrecurringcapitalletterabbrevi
ations,forexampleDVDinsteadofDVD,IOCMinsteadofIOCM.
5. Tofacilitatequickeridentificationofalphabeticallyorderedentries
intheReferenceAppendix.
Italics
ItalicsareingeneralusedaccordingtothenormssetoutinAssignment
andDissertationTips(Tagg,2001: 4952)attagg.org/xpdfs/assdiss.pdf.
Italicsarealsousedtodemarcatelongerexpressionsthatforreasonsof
syntaxandcomprehensionhavetobeincludedaspartofthesentence
containingthemandwhichwouldbeevenclumsierifdelimitedwith
quotationmarks,forinstance:youcanalsorefertomusicalstructures
inrelativeterms,forexamplethedangerstabsjustbeforethefinalchord,or
thelastfivenotesofthetwangyguitartunejustbeforeitrepeats.
Timingsanddurations
Giventhatmostmusicalrecordingsexistindigitalform,andgiventhat
digitalplaybackequipmentincludesrealtimedisplay,thepositionof
eventswithinrecordingsdiscussedinthisbookisgiveninminutesand
seconds.0:00or0:00:00indicatesthestartoftherecordinginquestion,
0:56apoint56secondsafter0:00,and1:12:07apointonehour,twelve
minutesandsevensecondsfromthestart(seeUnequivocaltimecode
placement, p. 256, ff.). Durations are expressed in the same form, e.g.
4:33 or 04:33 or 0:04:33 meaning 4 minutes and 33 seconds. To save
space,simpletimingsmaysometimesbeexpressedasfollows(exam
ples):6=sixseconds,12or12.5=twelveandahalfseconds,433or
433=fourminutesandthirtythreeseconds.
Millisecondsaregiveneitherasanintegerfollowedbytheabbreviation
ms(e.g.5msforfivemilliseconds)or,whendenotingexactpointsin
a recording, as the final part after the decimal point following the
numberofseconds,e.g.1:12.500foroneminuteandtwelvepointfive
seconds,or1:12:05.750foronehour,twelveminutesand5seconds.
34 Tagg:MusicsMeaningsPreface
Framecountsinaudiovisualrecordingsareexpressedlikemilliseconds
exceptthattheyconsistofonlytwodigitsandareseparatedfromthe
seconds count by a semicolon, e.g. 1:12:07;16 = one hour, twelve min
utes, seven seconds and sixteen frames. Unless otherwise stated,
framescountsarebasedontheNTSCrateofthirty(29.97)persecond.
Dateabbreviations
Whenabbreviated,datesareusuallyformattedyyyymmdd(e.g.2011
0218)inthemainbodyoftext.Infootnotereferencesandappendices
theyalsoappearasyymmdd(e.g.110218).Thedateinbothcaseshereis
the18
th
ofFebruary,2011.The9
th
ofNovember1981wouldbe198111
09(maintext)or811109(references).
Dictionarydefinitions
Unlessstatedotherwise,dictionarydefinitionsortranslationsaretaken
fromthefollowingworks:
TheConciseOxfordEnglishDictionary(Oxford,1995).
GreekEnglishLexicon,ed.Liddell&Scott(Oxford,1871).
CassellsLatinEnglish,EnglishLatinDictionary(London,1968).
CassellsGermanDictionary(London,1978).
CassellsItalianDictionary(London,1978).
CollinsSpanishDictionary(London,1982)
DicionrioPortugusIngls(Porto,1983).
LepetitRobert(Paris,1970)
Tagg: Musics Meanings 35
1.Howmuchmusic?
NE crude but effective way of understanding musics impor-
tance is to estimate the amount of time and money the average
citizen of the urban West devotes to music on a daily basis.
1

Timebudget
[1]IftheTVmonitorintheaveragehouseholdisswitchedonforfour
andahalfhoursaday,about120minutesofmusicmostlyasjingles,
logos, advertising music, theme tunes and underscore, less often as
musical performance or music videos will pass through the TVs
speakersintoitsviewersearsandbrains.
2

[2]Musicheardinshops,boutiques,malls,supermarkets,hotels,bars
andlifts(elevators),oratreligiousandsportingevents,orattheden
tists,orinpublicspaceslikeairportsandrailwaystations,oratthecin
ema,orinthetheatre,occupiesroughlythirtyminutesadayinthelife
oftheaveragecitizenoftheurbanWest.
[3]Somepeoplewakeuptoaclockradio,somelistentoweatherand
traffic reports and some just keep the radio on in the background for
largepartsoftheday.Anotherthirtyminutesperdayseemsareasona
bleestimatehere,giventhatmostradiotimeconsistsofmusicbetween
boutsofnews,weather,trafficreports,etc.
2
1. Thefigurescitedforpoints1and6arebasedoninformationfromavarietyof
sources(e.g.Alaetal.,1984/1985),includingnotestakenatconferences(seenote2).
Approximationsgivenintheotherpointsarebasedonextrapolation.
2. ThetotalaveragetimetelevisionswereswitchedonintheUSA(20052006)was8
hoursand14minutesperdayTheaverageamountoftelevisionwatchedbyan
individualviewer[was]4hoursand35minutesin20056and4hours24minutes
in201011(NielsenMedia,2007and2011).LennartWeibull,(1989,GteborgsUni
versitet),calculatedmusictobepresentduring70%ofTVbroadcasttime.Thisfig
ureincludedMTVandothercablechannelsaswellasthreeterrestrialchannels.
Weibullalsocalculatedthatmusicaccountedfor90%ofradioprogramminginSwe
deninthelate1980s.Asearlyas1935,70%ofBBCradioprogrammingconsistedof
music.Maull(1999)estimatedmusictobeaudible35%ofthetimeontheUKsall
fourterrestrialchannelsduringpeakviewinghours.Giventhathercalculations
includedtwocompletefootball(soccer)matches,theapproximationof50%seems
quitereasonable,perhapsevenconservative.
N
M
0
1
-
Q
u
a
n
t
.
f
m
.

2
0
1
3
-
0
5
-
2
6
,

1
2
:
0
8
36 Tagg: Musics Meanings 1. How much music?
[4]Somepeopleareexposedtomusicalldayintheirplaceofwork,oth
ersarent.Anotheraverageofthirtyminutesperdaywouldhardlybe
anexcessiveestimateforthissourceofmusic.
[5]Mostpeoplelistentosomemusicoftheirownchoiceathome,inthe
carorontheirsmartphone.Wemayalsohearmusicperformedatfesti
vals,onthestreet,inclubs,bars,concerthalls,theatresandsoon.Many
orussing,whistleorhumintheshowerorinthekitchenandparents
stillsinglullabiesandnurseryrhymestotheiryoungchildren.Someof
usgotokaraokebarsandmostofusjoininHappyBirthdayandother
festivesongs.Someofusevenplayaninstrumentorsinginachoir:if
so, we have to practise. These voluntary acts of music will likely ac
countforanotheraverageofthirtyminutesperpersonperday.
[6]YoungpeopleintheUSAspendanhoureverydayplayingcompu
tergameswithvirtuallyconstantaudio.Ifyoungpeopleconstituteone
fifth of the population, the average citizen will hear another twelve
minutesofmusicperdaywhilegaming.
[7]Ifyouhavetophonealargecorporationorpublicinstitution,you
will,afteryourcallisimportanttousandinterminablemenusofun
wantedoptions,besubjectedtoholdmusicbeforeyoufinallyreacha
human being. On an average day you will also hear a fair number of
mobilephoneringtones,aswellasseveralmusicalattentiongrabbers
overPAsystemsinairportsortrainstations.Youmayevenbewithin
earshotofabelfryorcarillon.Itsnotunreasonabletoestimateanaver
ageofanotherfiveminutesperdayforholdmusic,ringtonesandtonal
signals,bellchimes,etc.
Table 1: Estimated average daily dose of music
Source of music Estimated minutes/day
TV,DVD,video, 120
Shops,bars,airports,etc. 30
Radio 30
Placeofwork 30
Personalchoice 30
Gaming,phones,signals,etc. 17(12+5)
Total 257mins.=4hrs.,17mins.
Tagg: Musics Meanings 1. How much music? 37
If these figures have any validity, average citizens of the Western world
(including babies, pensioners and the deaf, as well as pop fans and mu-
sic students) hear music for more than one quarter of their waking life.
Even if you think these figures are exaggerated, its unlikely that any
other sign system the spoken or written word, pictures, dancing,
etc. can on its own rival musics share of our average daily dose of
symbolic perception.
3
Moneybudget
Musics share of our time budget is echoed by its economic importance.
Despite doomsday declarations from the industry about the suppos-
edly adverse effects of file sharing, global phonogram sales rose con-
stantly to stay at over $40 billion (US) between 1995 and 2001, since
when they have fallen back to 1990 levels of around $25 billion.
4
This
recent decline should be seen against the backdrop of substantial global
increases in the following areas: [1] collection of publishing rights for re-
corded music;
5
[2] sale of satellite/cable TV services and of computer
games, both featuring more than their fair share of music; [3] digital de-
livery of music, accounting for 29% of industrial revenue in 2010;
6
[4]
the recent emergence of live music promotion as the industrys biggest
money spinner (Cloonan, 2011).
7
All of these trends should in their turn
be seen in the context of the financial meltdown of 2008 and of the re-
sultant radical reduction of disposable income experienced by citizens
3. AccordingtoSlobodaetal.(2000),44%ofasampleofsubjects,inanytwohour
period,wereinvolvedinactivitythatincorporatedtheexperienceofmusic,though
inonly2%ofcaseswaslisteningtomusicthemainfocusedactivity.
4. Economiadellamusica(2011:1113).ThankstoFrancoFabbriforthisreference.For
convincingrefutationofmusicindustrymythsaboutillegaldownloads,seeresearch
firmTheLeadingQuestions2005findingthatonlinemusicfilesharersspentfour
andahalftimesmoreonpaidformusicdownloadsthandidaveragefans(BBC
NewsChannel,20050727: news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/4718249.stm [111025].
5. Economiadellamusica(2011:1618).Alsoworthnotingis,forexample,thatmobile
phoneringtoneglobaldownloadrightsalonetopped$1billion(US)in2002andthat
USringtonesalesalonereached$714millionin2007(WikipediaarticleRingtonecit
ingresearchfirmSNLKaganinEntrepreneurmagazine,2009[2011-07-08]).
6. Digitalsalesofrecordedmusicroseby940%between2004and2009toreacha29%
shareoftotalindustryrevenuein2010(IFPI,2011: 67).
38 Tagg: Musics Meanings 1. How much music?
of those nations on whose statistics the trends are based.
8
Its also
worth noting that music is an important source of revenue for the na-
tional economy of countries like the UK, the USA and Sweden. It can
therefore be quite instructive to estimate how much money the average
citizen of the industrialised West spends on music.
9

Lets say you buy a new sound system for your home every ten years
and lets assume that the music you hear via the TV and DVD equip-
ment you buy every ten years is worth one quarter of the purchase
price value. You may also own a smartphone that plays audio and
video, and your laptop will contain audiovisual playback software and
a sound card. You may also be among the one in twenty who buys mu-
sical instruments, sheet music, etc. and you might be paying for private
music lessons. Youll almost certainly have to buy cables, plugs and
batteries for various items of your audio equipment and youll defi-
nitely be paying for the electricity you use to run it all. Estimating all
these costs at $3,600 over ten years works out at one dollar a day.
10
If you still buy recorded CDs, or if you regularly pay to download mu-
sic files, or if you buy blank CDs or DVDs, or extra memory to store
your films and music, youll probably be spending about $150 annually
7. Cloonan(2011:12)notesthatin2009thevalueoflivemusicintheUKforthe
firsttimeinlivingmemoryexceededthevalueofrecordedmusic.[T]hemost
importantmusiccompanyintheworldnowisnotamajorlabel,butLiveNation
Entertainmentanamalgamationoftheworldsbiggestconcertpromoter,Live
Nation,andtheworldsbiggestticketagent,Ticketmaster(p.5).[I]n2002Paul
McCartneyearned$2.2millionfromrecordings,another2.2frompublishingand
64.9fromconcerts(p.3).OneofCloonansconclusionsis:Ifwethinkbacktoanide
ologyofthe1960swhereartistsandaudienceswerepittedagainstTheManthen
thatManisnowmorelikelytobeapromoterthanarecordcompany(pp.1819).
8. Evenbeforetheunmistakablefailureoffinancecapitalismin2008,CDpriceshad
increasedwhileaveragedisposableincomeforallbutthetop5%haddecreased
markedlyinbothEuropeandNorthAmerica.
9. Theestimatesgiveninthenextfewparagraphsarenomorethanintelligentguess
work.Theirinclusionismainlyintendedtoencouragereaderstorealisticallycalcu
latehowmuchtimetheyspendonmusicthemselves.
10. PricesareapproximateandinCanadiandollars,includingtaxes,asofDecember,
2006.Alowpriceflatscreen27TVmonitoralonewouldhavecost$1,000,anaver
agecomputersetupaboutthesame.AniPhonewithaccessorieswouldsetyouback
another$500.
Tagg: Musics Meanings 1. How much music? 39
($0.40/day). In addition to that, the share of the money covering music
production and copyright costs when you buy a DVD, or subscribe to a
movie channel, or pay for a legal download, or use any other pay-per-
view system, plus whatever musical activities, including public music
education, your local and national authorities may see fit to provide or
subsidise via taxation and levies,
11
may well account for another $150
annually. All in all that makes another $300 per average year or $0.80
on a daily basis.
Much of our musical spending is indirect. Radio and TV license fees
have to cover the costs of broadcasting copyrighted music as a public
service while commercial broadcasters pay for the same rights with the
money they get from the pedlars of consumerist propaganda who in
their turn pass down their advertising costs to those of us who buy the
goods or services being marketed. That money pays radio and TV sta-
tions to broadcast music that will make us want stay tuned to whatever
channel diffuses their propaganda. So, whenever we buy something
advertised on broadcast media we arent just paying for propaganda
production: were also paying for the very thing that exposes us to the
propaganda, i.e. the sort of music diffused by our favourite format ra-
dio station. Its very difficult to quantify what proportion of a products
retail price is devoted to its marketing, let alone determine what part of
the advertising budget goes to musical production but there is little
doubt that the amounts of money passing hands here are substantial.
12
11. Ablankmedialevyexistsinseveralcountries.Oneofitspurposesistooffsetthe
lossofmusicrightsrevenueattributedtoprivatecopying.Asmallbutsignificant
partofrevenuefromthedirectandindirecttaxeswepaytogovernmentisusedto
financenonprofitmakingventureslikesymphonyorchestras,balletcompanies,
jazzfestivals,nottomentionmusiceducationandresearch(includingmysalary).
12. Advertisingbudgetsconstituting1520%ofproductioncostsarentunusual(based
onaquickglancethroughfiftyoddwebpagesinDecember2006).Typicalprime
timeTVadvertisingcostsintheUSAarecalculatedat$40,000for30secondsor1015
centsperviewerbutcanskyrocketto$2.4million(ocw.mit.edu/NR/rdonlyres/Sloan-School-of-
Management/15-810Spring-2005/455AE876-A2FB-42C0-A6B7-92CC1CA48591/0/discussion_qus.pdfand
www.apache.co.za/i/news/axcess/part1/nfl-super-bowl-ads-attract-big-audience.asp?article-tricks=6272, both
2006-12-28).Foradvertisingmusicproductioncosts,seeFellows(1998).
40 Tagg: Musics Meanings 1. How much music?
Every time we visit a caf, restaurant, shopping mall, hospital, railway
station, etc. where piped music is publicly diffused, the costs of licens-
ing that music are once again passed down to the customer or user.
Every time we visit a bar or club featuring live music or a karaoke ma-
chine we will either have to pay an entrance fee or more than the usual
bar price for drinks.
13
Even mobile phone ringtone rights and tele-
phone hold music costs are ultimately paid for by us, the customers.
Perhaps you are a member of the Lady Gaga or Karlheinz Stockhausen
fan club, in which case you might buy a T-shirt or other merchandising
memorabilia.
14
Add to these indirect payments for music the possibil-
ity of two visits each year to musical performances in a concert hall,
theatre, opera house, entertainment complex or sports arena, plus your
travel expenses for getting to and from the venue, and we are looking
at another estimated $250 each year or $0.70 a day.
In short, we probably spend on average the best part of $900 each year
on music, the equivalent of about $2.50 each day. In January 2007, $2.50
was roughly what you would pay in Canada for a standard loaf of
bread or for a litre of milk.
Conclusion
If music is as important as the descriptions just presented suggest, why
does it so often seem to end up near the bottom of the academic heap?
The short answer is that education and research (including this book)
are largely language-based while music is a non-verbal system for medi-
ating ideas. We may like to talk enthusiastically about our musical ex-
periences and tastes but we are often at a loss when it comes to
explaining why and how which sounds have what effect.
13. Ifyouvisitabarfeaturinglivemusicorkaraokethreetimesayear,ifyoudrinkthree
beersat$7oneachoccasion,iftheusualpriceforonebeeris$1,andifthemusic
shareofthemarkupis$4,thatexpensealonewillcountfor$36ayear(1/day).
14. GooglingrevealsseveraltypesofStockhausenTshirt,althoughnoneseemtobe
officialfanmerchandise.Ialsohavea1973doublealbumbyStockhausenGreatest
Hits(CPolydor2612023)witheditedhighlightsofhisbestlovedworksandthe
linernotes,areprintofa1971interviewwithRollingStone(emailfromT.P.Usch
anov,Helsinki,20121112).
Tagg: Musics Meanings 1. How much music? 41
Why and how does who communicate what to whom and with what
effect is of course the million-dollar question of semiotics and much of
this book will suggest ways of tackling that question in relation to mu-
sic. Still, before launching into the treacherous waters of music semiot-
ics its essential to establish a workable definition of the word music
according to its use in contemporary Western culture. We at least need
to know what sort of boat were in before navigating those troubled
seas, because some of our difficulties about explaining music come
from culturally specific assumptions about its very nature.
42 Tagg: Musics Meanings 1. How much music?
Tagg: Musics Meanings 43
2.Themostimportantthing
USICasauniversallanguage,asthelanguageoflove,oras
thenaturalexpressionoffeelings,orasanarttranscending
thesordidsocialrealitiesofeverydaylife,orasauditoryicing
ontheverbalvisualnumericalcakeoflogicandthematerialsciences
Those are just five of the more colourful notions of music that Ive
heardintheculturalenvironmentinwhichIwasbroughtupandhave
lived.
1
Glancingthroughtheestimatesofmusicseverydayimportance
(pp.3540),itsclearthatthoseassumptionsaboutmusicwontbemuch
useinexplaininghowandwhy,intheeverydayrealityofmostpeople
living in this mediasaturated society, music communicates what to
whomwithwhateffect.Indeed,toavoidconfusioninwhatfollowsIll
needtocomeupwithamuchmoreprosaicworkingdefinitionofMUSIC
sothatreaderswillknowwhatatleastImeanbytheword.Thetrouble
isthatdefiningMUSICtoutcourtwouldbeanintellectuallyrecklessun
dertaking.Therefore,pleasenotethatinwhatcomesnextImnottrying
todescribewhatIthinkMUSICmeansglobally,norwhatIthinkitought
tomeaningeneral,norwhatitmeantintimesgoneby.
2
No,mywork
ingdefinitionofMUSICandtheaxiomsfollowingitarenomorethanan
attempttodistiltheessenceofthesortsofthingMUSICseemstomeaninthe
cultural environments with which I am familiar and where Ive worked as a
musicianormusicteacher.
3
1. [1]Ifmusicbethefoodoflove,playon:act1scene1inShakespearesTwelfthNight;
[2]music,theuniversallanguage:inscriptioninastainedglasswindowsinLiver
poolsPhilharmonicpub;[3]auditorycheesecake:seefootnote37,p.62;[4]notions
ofmusicstranscendence:seeChapter3,pp.89101.Seep.81forcelebratedquotes
abouttheimportanceofmusic!
2. Forexample,themeaningsofMUSICinAncientGreece,inJapan,aswellasamong
theEweandTivarementionedunderConceptualcomparisons(p.50ff).Forother
examplesofradicallydifferentconceptualisationsofwhatwemeanbymusic,see
Ball(2011:2748),referringtoethnomusicologicalstudiesofBali,theBasongye
(Congo),theFlatheadnation(USA),Java,theKaluli(PapuaNewGuinea;Feld,
1982),theVenda(SouthAfrica;Blacking,1976)andtheYirkalla(Australia).
N
M
0
2
-
M
u
s
i
c
.
f
m
.

2
0
1
3
-
0
5
-
2
6
,

1
2
:
0
8
44 Tagg: Musics Meanings 2. The most important thing
Definitionandaxioms
Inthisbook,musicwillbeunderstoodasthatformofinterhumancom
munication in which humanly organised nonverbal sound can, follow
ingculturallyspecificconventions,carrymeaningrelatingtoemotional,
gestural,tactile,kinetic,spatialandprosodicpatternsofcognition.
Thatratherconvolutedworkingdefinitioncanbemadeclearerwiththe
helpofthefollowingeightaxioms.
1. Musiccannotexistunlessitsheardorregisteredbysomeone,
whetheroutloudorinsidesomeoneshead.
2. Althoughtheoriginalsourceofmusicalsounddoesnothavetobe
human,musicisalwaystheresultofsomekindofhumanmedia
tion,intentionororganisation,typicallythroughproductionprac
ticeslikecomposition,arrangementandperformance.Inother
words,tobecomemusic,humanshavetoorganisesounds(that
mayormaynotbeconsideredmusicalinthemselves),intosequen
tiallyandsynchronicallyorderedpatterns.Forexample,thesound
ofasmokealarmisnotinitselfmusic,butsampledandrepeated
overadrumtrack,orcombinedwithsoundsofscreamsandconfla
grationeditedinatcertainpoints,itcanbecomemusic.
4
3. Ifpoints1and2aretrue,musicinvolvesinterhumancommunica
tion.
4. Likethespokenword,musicismediatedassoundbut,unlike
speech,musicssoundsdontneedtoincludewords,eventhough
oneofthemostcommonformsofmusicmakingentailssinging,
chantingorrecitingwords.Whiletheprosodic,ormusicalaspects
ofspeechpitch,timbre,speed,rhythm,loudness,etc.areall
importanttothecommunicationofthespokenword,awordless
utteranceconsistingonlyofprosodicelementsceasesbydefinition
tobespeech.Itwillmorelikelysoundlikemusic.
5
3. Thatenvironmentis,Isuppose,theurbanWestingeneralandtheUK,Sweden,Can
ada(Qubec)andItalyinparticular,sincethemidtwentiethcentury.
4. EvenJohnCagesfamous433canbequalifiedasmusicbecauseitsaperformed
silenceorganisedasasoundeventinrelationtoother,contrastingsoundevents.
5. Tonallanguages(e.g.Mandarin,Vietnamese,Ewe)makelexicaluseofpitchdiffer
ence(tonemes)aswellasofphonemes(seeGlossaryandftnt.21,p.276).Tonemes
arenotprosodicelementsofspeechintonallanguages.
Tagg: Musics Meanings 2. The most important thing 45
5. Althoughcloselyrelatedtohumantouch,gestureandmovement
dancing,marching,strolling,jumping,hitting,tapping,shaking,
breathing,blowing,stroking,scraping,wiping,etc.,human
touch,gestureandmovementcanexistwithoutmusicevenifmusic
cannotbeproducedwithoutthemediationofsomesortofhuman
touch,gestureormovement(evenatthecomputerkeyboard).
6. Ifpoints4and5arevalid,musicisnomoreequivalenttotouch,
gestureormovementthanitistospeech,eventhoughitsinti
matelyassociatedwithallfour.
7. Ifmusicinvolvesthehumanorganisationandperceptionofnon
verbalsound(points16),andifitscloselyassociatedwithtouch,
gesture,movementandprosodicaspectsofspeech,itiscloseto
preverbalmodesofsensoryperceptionand,consequently,tothe
mediationofsomatic(corporeal)andaffective(emotional)aspects
ofhumancognition.
6
8. Althoughmusicisauniversalhumanphenomenon,andeven
thoughtheremaybesomegeneralbioacousticuniversalsofmusi
calexpression(p. 47, ff.),thesamesoundsorcombinationsof
soundsarenotnecessarilyintended,heard,understoodorusedin
thesamewayindifferentmusicalcultures(Tenet3,p. 47).
Inadditiontotheseeightaxiomsitsimportanttopositthreemoreten
etsabouttheconceptofmusic.
Tenet1.Concertedsimultaneityandcollectiveidentity
Musical communication can take place between: [1] an individual and
himself/herself; [2] two individuals; [3] individuals within the same
group; [4] an individual and a group; [5] a group and an individual; [6]
members of one group and those of another.
7
Particularly musical (and choreographic) types of communication are
those involving a concerted simultaneity of sound events or move
ments,thatis,betweenagroupanditsmembers,betweenagroupand
anindividualorbetweentwogroups.Whileyoucansing,play,dance,
talk,paint,sculpt andwritetoorfor yourselfand forothers, itsvery
rareforseveralpeopletosimultaneouslytalk,write,paintorsculptin
6. SeeMusicandsocialisation(p. 58, ff.)andEmotion,moodandmetaphor(p.71,ff.).
7. ForfurtherexplanationseeParticipants,strands,layers(p.446,ff.).
46 Tagg: Musics Meanings 2. The most important thing
timewitheachother.Infact,assoonasspeech is subordinated to temporal
organisation of its prosodic elementsitbecomesintrinsicallymusical,asis
evident from the choral character of rhythmically chanted slogans in
street demonstrations or in the role of the choir in Ancient Greek
drama. Thanks to this factor of concerted simultaneity, music and
dance are particularly suited to expressing the affective and corporeal
identity of individuals and communities in relation to themselves, to
eachother,andtotheirsocial,aswellasphysical,surroundings.
8

Tenet2.Intraandextrageneric
Direct imitation of, or reference to, sound outside the framework of
musicaldiscourseisrelativelyuncommoninmostWesternmusics.
9
In
fact,musicalstructuresoftenseemtobeobjectivelyrelatedtoeither:[a]
theiroccurrenceinsimilarguiseinothermusic;or[b]theirowncontext
within the piece of music in which they (already) occur. At the same
time,itssillytotreatmusicasaselfcontainedsystemofsoundcombi
nationsbecausechangesinmusicalstyleareoftenfoundinconjunction
with (accompanying, preceding, following) change in the society and
cultureofwhichthemusicispart.
ThecontradictionbetweenMUSICREFERSONLYTOMUSIC(theintrageneric
notion)andMUSICISRELATEDTOSOCIETY(extrageneric)isnonantagonis
tic.Arecurrentsymptomobservedwhenstudyinghowmusicsvaryin
sidesocietyandfromonesocietytoanotherintimeorplaceistheway
in which new means of musical expression are incorporated into the
mainbodyofanygivenmusicaltraditionfromoutsidetheframework
of its own discourse. These intonation crises (Asafyev, 1976: 100101)
workinanumberofdifferentways.Theycan:
refer to other musical codes, by acting as social connotors of what
sort of people use those other sounds in which situations, for
example an ethnic flute in the middle of a piece of mainstream
pop or a pastoral drone inserted into a Baroque oratorio;
10
8. Evenmultitracking,overdubs,etc.,althoughfrequentlyperformedbythesameindi
vidualondifferentoccasions,constituteanintrinsiccollectivityofpartsorvoices.
9. SeeSonicanaphones(p. 487, ff.).
10. SeeGenresynecdoche(p. 524,ff.)andFernandotheFlute(Tagg,2000b:345,745).
Tagg: Musics Meanings 2. The most important thing 47
reflect changes in sound technology, acoustic conditions, or the
soundscape, as well as changes in collective self-perception accom-
panying these developments, for example from clavichord to grand
piano, from bagpipe to accordion, from rural to urban blues, from
rock music to electronic dance music;
reflect fluctuations in class structure or other notable demographic
change, such as reggae influences on British rock; or the shift in
dominance of US popular music (1930s - 1960s) from Broadway
shows to the more rock-, blues- and country-based styles from the
US South and West;
act as a combination of any of the three processes just mentioned.
Tenet3.Musicaluniversals
Crossculturaluniversalsofmusicalcodearebioacoustic.Whilesuch
relationships between musical sound and the human body are at the
physical basis of all music, the majority of musical communication is
culturally specific. The basic bioacoustic universals of music can be
summarisedinthefollowingfourrelationships:
between [1] the rate[s] at which notes or groups of notes are pre-
sented (pulse, surface rate, accentuations etc.) and [2] rates of heart-
beat (pulse) or breathing, or footsteps when walking or running, or
other bodily movement (shaking, shivering, waving, pulling, push-
ing, etc.). Put simply, no-one can musically relax in a hurry or stand
still while running;
11
between [1] musical loudness and timbre (attack, envelope, decay,
etc.) and [2] certain types of physical activity. This means no-one
can make gentle or caressing kinds of musical statement by strik-
ing hard objects sharply and that its counterproductive to yell
jerky lullabies at breakneck speed. Conversely, no-one is likely to
use smooth phrasing or soft timbres for hunting or war situations
because those involved will be too relaxed to do their job;
12
11. Formusicaltempo,metronomeratesandhumanheartbeat,seep.288ff.
12. Musicalvolume(loudness)mustbeconsideredasaculturallyrelativephenomenon,
inthatvariationsbetweensocietiesintheloudnessofthesoundscape(Schafer,1977:
71ff,151ff,181ff)willrequireloudandsofttoadapttowhatisaudibleabovethe
noiseofthesoundscape(Tagg,1987a:145ff).
48 Tagg: Musics Meanings 2. The most important thing
between [1] speed and loudness in the presentation of notes and [2]
acoustic setting. Quick, quiet notes are indiscernible if there is a lot
of reverberation while slow, long, loud ones are hard to sustain if
there is little or no reverb. This is one reason why bands playing
venues with different acoustics have to supply their own acoustic
space, using adjustable effects for echo, reverb, chorus, etc.
13
between [a] musical phrase lengths and [b] the capacity of the
human lung. This means that few people can sing or blow and
breathe in at the same time. It also implies that musical phrases
tend to last between roughly one and eight seconds.
14
Thegeneralareasofconnotationjustmentioned(spatialacoustics,en
ergy,speed,movement,nonmusicalsound)areallinabioacousticre
lationship to the various musical parameters with which they are
associated (pulse/tempo, volume, duration, timbre, etc.). These rela
tionshipsmaywellbecrosscultural,butitdoesnotmeanthatevalua
tionofsuchphenomenaaslargespaces(coldandlonelyversusfreeand
open), hunting (exhilarating versus cruel), hurrying (exciting versus
stressful) will also be the same even inside one culture, let alone be
tweencultures.Thatsbecausethemusicalparameterslistedaspoten
tially universal (pulse, volume, phrase duration, certain aspects of
timbreandpitch,etc.)donotincludethewayinwhichrhythmic,metric,
timbral,tonal,melodic,orharmonicparametersareorganisedinrela
tion to each other inside the musical discourse. Such musical organisa
tion presupposes some sort of social organisation and cultural context
beforeitcanbecreated,understoodorotherwiseinvestedwithmean
ing.Inotherwords,onlyverygeneralbioacoustictypesofconnotation
canbeconsideredascrossculturaluniversalsofmusic.Consequently,
evenifmusicalandlinguisticboundariesdontnecessarilycoincide,it
is as misleading to say that music is a universal language as it would
betoclaimthatlanguageisauniversalmusic.
15
13. Seesectionsaboutmusicalspace,p.298,ff.andp.500,ff.
14. Circularbreathingisused,forexample,bydidgeridooplayerstocreateacontinuous
note.Bagpipesandorganscancarrymelodywithouttherestrictionsofthehuman
lung,ascaneverynonwindinstrument.Somepeoplecanevensingwhilebreath
ingin.Thatsaid,mostrhythmicormelodicstatementsareperceivedasunits(motifs
orphrases)seldomoccupyingmorethaneightseconds(seep.272,ff.).
15. Seealsothetendencytoconfuseintuitionwithinstinct(pp.6971).
Tagg: Musics Meanings 2. The most important thing 49
To clarify this essential point about musics cultural specificity, its
worthmentioningalittleexperimentIonceconductedatasymposium
oncrossculturalcommunication.
16
Iinformedthirteenparticipants,all
working in the sphere of immigrant cultures in Sweden, that they
wouldheareightshortexamplesofmusicwhichwereallconnectedto
thesamething:animportanteventinanycultureandsomethingwhich
happenstoeveryhumanbeing.Theparticipantswereaskedtoguess
whatthecommondenominatormightbeand,iftheycouldnotthinkof
anything,tojotdownonapieceofpaperwhatevermood,typeofac
tion,behaviour, images or thoughts themusicsuggested to them. All
eightexamples,eachtakenfromadifferentnonWesternmusictradi
tion,wereconnectedwithDEATH,auniversalphenomenonifeverthere
wasbecause,withtheexceptionofmasscasualtiesinwars,naturaldis
asters etc., the death of virtually every individual is marked by some
form of ritual in all cultures. Did the thirteen crosscultural experts
managetospotDEATHinthemusictheyheard?
Despite the obvious initial hint (an important event in any culture and
something that happens to every human being), not a single respond-
ent associated death or anything death-related (wake, funeral, mourn-
ing etc.) with any of the eight death-related music examples. True,
connotations like COMPLAINT, WAILING, SADNESS, SERIOUS and SUFFER
ING occurred in response to two of eight extracts, but the most common
descriptions of all the examples had to do with either [1] energetic ac-
tion or excitement, for example WORK,WAR,FIGHTING,HUNTING,AGITA
TION, DANCING, ADVENTURE, GYMNASTICS; or [2] HAPPINESS and
CELEBRATION, including JOY, CONFIDENCE, FEASTING, ABANDON, CON
TENTMENT etc. There was even some LOVE and TENDERNESS as well as
one WEDDING. More significant is perhaps that eleven of the thirteen re-
spondents tried to identify the cultural origin of the music: there were
two AFRICAs (plus one JUNGLE), two ARABs (plus one each for BAZAAR,
DESERT,CAMELS and YEMEN), as well as one each for CHINA,GREECE,IN
DIAand TURKEY. Clearly, the examples presenting music for funerals,
burials, etc. were considered foreign and associated with a variety of
16. ThesymposiumwasorganisedbyJensAllwoodofGteborgUniversitysLinguistics
Departmentin1983.
50 Tagg: Musics Meanings 2. The most important thing
moods and events, the vast majority of which have no discernible link
with anything death-like in contemporary urban Western culture.
17

Conceptualcomparisons
Another way of understanding the Western concept of music is to com-
pare it to different but related concepts in other cultures. Although no
human society of which we have any knowledge has ever been without
music in the sense defined on page 44, the concept of music is by no
means universal. For example, the Tiv nation of West Africa (Keil, 1977)
and the Ewe of Togo and Eastern Ghana do not seem to have found it
necessary to single out music as a phenomenon requiring a special
word any more than the British have needed different words for the
three basic types of snow that the Inuktitut language refines into sev-
eral subcategories.
18
To be fair, the Ewe do actually use the English
word music, but only as an untranslated loan word to denote foreign
phenomena like singing church hymns or listening to the radio. The
music they make themselves in traditional village life has no equivalent
label in the Ewe language. According to a Ghanaian colleague:
Vreallymeansdrumandhisthewordforcluborassociation.Av
histheclubyoubelongtointhevillageVoiceiscalledb,sosinging
is v b. V is used to signify the whole performance or occasion: the
music,singing,drums,dramaandsoon.
19
Having no exact verbal equivalent to our music clearly does not mean
that the culture in question is without music any more than the English
languages lack of exact verbal equivalent to the Hindi notion of rasa or
to the German notion of Weltanschauung means that Anglophones can-
not conceive of different types of mood/state-of-mind (rasa) or of dif-
ferent ways of looking at the world (Weltanschauung). Nor is a lack of
equivalent to our word music connected to village communities in West
Africa because the Japanese, with their long-standing traditions of mu-
sic and theatre in official religion and at feudal courts, did not feel
17. Formoredetailsonthissmallexperimentandonthistopicingeneral,pleasesee
UniversalMusicandtheCaseofDeath(Tagg,1993).
18. FormoreonInuitwordsforvarioustypesofsnow,seelinguistlist.org/issues/5/5-
1401.htmlandindustryweek.com/Columns/ASP/columns.asp?ColumnId=258 [2002-02-23].
19. ConversationwithKlevorAbo,Gteborg,19831102.
Tagg: Musics Meanings 2. The most important thing 51
obliged to invent a word equivalent to the European concept of music
until the nineteenth century. The Japanese translated music as ongaku
( ), on meaning sound and gaku enjoyment, i.e. sounds performed
for listening enjoyment or entertainment.
20

In other words, neither the Japanese nor the Ewe seem to have needed
a word for what we mean by music until confronted by Europeans
and our culture. It must have been strange to meet people like us who
treated what we call music as if it could exist independently of a larger
whole (drama, poetry, singing, dancing, ritual, etc.), and the Japanese
zoomed in on this difference with the word ongaku, identifying the Eu-
ropean notion of music as referring to the non-verbal sounding bits of
what they themselves considered as part of a larger set of symbolic
practices. The Ewe reacted similarly, using the untranslated English co-
lonial word music to label European music which was not an integral
part of their own traditional culture and which we Europeans concep-
tualise as distinct from other related cultural practices.
21

Both the Ewe (v) and Japanese (gaku) concepts resemble to some extent
that of the Ancient Greeks whose mousik () was short for techn
mousik ( ), meaning the art or skill of all the muses, includ-
ing drama, poetry and dancing, as well as singing or playing an instru-
ment. The musica of ancient Rome seems to have covered a similarly
broad semantic field. However, there appears to have been a gradual
shift in the meaning of mousik and musica in learned circles, so that
Saint Augustine (d. 430), worrying about the seductive dangers of mu-
sic, seems to use musica in our contemporary sense of the word music.
22
20. Source:Prof.ToruMitsui(Kanazawa)attheIPM,UniversityofLiverpool,February
1993.TheWelshformusic,cerddoraeth,containsthreemorphemes:(i)cerdd(=song/
poem);(ii)or,agencysuffix,hencecerddor=bard/singer/musician;(iii)aeth,abstract
nounsuffix.Cerddoraethliterallymeanstheartofthosewhomakesongsormusic.
SeealsoIcelandicstnlilst(footnote26)andthetroubadourconcept(p. 53).Theclosest
Inuktitutconceptisnipi:itincludesmusic,thesoundofspeech,andnoise(Nattiez,
1990:56).TheFinnishwordformusic,musiikki,isa19thcenturyloanfromSwedish
(musik).Beforethattheclosestequivalentswouldhavebeensoitto/soitanto(play
ing)andlaulu(singing).Notermcoveredbothvocalandinstrumentalmusic,or
bothcompositionandperformance.Svelt/svellys(compose/composition)are
[also]midnineteenthcenturyneologisms(T.P.Uschanov,email,20121112).
21. Thereis,ofcourse,muchmoretothehistoryofmeaningsforthewordmusicin
Europe.Afewofthosedevelopmentsarementionedlater(p. 52, ff.).
52 Tagg: Musics Meanings 2. The most important thing
Itslikelythatthismorerestrictedmeaningofmousikandmusicapre
vailedamongstscholarsandclericsinEuropefromthefifthcenturyon
wards.
23
Certainly, Arab scholarship of the eighth through thirteenth
centuries, on which later European theorising about music is largely
based,usedtheGreekloanwordmousik(almsiq/)torefer
towhatwemeanbyinstrumentalmusictoday,nottothegamutofar
tistic expressions covered by the mousik of Plato or Aristotle.
24
It
should also be noted that Mohammed the Prophet is said to have
showngreatinterestinmusicandthattheQurnitselfcontainsnodi
rectlynegativepronouncementsagainstmusic.However,conservative
clerics of Islam were later to warn, like St. Augustine, against the al
legedevilsofmusic,themaincontroversybeingwhethertheProphets
judgementofpoets,includingmusicians,intheQurns26thsurare
ferredtomusicconnectedtoinfidelritesortomusicingeneral.
25
The
point here is that influential ascetic patriarchs of Mediterranean and
MiddleEasternmonotheismwereworriedaboutthesensualpowerof
thenonverbalaspectofsonicexpressionandthattheyneededacon
cepttoisolateandidentifyit.
WhathappenstothewordmusicinthevernacularlanguagesofWest
ernandCentralEuropebeforethetwelfthcenturyisanybodysguess.
Perhaps,likeoldNorseormodernIcelandic,therewasablanketterm
covering what bards, narrators of epic poetry and minstrels all did.
26
22. ThroughanindiscreetwearinessofbeinginveigleddoIerroutoftooprecisea
severity:yea,veryfierceamIsometimesinthedesireofhavingthemelodyofall
pleasantmusic,towhichDavidsPsalterissooftensung,banishedfrommineown
earsandoutofthewholechurchtoo.Strunk(1952:7374),quoting SaintAugus
tinesConfessionsII (London,WHeinemann,1912):165169.
23. e.g.Bothius(d.524),Cassiodorus(d.562),IsidorodeSevilla(d.636),OdodeCluny
(d.942),GuidodArezzo(d.1050),allquotedinStrunk(1952:79125).
24. Forexample,AbuNasrAlFrbi(c. 872951),whoseKitabalMusiqaalKabir(The
BigBookaboutMusic)establishedthesystemofmodes(p.322,ff.)stillusedtoday
intheArabworld,andwhoalsowroteaboutthetherapeuticeffectsofmusic,was
knownamongmedievalMuslimscholarsasTheSecondMaster,theFirstMaster
beingAristotle(Hozien,2004).Theoriesofmusicsortedunderthemathematicalsci
ences(includingalgebraandalchemi)andwasspreadalloverEuropefromtheArab
citiesofCrdobaandSeville(Ling,1983:64).
25. TheycitedtraditionalsourcesoutsidetheQurnaccordingtowhichMohammed
wastohaveconsideredmusicalinstrumentsthemuezzinsofthedevil(Skog,1975).
Tagg: Musics Meanings 2. The most important thing 53
Certainly,theNorthernFrenchtrouvresandtheProvenaltroubadours
of the eleventh through thirteenth centuries were not only known as
singers,playersandtunesmiths(trouver/trobar=find,invent,compose)
butalsoasentertainers,jugglersandpoets.
Music enters the English language in the thirteenth century via old
French,whosemusiqueappearsaboutacenturyearlier.
27
Thearrivalof
thewordinthevernacularofbothnationsdenotesmoreorlesswhat
wemeanbymusictoday.Italsocoincideswiththegrantingofcharters
tomerchantboroughsandwiththeestablishmentofthefirstuniversi
ties.Unfortunately,thereishardlyenoughevidencetosupporttheidea
that use of the word music in its modern sense connects with the as
cendancy of a merchant class, even though the Hellenic period, Arab
mercantile hegemony, and the ascendancy of the European bourge
oisie,allseemtofeaturethenewconcept.Whateverthecase,theEuro
pean ruling classes were able to use the word music in its current
meaningwellbeforetheeighteenthcentury:thesemioticfieldhadbeen
prepared by ecclesiastical theorists who had, by the eleventh century,
establishedametaphysicalpeckingorderofmusics.Thistypeofhier
archyis,asweshallsee(p. 84, ff.),importanttothedevelopmentofRo
manticnotionsofmusicssupposedlytranscendentalqualities.
These brief crosscultural and historical observations about the word
music indicate that the concept denotes particular sets of nonverbal
soundproducedbyhumansandassociatedwithcertainotherformsof
symbolicrepresentation,sounds whichrelateenoughto physicaland
emotionalaspectsofhumanexperiencetobeconsidereddisconcerting
by ascetic clerics. The question is: which sets of humanly produced
sounds relate to which other forms of symbolic representation? One
answertothatquestionisprovidedbytheoriesofhumanevolution.
26. InIcelandic,musicistnlist(=theskillorartoftones)andcomposertnskald(=the
bardorpoetoftones).
27. ConciseOxfordDictionary(1995);LePetitRobert(1993).
54 Tagg: Musics Meanings 2. The most important thing
Evolutionanddevelopment
Animalmusic?
In1995aflutemadefromthefemurofthenowextinctEuropeanbear
wasfoundbyarchaeologistsworkingonaNeanderthalburialsiteinto
days Slovenia. The flute is between 45,000 and 84,000 years old.
28
50,000yearsmayseemlikealongtimebutitsthetwinklingofaneye
in terms of the evolution of our species: the earliest hominid forms
evolvedfromthehigherprimatesatleast3millionyearsago.
Evolutionisttheoriesofmusicexplainitsoriginsintermsofadaptation,
bywhichismeanttheabilityofaspeciestofindeffectivesurvivalstrat
egies by adapting to their environment. One theory is that music de
rives from the synchronous chorusing of higher primates (Merker,
2000),whileanotherarguesthat:
[I]tisintheevolutionofaffiliativeinteractionsbetweenmothersand
infantsthatwecandiscovertheoriginsofthecompetenciesandsensi
tivitiesthatgaverisetohumanmusic.(Dissanayake,2000).
Several other theories stress the importance of what Stephen Brown
(2000) calls musilanguage, i.e. that language and music, both sonic
and both neurologically intertwined, stem from a common origin,
evolving together as brain size increased during the last two million
years in the genus homo (Falk, 2000). Like the motherandinfantthe
ory,thisexplanationseemsquiteplausiblebecausebothHomosapiens
andneanderthalensishad,ifourknowledgeoftheSlovenianboneflute
and otherfinds of prehistoric musicalinstrumentsare anythingto go
by,
29
startedtotreatorallanguageandmusicasdistinctmodesofsonic
communication.Althoughneurologicallyinterrelated,thesetwosonic
systems were used for different functions. This aspect of evolution is
importantbecausetheseparationofmusicandlanguageisoftenseen,
rightly or wrongly, as a trait distinguishing humans from other ani
mals.
28. SeeHuron(1999).Homoerectus,evolvingfromearlierhominidformswhichevolved
fromthehigherprimates,developsintotwogenus:Homoneanderthalensis(c. 400,000
50,000BP)andHomosapienssapiens(humans,fromc. 150,000BP).
29. Theoldesthuman(ratherthanNeanderthal)instrumentfoundsofarthatisstillplay
abledatesfrom9,000BCandwasfoundinJiahu(China).
Tagg: Musics Meanings 2. The most important thing 55
One common objection to the theory of distinction between music and
language as a basis for understanding the origins of music as a defining
trait of human behaviour argues that if we, as humans, say that birds
and whales sing, then we are talking about music, simply because that
is how we hear it. The sonic habits of humpback whales provide fuel
for this argument. As those great mammals migrate or swim around
their breeding grounds, they piece together repeated phrases, singing
song after song for up to twenty-four hours at a stretch. Humpback
whales have a seven-octave range similar to that covered by the piano
keyboard, i.e. a range of fundamental frequencies within the limits of
what humans can hear, but much larger than the restricted range of
pitches the human voice can produce. As the months go by, whales
modify their song patterns and most males end up singing the same
new song. Humpback whale song also contains rhythms and phrases
which, strung together, build forms of a length comparable to ballads
or symphonic movements. It also seems that their songs contain recur-
rent formulae which end off different phrases in much the same way as
we use rhyme in poetry; in fact the more elaborate the whales song
pattern, the more likely it is to rhyme.
30

All these traits of whale song come across as typically musical to the
human ear. But the music of the animal kingdom does not stop there.
Certain insects produce distinct rhythmic patterns which, like those of
human music, vary and repeat in longer patterns. Moreover, eleven
percent of primate species can produce short strings of notes that,
though less musical to our ears than the songs of humpback whales,
form a recognisable pattern in time. This behavioural trait, characteris-
tic for most of our own music, is thought to have evolved independ-
ently four times within primates. Such evidence suggests that music is
not exclusive to the human species.
Oneproblemwiththeobjectionsjustraisedisthattheyareanthropo
morphicinthattheyinterpretnonhumanbehaviouronthebasisofhu
man experience, perception and behaviour. The ANIMALS MAKE MUSIC
standpoint assumes, in other words, that the whales, insects and pri
mates just mentioned hear and react to the sounds they make them
30. AllinformationgivenhereaboutwhalesongderivesfromMilius(2000).
56 Tagg: Musics Meanings 2. The most important thing
selvesinthesamewaythatwehearandreacttothem.Italsoassumes
thatanimalsproducethosepatternsofsoundforthesamereasonsas
wemakewhatwehearascomparablepatternsofsoundinourmusic.
31
Forexample,althoughwehearbirdsasthegreatestsongstersofthean
imalkingdom,theydontnecessarilyhearorusethemelodieswehear
themmakinginthesamewayaswehearandusemelodyinthemusic
wemake.OrnithologistEugeneMortonputsitthisway:
Anyanalogytohumanmusicisnotinterestingtome.Itdoesntexplain
anythingabouthowtheworldis,excepthowhumanswanttoperceive
it.Goodonem,butIwanttounderstandanimalsBirdsongconsti
tutesanavianbroadcastingnetwork,lettingbirdsminimisetheardu
ousworkofflyingaboutduringinteractions.
32

Ifsingingcanreplacetheamountofflyingaroundbirdswouldother
wise have to do, its certainly part of a symbolic system. Instead of
physicallyrepellingeverypotentialinvaderofitsownspace,abirdcan
claimitsterritorybymakingsoundswecallbirdsong.Insteadofflying
roundtoseeiflocalmembersofthefamilyarealltherebeforetheyshut
downforthenightandthattheyareallthereagaininthemorning,an
individualbirdcanjoinintheeveninganddawnchoruses.Birdsongis
in other words a strategy for the survival of individuals within the
group,becausetheyallhavetohaveaplacetonest,andforthegroup
asawhole,becausetheymayallneedtocollectforforagingormigra
tion.Itseemsthatsingingisjustanenergyefficientwayforbirdstoes
tablishtheserelationsessentialtotheirsurvival.
Itwouldinasimilarwaybeunrealistictoexpectwhales,whohaveto
coverhuge distances insearchof foodbutreconvene forbreeding,to
keep visual or tactile underwater checks on the whereabouts of each
other,asindividualsorasfamilygroups,acrossvaststretchesofocean.
Inthissense,whalesong,byreplacingtactileandvisualcontactwith
soniccommunication,alsoactssymbolicallytofacilitatethesocialco
31. ThomasEisner,ProfessorofEntomologyatCornellUniversityandaccomplished
classicalmusician,holdsthatwemustdrawadistinctionbetweenenjoyinganimal
sounds[asmusic]andsayingthatanimalsmakemusic,although,afterhearing
recordingsofhumpbackwhales,headmitted:ifawhalecallsmeuptomorrowand
wantstodoaneveningofsonatas,Iwouldbethefirsttovolunteer(Milius,2000).
32. USornithologistEugeneMorton,quotedinMilius(2000).
Tagg: Musics Meanings 2. The most important thing 57
hesionnecessaryforthesurvivaloftheirspecies.Itsalsohighlyproba
ble that the various functions of sonic communication in the animal
kingdom are linked with what we humans might qualify as pleasure
andpain,tensionandrelaxation,etc.,i.e.withwhatwethinkofasemo
tionsandwhichareessentialingredientsintheevolutionaryprocessof
mostsentientbeings.
33
Ifsuchemotionsarelinkedtosituationsinthe
animalkingdomwherewhatwehearastheirmusicisusedtosignal
messageswemightunderstandverballyintermslikeGETOFFMYPROP
ERTY!orITSOK,WEREALLHERE,thenitsalsoprobablethatthesoundsin
questionareaccompaniedbypatternsofhormoneproductioncompa
rabletothosefoundinhumanswhenstimulatedincertainwaysbycer
tainsoundsincertainsituations.
34
Ifthereisanygrainoftruthinthelineofreasoningjustpresented,there
maybegroundsforcallingthatanimalmusicmusic.Afterall,suchan
argumentwouldgo,whatwehavedescribedtallieswellwiththesev
enth of our eight axioms about music, with our observations about
concertedsimultaneityandcollectiveidentity,andwithseveralother
pointsmentionedearlier(p.44,ff.).
Whether or not zoomusicologists can demonstrate a separation be-
tween music and other forms of sonic communication produced by
non-human animals, the point here is that we humans seem to have
done so for at least 100,000 years. One sound-based symbolic system
(language) is more suited, though not wholly dedicated, to the denota-
tion of objects and ideas, while the other (music) is more closely,
though not entirely, linked to movement, gesture, touch and emotion
(axiom 4, p. 44). As stated earlier, language and music, both neurologi-
cally intertwined and both using the sense of hearing, seem to stem
from a common origin, evolving together as brain size increased during
33. Forexample,thehumantendencytolikethetasteofsweet,heavyfoodisprobably
groundedintheneedofourancestorstoensuretheyconsumedenoughcarbohy
dratefueltoprovidetheenergynecessaryforsurvival.Withmoreabundantfood
sourcesandamoresedentarylifestyle,humanshavetoconsciouslycorrectthat
genetictrait.SeealsoEmotionwords(p.74,ff.).
34. Thereisnoroomheretoenterthisrealmofbiomusicology.Formoreinformation,
seesectionBiochemicalEvidence,especiallyaboutnaloxone,testosteroneandoxy
tocin,inHuron(1999).
58 Tagg: Musics Meanings 2. The most important thing
the last two million years of evolution in the genus homo. However,
even though the oldest musical instrument found so far may be from a
Neanderthal burial site, its after the demise of our Neanderthal cousins
some 50,000 years ago that we start to leave significant numbers of
complex sonic objects behind us.
35

Tosummarise:theseparationofsonicrepresentationintotwodistinct
but physically related spheres of activity language and music al
most certainly started evolving in our hominid ancestors and devel
opedfurtherwhenwebecametheonlysurvivingspeciesofthegenus.
Cross(1999)goesasfarastosuggestthatthisdistinctionbetweenlan
guageandmusicmaybethemostimportantthinghumanseverdid.Ill
returntothispointafterthenextsectionwhichdealswithmusicsim
portanceforanotherfundamentalaspectofhumandevelopment.
Musicandsocialisation
Attheageofminusfourmonthsmosthumansstarttohear.Bythetime
weenterthisworldandlongbeforewecanfocusoureyesonobjectsat
varying distances, our aural faculties are well developed. Most small
humans soon learn to distinguish pleasant from unpleasant sounds
andmostparentswillwitnessthatanytinyhumanintheirhousehold
acts like a hyperactive radar of feelings and moods in their environ
ment.YouknowitsnousetellingbabyinanirritatedvoiceDaddys
not angry because the little human sees straight through such emo
tionaldeceitandstartstohowl.
Butbabyshearingisntwhatmostparentsnoticefirstaboutsoundand
theirownadditiontothehumanrace.Theyaremorelikelytoregister
the little sonic terrorists capacity to scream, yell, cry and generally
dominatethedomesticsoundscape.Babiesareendowedwithnonver
bal vocaltalentsseeminglyoutof proportion tootheraspectsoftheir
size, weight and volume: they appear to have inordinate lung power
andunfailingvocalchordscapableofproducinghighdecibelandtran
sientvalues,cuttingtimbresandirregularphraselengths,allcommuni
cating messages that parents interpret as IM UNCOMFORTABLE or IM
IRRITATEDorIMINPAIN,orIMHUNGRY,messagesdemandingactionsuch
35. Seefootnote29,p.54.
Tagg: Musics Meanings 2. The most important thing 59
as CHANGE MY NAPPIES! or COMFORT ME! or PROVIDE IMMEDIATE NUTRITION!
Maybethesetinyhumanshavetoyellnotjustbecausetheycantspeak
butalsobecausetheyneedtodispelwhateverstateofadulttorporwe
happen to be in while watching TV, chatting, reading or, worst of all,
sleeping.Babiesinstinctivelyusesharptimbresathighpitchandvol
ume, sounds that carry well, cutting through whatever ambient hum
and mumbletheremay bein theadultworld,beit idleconversation,
background media, fridges, ventilation, etc. Also, irregular rhythms
andintonationbydefinitionavoidthesortofrepetitionthatcangradu
allytransformintoambient(background)sound:ababysyellisalways
up front, foreground, urgent, of varying periodicity and quite clearly
designed to shatter whatever else mother, father, big sister or big
brotherisdoing.Thatsonicshatteringisdesignedtoprovokeimmedi
ateresponse.Desiresandneedsmustbefulfillednow.
NOWistheoperativewordhere.Sonicstatementsformedasshortrep
etitionsofirregularlyvaryinglengtharealsostatementsofurgency,as
wellweknowfromnewsjinglesIMPORTANT,FLASH,NEW,THELATESTUP
DATE.
36
Babiesseemtohavenoconsciouspastornotionoffuture:allis
present.Thebabyslackofadulttemporalperspectiveinrelationtoself
isofcourserelatedtoitslackofadultsensesofsocialspace,which,in
itsturn,relatestobabysegocentricity,essentialforsurvivalintheini
tialstagesofitslife.
Nonverbal sound is essential to humans. We monitor it constantly
frominsidethewombuntildeafnessordeathdisconnectsusfromits
influence. We use our nonverbal voices to communicate all sorts of
messages from the time we are born until we die or turn dumb. To
getherwiththesenseoftouch,nonverbalsoundisoneofthemostim
portant sources of information and contact with social and natural
environments at the most formative stages of any humans develop
ment.Itsvitaltosensomotoricandsymboliclearningprocessesatthe
preverbalstageofdevelopmentandcentraltotheformationofanyin
dividuals personality. Then we all have to experience the process by
whichwegraduallylearnthatwearenotthecentreofothersconstant
36. Formoreonurgencycues,seeNewscasting(p. 512, ff.).
60 Tagg: Musics Meanings 2. The most important thing
andimmediateattention:wehavetogetusedtobeingjustonehuman
subject and social object among many others. We have to have some
sortofworkingrelationshipwithwhateversocietyandculturewebe
longtoandwecannotliveinthevainhopeofreturningtoastatewhere
wearethesonicallydominantorforegroundfigures.Wecanneverre
gainanylostparadise,whateveradvertisers,spindoctors,religiousfa
natics or drugpeddling pharmaceutical corporations might have us
believe.
Different cultures and subcultures develop different norms for what
course the process from baby via child to adult should run. The ulti
mate goal becoming a fully functioning adult depends on what
ever the society in question at any given time sees as desirable on
accountofitsmaterialbasisandculturalheritage.Assumingwehave
allbeenbabiesandifbabyspoweroverthedomesticsoundscapeinthe
earlydevelopmentofeveryhumanisabiologicalnecessitythatmust
berelinquishedforthatindividualtosurviveamongfellowhumansin
adulthood,thenweoughttogainimportantinsightsintohowanycul
tureworksbystudyingpatternsofsocialisationthatrelatedirectlyto
nonverbalsound.
Humans can emit an enormous variety of nonverbal sounds. We
breathe, talk, cry, shout, yell, call, sob, sigh, laugh, giggle, burp, fart,
crunch,slurp,gulp,swallow,yawn,groan,moan,growl,cough,splut
ter, slobber, wheeze, sniffle, sneeze, kiss, hiss, snort, spit, scratch our
heads, smack our lips, blow our noses, clear our throats, cough up
phlegm, etc. Our hearts beat, tummies rumble and intestines gurgle.
Wemakenoise,howeverweakorstrong,wheneverwemoveourbod
ies when we sit down or stand up, walk, run, stroll, tiptoe, limp,
jump,hop,skip,dragourfeet,stumble,fall,etc.Wealsoshudderwith
fear,tremblewithdelight,orshiverwithcoldsothatourteethchatter.
Wemakesound when wehit, kick, drag,push,cut,tap,pat, clap, ca
ress,chop,saw,hammer,grind,scrape,slap,splash,smash,etc.Some
ofthesesoundsareloud,otherssoft;someareheavy,otherslight;some
are fast, others slow; some are highpitched, others less so; some are
longorongoingandrepetitive,othersshortanddiscreteandsoon.All
thesehumanlyproducedsoundsaremadewithinacontextthatisitself
fullofsound.Inurbanindustrialisedsocietieswehavefridges,freez
Tagg: Musics Meanings 2. The most important thing 61
ers, computer drives, traffic, aeroplanes, mains hum, air conditioning
andallsortsofothermechanicalsounds.Elsewherewemaybeableto
hearwindinthetrees,rain,seaswell,animals,birds,insects,running
water,thunder,earthquakes,icebreaking,crisporslushysnowunder
foot,wavesbreakingontheshore,etc.
Someofthesesoundswemakeourselves,otherswejusthearinawide
varietyofacousticsettings,includingthoseinsideourownheadsand
bodies.Which(combinationsof)soundsareconsideredpleasantorun
pleasant,musicalorunmusical,willlargelydependontheculturewe
belongtoandonwhatsortofmotoricandsonicbehaviourprovetobe
generally compatiblewith theneeds ofthat community, be it a youth
subcultureinlatecapitalism,anaristocraticelite,oranomadicpeople
usingneolithictechnology.
All of us have been babies who have had to learn that we cannot for
everremainatthecentreoftheworldaroundus,acousticallyorother
wise.Wehavetolearntocooperate,tonegotiatesocialspaceforour
selves in relation to the community we belong to. Music and dance
provide socially constructed sonic and kinetic frameworks for that
learningprocess.Welearntosing,humandwhistleinaccordancewith
thenormsofwhatourcultureregardsasmusic,ratherthanjustyelling,
laughing,mumbling,orbashingobjectsatwill.Asweacquirethegift
oflanguagewelearntodistinguishbetweenhumanlyorganisedverbal
and nonverbal sound.Moreimportantly, we are repeatedly exposed,
withinthemusicculturetowhichwebelong,tothesimultaneousoc
currenceofcertaintypesofmusicalsoundwithcertaintypesofaction,
attitude,behaviour,emotionalstate,environment,gesture,movement,
personality, people, pictures, words, social functions, etc. From those
recurrentpatternsofinterconnectionweconstructavastarrayofcate
gories combining several of the constituent elements just mentioned
intooverridingandintegralmusogenicconcepts.
Manyofusalsogoontolearnhowtoplayaninstrumentasawayof
makingsoundwhosefunctionsareclearlydifferentnotonlytothoseof
spoken language but also to those we make when chopping wood,
hammeringnails, ironing clothes,doing thewashing up, flushingthe
toilet,takingashower,walkingupstairs,drivingacar,eatingfood,op
62 Tagg: Musics Meanings 2. The most important thing
eratingmachinery,foldinganewspaper,closingthedoor,etc.Itwould,
from the perspectives just presented, be absurd to regard music as
somesortpleasantbutparasiticappendagetohumanlife,asauditory
cheesecakeasonewriterputit.
37

Crossdomainrepresentationandsynaesthesis
Thereareotherreasonsforunderstandingmusicasanessentialpartof
thesurvivalkitforanyhumansociety,notasjustculturalicingonthe
socioeconomiccake.Someofthesereasonscanbesummarisedinthe
followingsimplifiedterms.
38
Ourcapacity ashumans to processsignals from theworld aroundus
via different domains of representation (verbal, visual, motoric, emo
tional,etc.)seemstohavebeenoneofourspeciesgreatadvantagesin
theevolutionarystruggle,inthatwecansortoutabstractionsofcause
andeffectbydistinguishingbetweenvisual,verbal,sonicandmotoric
impulses. To put it simply, what we hear at a particular time (a sonic
event) does not have to represent the same phenomenon as a move
mentoremotionwemayperceiveatthatsametime.
Ofcourse,suchdomainspecificsignalprocessinginnowayprevents
humans from making connections between several simultaneous do
mainspecificsignalsiftheycooccuronaregularbasis.Forexample,
whenalovingparenttalksinasingsongvoicetoababywhileholding
androckingit,thelittleonereceivessignalsthatareatthesametime
specifictothesonic,motoricandemotionaldomainsofrepresentation.
Asthesecombinationsofdomainspecificsignalsarerepeated,theinfant
learnstomakeconnectionsbetweenthemsothatanother,overridingor
embodyingtypeofrepresentationcomesintoplay.Suchcombinations
ofsonic,motoricandemotionalsignalsaresometimescalledprotomu
sical.
39
Theyalsorelatetosynaestheticpatternsofcognition.
37. TheparasiticnotioncomesfromDSperbersExplainingCulture(Oxford,1996),that
ofauditorycheesecakefromSPinkersHowtheMindWorks(London,1997).For
criticaldiscussionofthesenotions,seeCross(1999)andBall(2011:1720,4849).
38. InthissectionIamdrawingmainlyonCross(1999)andSBrown(2000).
39. Cross(1999),drawingonKarmiloffSmith(1992);seealsoSBrown(2000).
Tagg: Musics Meanings 2. The most important thing 63
Fig. 2-1. Music and levels of cross-domain representation
40
The specific domains relating to (proto-) musical representation, shown
in figure 2-1, partially overlap and need some explanation.
1. Thephysicaldomaincoverstheballistics,trajectoryandkineticrela
tionshipofabody,orbodies,includingonesown,tothetypeof
spacethroughwhichittravelsorinwhichitismotionless.Fastor
slow,jerkyorsmooth,regularorirregularmovement,ornomove
mentatall,inanopenorclosedspace;movementwhicharrivesor
leaveswithinthatspace,towardsorawayfromapointinsideor
outsideit,movementwhichwaitsorpassesoverorunder,upor
down,totheleftorright,tothebackorfront,toandfroorinone
direction,suddenlyorgradually:theseaspectsofmovementand
space,whenperformedbyahuman,areallpartofthephysical
domainofrepresentation.Italsoincludesthepresentationofsome
aspectsofheavinessordarknessandlightness,ofdensityandspar
sity,aswellasofmultitudeandsingularity.
2. Thegrossmotoricdomainofrepresentationinvolvesthemovement
ofarms,legs,head,torso,lowerbody,etc.,e.g.walking,running,
jumping,dancing,pushing,pulling,thrusting,dragging,waving,
rolling,hitting.
3. Thefinemotoricdomainofrepresentationinvolvesthemovementof
fingers,eyes,lips,tongue,etc.Blinking,glittering,shimmering,rus
40. Motoric(f)meansfinemotoric,motoric(g)grossmotoric.
64 Tagg: Musics Meanings 2. The most important thing
tling,babbling,clicking,tapping,fiddling,dripping,etc.allexem
plifymovementrequiringfinemotoricrepresentation.
4. Thelinguisticdomainismainlyconcernedwithprosodicpattern
ing,withthemusicalelementsofspeech,i.e.withintonation,tim
bre,accentuation,rhythm,dynamics,etc.,includingthesonic
characteristicsofvowelsandconsonants.
5. Thesocialdomaininvolvestherepresentationofpatternsofhuman
interaction,forexampleofindividualstoagrouporviceversa.As
wellseelater,particularstrategiesforstructuringmusicalpartsor
voicescancorrespondtoparticularsocialisationpatterns.
41
6. Theemotionaldomainisselfevident.Itinvolvesevaluatingasitua
tioninresponsetodifferentbodystatessuchasposture,muscular
tensionorrelaxation,hormonalstimulation,adrenalincount,etc.It
includesevaluationofexperiencewhoseverbalconceptualisationis
oftenformulatedinpolaritieslikepleasing/painful,happy/sad,
beautiful/ugly,love/hate,security/threat,etc.
42
It should be clear that these six domains of representation are in no way
mutually exclusive. For instance, its impossible to imagine a gross mo-
toric activity like dragging (domain 2) without considering bodily
movement in space and aspects of heaviness (domain 1). Moreover,
any aspect of the emotional domain needs to be qualified by aspects
from other domains. For example, is the expression of pain sharp and
sudden? Is it relentless, throbbing and ongoing, or is it stifled in the
background? Does the pain come in gradual waves or as violent
shocks? Does it make you quiver, shudder, jump, fall over, fall apart,
yell, scream, groan or grumble? Or does it hit, stab, pierce or poison
you? Or does it make you depressed and apathetic? Is the pain re-
pressed and under control, or is it up front and violent? Perhaps it para-
lyses or silences you altogether? Is it the pain of a solitary individual or
does it more closely resemble a community of suffering?
Proto-musics six domains of representation also overlap in terms of
SYNAESTHESIS.
43
For example, some onomatopoeic pairs, like babble and
41. SeeSocialanaphones(p.514)andChapter12,esp.p.449,ff.
42. Fordefinitions,seeunderEmotion,moodandmetaphor(p.71,ff.).
43. Synaesthesisandsynaesthesiaareexplainedinthenextparagraph.
Tagg: Musics Meanings 2. The most important thing 65
bubble or rumble and tumble, are normally, though not exclusively, asso-
ciated with the sonic and visual/kinetic aspects respectively of the
same basic type of movement, as, indeed, are rustle and glisten. Other
sonically similar words like bustle, hustle and hassle not only lend them-
selves to expression in visual or sonic terms: they also include aspects
of social interaction and emotional evaluation. Its the combination of
all these aspects that makes those concepts particularly musogenic.
Before going any further in this explanation, I need to clarify that Im
using the noun SYNAESTHESIS, not synaesthesia, to denote any normal
use of two or more modes of perception at the same time. While synaes-
thesia is used as a clinical term denoting a neurological condition in-
volving the disturbance of normal perception by the involuntary
intrusion of impulses from more than one sensory mode, synaesthesis is
no more than a transliteration of , aisthsis meaning percep-
tion and syn = with, accompanying, i.e. simultaneous perception in
more than one sensory mode.
44
Synaesthesis is therefore not a patholog-
ical condition but a normal and essential part of human cognition. The
only terminological trouble here is that synaesthesis and synaesthesia
both give rise to the adjective synaesthetic. To avoid further confusion,
then, synaesthetic will here qualify any type of perception using more
than one sensory mode at the same time. In more concrete terms, I will
qualify, for example, the combined tactile, kinetic, visual and sonic as-
pects of babble, bubble, bumble, rumble, crumble, tumble, rustle, bustle, hus-
tle or hassle as SYNAESTHETIC because they constitute instances of
normally functioning SYNAESTHESIS.
45
44. Forexample:[W]hilecrosssensorymetaphorsaresometimesdescribedassynaes
thetic,true[sic]neurologicalsynaesthesiaisinvoluntaryandoccursinslightly
morethanfourpercentofthepopulation(1in23persons)acrossitsrangeofvari
ants.(en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synesthesia [2006-12-02]).
45. Interferencefromcolourperceptionisanoftencitedsymptomofsynaesthesia(the
disorder).Giventheconnotativelypolysemiccharacterofcolour,itisdoubtfulthat
coloursareoperativeinnormalmusogenicsynaesthesis.REDcanmeandangeror
fullbloodedlife,stopatthetrafficlightsorchargelikeabullataredrag;GREEN
meansgoforungreenvehiclesandcanconnoteIrelandorLibya,envyorfreshness;
deathcanbeblackorwhite,dependingonyourculturalmembership;BLUEcanbe
thebluesorabrightsummersky;YELLOWcanbecowardlyorsunny,etc.,etc.Colour
itselfisnotnormallyassociablewithelementsofmusicalexpressionbutitsoften
contradictoryindividualconnotationscan.
66 Tagg: Musics Meanings 2. The most important thing
To summarise the argument so far, music can, as defined on page 44, be
understood as a specifically human type of activity which lets us mix
elements from any of the six domains of representation into an integral
whole. Its an activity allowing us to represent combinations of signals
from its constituent domains in one symbolic package rather than in
merely linguistic, social or somatic terms. As a meaningful system of
non-verbal sound, music lets us engage in interpersonal activity on
many levels simultaneously, either by making the music or by respond-
ing to it individually or together with others. To express ourselves on
all these levels at the same time, we dont need to confront each other
with verbal outbursts, bodily display or physical interaction: we can
use music instead. In other words, music provides relatively risk-free
action to members of the culture producing and using it because it pro-
vides socio-culturally regulated forms of potentially risky interaction
between humans. But music does more than that: it can also help avoid
confusion. Avoid confusion? How can that be when music is so often
thought of as polysemic? I had better explain (see also p. 167, ff.).
Imagine, for example, the not uncommon state of mind characterised
byamixtureofirritationorresentmentandthefeelingthatisneverthe
less anicedayand good to bealive. Using thelinguisticdomain,you
could communicate this single dynamic state of mind directly to a
friend, partner, child, parent, or to the authorities, by expressing first
yourdisapproval,thenyourgenerallypositivemood.Youcouldstart
by speaking with sharp timbre and choppy delivery, then switch to a
smooth, mellifluous voice. Using the fine motoric domain, you could
firstfrown,thensmile;ortapyourfingersnervouslythenflutteryour
eyelids encouragingly; or grit your teeth then relax your mouth. So
cially, you could first avoid the people causing the irritation and then
welcomethemintoyourcompany.Usingthephysicalandgrossmotoric
domainsofrepresentation,youdalmosthavetofirstbeatuptheindi
vidual[s] causing the irritation, then cuddle them. Emotionally, youd
probablywanttofirstyellandstampyourfeet,thensitdownandrelax;
orperhapsyoudfirsttenseyourshouldersandclenchyourfists,then
leanback,openyourarmsandshowthepalmsofyourhands.
Althoughfeelingirritationonabasicallygooddayishardlyasymptom
ofemotionalinstability,expressingthatdynamicusingjustoneofmu
Tagg: Musics Meanings 2. The most important thing 67
sics constituent domains of representation, as described in the previ
ousparagraph,mightwellcomeacrossascontradictoryandconfused.
Itmightevencauseoffence,perhapsevenprovokeadiagnosisofmanic
depression.However,thankstoitscharacterofcrossdomainrepresen
tation,musicisabletomediatethatsamesortofdynamicasaunified
singleexperienceinasociallynegotiatedandculturallyspecificsonic
form.Afterall,weseemtoreadilyacceptthatthesinglelinguisticcon
ceptofLOVEinvolvesfeelingsofvulnerableanxietyandthefearofloss
inadditiontotheoccasional,indescribablypowerfulboutofeuphoria.
Similarly,itsimpossibleforusmortalstoentertainthenotionofhuman
LIFEwithoutconsideringdeath.
46
These platitudes about love and life serve to illustrate the fact that
whilelanguageoccasionallyletsusconceptualisedynamicstatesofbe
ingasintegralexperiences,musicalmostalwaysdoesso.FEELINGAN
GRYONAGOODDAY,orDESPERATELYTROUBLEDINTHEMIDSTOFCALM
ANDBEAUTY,orTOTALLYSICKOFTHEWORLDANDFEELINGIRREPRESSIBLY
ALIVE BECAUSE OF THAT DISGUST these are no more than inadequate
verbalhintsofjustthreeoftheinnumerablekindsofmoodcategories
music can create.
47
We should therefore not be surprised when re
spectedcriticsdescribethefirstmovementofMozarts40thsymphony
(1788) in terms of both deepest sadness and highest elation.
48
Was
Mozartconfusedwhenhewrotethemusic?Probablynomoresothan
usual. Does the music make a confused or contradictory impression?
NottomodernEuropeanears:itsoneofthemostwellknown,highly
valuedandwidelycoveredpiecesintheVienneseclassicalrepertoire.
46. AccordingtoSwedishpoetKristinaLugn,lifeistheonlypossibilitywehavenotto
bedead([L]ivetrdenendamjlighetviharattintevaradda).ThankstoMargit
Kronberg(Mlndal)forthisreference(phonecall20061225).
47. ForTROUBLEDINTHEMIDSTOFCALMANDBEAUTY,trythethirdmovementofBartks
fourthstringquartet(1929).ForSICKOFTHEWORLDANDFEELINGALIVEBECAUSEOFTHAT
DISGUST,tryNirvanasSmellsLikeTeenSpiritorLithiumonCDNevermind(1991).
Checkoutalsotheselectionofmoodcategorieslistedonpage176.
48. VonWehmthigstenbiszumErhabenesten:SaintFoixquotingananonymous
reviewofthesymphonymovement(Gminor,K550)inan1804numberofthepres
tigiousVienneseperiodicalAllgemeineMusikzeitung.Amongotherreviewdescrip
tionsofthesamepieceareimpassioned,worriedandmoving.Formoreonthis
subject,seeStockfelt(1988:2122).
68 Tagg: Musics Meanings 2. The most important thing
Werethecriticsconfusedwhentheywroteaboutsadnessandelationin
thesamebreathaboutthesamemusic?No:they,too,werejustgiving
pallidverbalhintsofwhattheyfeltthemusictobeexpressing.
By combining input from its constituent domains of representation,
music forms integral categories of cognition that, from a logocentric
viewpoint, seem contradictory or confused, even though those catego-
ries may correspond more accurately with what we actually feel or im-
agine on a daily basis: angry on a good day, troubled in beautiful
surroundings, sad and elated, vulnerable and euphoric, etc. This holistic
aspect of musical cognition may well be one reason for musics ability
to move us so deeply, sometimes even to occupy our whole sensory be-
ing. It may also be one reason for musics therapeutic usefulness. Fur-
thermore, music helps cognitive flexibility, the ability to mix, switch
and correlate across different domains of representation. Viewed from
these perspectives, the development of distinctions between music and
speech as two different modes of aural expression may well be, as
Cross (1999) suggests, the most important thing we humans ever did.
Aquicktriparoundthebrain
The cognitive neuroscience of music tells a similar story, albeit in a very
different way, about the holistic, synaesthetic and cross-domain char-
acteristics of music.
As soon as the primary auditory cortex receives a musical signal, our
primitive,subcorticalbrainkicksinatonce:thecerebellumstimingcir
cuitsfireuptopickupthepulseandrhythm,andthethalamustakesa
quicklook,apparentlytocheckfordangersignalsthatrequireanyim
mediate action before morecomplex processing occurs. The thalamus
then connects with the amygdala to produce an emotional response
which,ifdangerisdetected,mightbefear.Onlyafterthisprimevalscan
towarnofhazardsdoesthedetaileddissectionofthesoundsignalbe
gin.(Ball,2010:244245;authorsquotes,myitalics)
That detailed dissection starts when sound signals, sent from the co-
chlea to the brain stem for initial pitch treatment, are forwarded as infor-
mation to several different cerebral departments, as follows.
[P]itchintervalsandmelodyareprocessedinthelateralpartof[]He
schls gyrus, within the temporal lobe, which has circuitry involved in
Tagg: Musics Meanings 2. The most important thing 69
pitchperception.[Pitchintervalsandmelody]arealsohandledbythe
planumtemporale,adomainthatdealswith[]timbreandthespatiallo
cationofsoundsources,andbytheanteriorsuperiortemporalgyrus,which
dealswithstreamsofsound,includingspokensentences.(loc.cit.)
These two citations, the second focusing on pitch and intervals, are just
sample sketches of how which parts of the brain deal with which as-
pects of music. Other aspects of pitch and tonality are missing from the
samples, as are most aspects of metre, periodicity, long-term narrative,
overall spatiality, compositional texture and patterns of expectation. To
cut a long story short, music involves activity in the temporal, frontal
and parietal lobes of both brain hemispheres, as well as in the amy-
gdala, hippocampus and cerebellum. Even the occipital lobe is active
because playing from sheet music or following a score arent the only
musical activities involving vision. If youre dancing to music and want
to avoid bumping into other dancers (or the wall); or if youre reacting
to film underscore, or watching musicians or the crowd at a live music
event; or if youre just seeing things inside your head as you listen to
music, then your occipital lobe will also be in action. Put tersely,oneof
the most striking neurological features of musical experience is that
neuronsfireupalloverthebrain.
49
It should at the same time be obvious that the brain is not some sort of
computer hardwired to process the same sound signals in the same nat-
urally predetermined way in each individual or group of individuals
living anywhere in the world at any time in history. However, that is
what a small but significant minority of students Ive met over the
years apparently believe. Its a belief that rests on two assumptions: [1]
since experience of music affects body and emotions without seeming
to involve much, if anything, by way of intellectual reasoning, it is intu-
itive; [2] if the process is intuitive it is also instinctive and therefore nat-
ural. The first assumption is not unreasonable but the second is
fundamentally flawed because intuition and instinct arent the same
thing. INSTINCT is an innate, fixed pattern of behaviour in response to
certain stimuli, which by definition (fixed, innate) involves natural
hardwiring, whereas INTUITION, defined as immediate apprehension
49. Neuronsfireupalloverthebrainis,Ibelieve,aquotefromLevitin(2006).
70 Tagg: Musics Meanings 2. The most important thing
by the mind, clearly does not (apprehension, mind).
50
In fact, many
of the intuitive skills we possess, like casual everyday speech in our
mother tongue, are culturally specific. When it comes to musical intui-
tion, Im certainly not the only individual never to have learnt the intu-
itive skills involved in reaching the natural state of trance experienced
by those familiar with the sounds of shamanistic ritual or with the sing-
ing of worshippers possessed by the Holy Spirit in extremist sects of
evangelical Christianity. Nor can I sing in one metre, clap my hands in
another and walk in a third like many Sub-Saharan Africans, whose in-
tuitive ability to do so comes naturally, but no more nor less so than
mine when I immediately and with no conscious effort recognise har-
monic closure in a euroclassical V-I cadence.
51
The difference between
those intuitive skills is a result of nurture, not nature.
Of course, none of this means that there is no musical instinct in hu-
mans any more than our inability to speak or understand most of the
worlds languages means that humans arent hardwired for language.
It simply means that what seems to come naturally to us in music
what we hear as pleasant or unpleasant, appropriate or inappropriate,
either together or in sequence, and for which purposes cannot be ex-
plained in terms of innate instinct, genetic make-up or any other sort of
hardwiring.
52
That should be patently obvious, not just from observa-
ble differences between what comes naturally in one music culture
and in another but also by paying attention to how the brain actually
50. IntuitionderivesfromLatinintor/intitus(consider,payattentionto),instinct
frominstigo/instinctum(=incite,stimulate,instigate).Notealsotheetymologicalsim
ilaritybetweenintuitionandtuition.
51. VIisshorthandforperfectcadence,thelasttwochordsinvirtuallyanyhymn
tune,parloursongoreuroclassicalworkwrittenbetween1730and1910.ForSub
Saharancrossrhythm,seepp.457463.
52. Somewillstillinsistthatsemitonesarenaturallydissonantbecausetheirpitches
areinthecomplexratioof25:24andthattheperfectfifth,withitspitchratio3:2,is
naturallyconsonant.Formoreonthisissue,seepp.47ff., 179182,319;seealso
Simpson(2010)andTagg(2011e).Partoftheproblemmaybeuncriticalacceptance
oftheunidimensionalquantificationsyndromeincontemporarycapitalism.Its
expressioninpopularculturecanbeseenonTVwhereacombinationofhumanist
andnaturalscienceapproachestocrimesolving(e.g.Maigret,Cracker,Wallander)has
beenreplacedbyDNAprofilingandanalmostfetishisticfocusonforensicsasasen
sationalistsortofsexyscience(e.g.CSI,WalkingtheDead,ColdCaseFiles).These
beliefshaveevenhadadverseeffectsonthejudiciary:seeTheCSIEffect(2010).
Tagg: Musics Meanings 2. The most important thing 71
works, to how it lets us think, learn, adapt, discover and innovate. The
brain is an amazingly complex and dynamically adaptive organism,
not a crippling corporate or state bureaucracy. Plasticity is one of its de-
fining features. We would have never survived, let alone evolved, as a
species if the brain had been a glorified operating system running bio-
behavioural software.
53
Instead, it enables us, whatever our genetic in-
heritance, to survive and flourish in the vast variety of changing situa-
tions in which we have to live and learn from birth to death. If anything
is natural and wonderful about how the brain deals with music,
its the way it lets us all experience so many parts of our being at the
same time, whatever our predispositions and circumstances.
Emotion,moodandmetaphor
Before rounding off this chapter, two common assumptions about mu-
sic need to be addressed: [1] music expresses moods and emotions; [2]
music cannot be described in words. Neither assumption is wrong: its
just that its misleading to reduce our understanding of music to those
general assumptions alone. Theres no room here to discuss these is-
sues in any depth but Ill try to pinpoint some crucial conceptual prob-
lems and, where possible, suggest ways of dealing with them.
First lets confront the notion that music expresses the feelings of the
artist. Tchaikovsky certainly did not think so.
Thosewhoimaginethatacreativeartistcanthroughhisartex
press his feelings at the moment when he is moved, make the greatest
mistake.Emotions,sadorjoyful,canonlybeexpressedretroactively.
54

Id go further than Tchaikovsky because I dont think you even need to


have felt the emotion previously to present it convincingly. After all, a
good actor playing a dastardly Richard III or a psychotic Hitler does
not himself need to have ever felt or behaved like those villains to elicit
emotions of disgust or horror in his audience. Similarly, as Frith (2001:
93-94) notes, the applause for Elton Johns rendition of Candle In The
Wind at Princess Dianas funeral was not for being sincere (his busi-
ness alone) but for performing sincerity [It was] a performance of
grief in which we could all take part.
53. Forinformationaboutworkingmemoryandthephonologicalloop,seepp.272273.
54. CitedbyBall(2010:259).
72 Tagg: Musics Meanings 2. The most important thing
Inordertoconvincinglycommunicateasenseofgrief,loneliness,joy,
contentment,orwhateverotherstateofmindisrequired,themusician
(composer,arranger,performer,etc.)mustfirstbeinsomewayaware
ofthatstateofmind.Ithastohavebeenobserved,grasped,appropri
atedandshapedbeforeitcanbechanelledandpresentedinaculturally
competentformthatcanbeunderstoodbyanaudience.Ifyoueverhad
torushtobeontimeforanengagementtosingorplayatafuneral,and
ifoneofthedeceasedsnearestanddearestthanksyouafterwardsfor
the beautiful music before you hurry off to another appointment,
youllknowexactlywhatImean.Ifyouhadexpressedyourownfeel
ings through musicat the funeral you would have shown total disre
spect for both the bereaved and deceased. If you cant come up with
something suitably dignified and moving for a funeral, however you
mightbefeelingyourself,youresimplynotdoingyourjob.
Viewing musical competence in this prosac way is useful because it
makestheessentialdistinctionbetweenemotionandtherepresentationof
emotion. That doesnt mean the artists composition or performance is
fake.Itssimplyapresentation,basedonacombinationofmemory,ret
rospection,
55
empathy,sensitivity,imaginationandskill.Thatpresenta
tionprocessalsoinvolvessomedistancingfromtheemotionormood
inquestionbecauseithastobeidentifiedandgraspedconceptually
almostalwaysinintuitivelymusicalratherthaninconsciouslyverbal
termsbeforeitcanbepackagedinaculturallyviableform.
56

Havingmadethiscardinaldistinctionbetweenemotionandthemusi
calrepresentationofemotion,wearestillnotmuchwiseraboutdiffer
encesofmeaningbetweenwoollywordslikeemotion,affect,feelingand
moodthatarecommonlyusedwhentalkingaboutmusicandanindi
vidualsinternalstateofbeing.Letstrytounravelsomeofthatwool.

55. AssuggestedbyTchaikovskyandHindemith:seeBall(2010:259).
56. ThisdistinctionissimilartothatbetweentheIndianconceptsbhva( )anindi
vidualsfeeling,emotion,moodorstateofbecomingandrasa()thedominant
emotionalthemeofaworkofart.Rasacanbecomparedtostatesofmindorbody
perceivedthroughawindow.Therasaisnottheemotionorthemoodbutitsper
ceivedframework/packaging;seealsoftnt.74,p.335.
Tagg: Musics Meanings 2. The most important thing 73
EMOTIONS are characterised by the involuntary physiological response of an
individual to an object or situation relating both to that individuals
physical state and to sensory input. This means there has to be observ-
able response to such stimuli for emotion to exist. That is not so with
AFFECT, which can exist and be felt by a subject without concomitant
observable emotion. Affect can in that sense be seen as a larger set of
phenomena in which emotion is a subset of primary importance.
57

FEELINGS are strictly speaking neither emotions nor affects although all
three words are often used synonymously. Feelings are the subjective
experience of emotion or affect. For example, people in a state of uncon-
trolled fury, paralysed panic or euphoric ecstasy are overwhelmingly
occupied by living out that involuntary physiological response (the
emotion), but that does not altogether preclude self-awareness, how-
ever fleeting it may be, which allows the emotion or affect to be regis-
tered by the subject as a feeling.
MOOD is usually thought of as an ongoing state of mind positive or
negative, static or dynamic A mood is psychologically more likely to
last for hours or even days compared to the mere seconds normally oc-
cupied by the expression of an emotion. Perhaps this simple distinction
can help us sort out notions of mood and emotion in relation to music.
To test that hypothesis, lets return to two of the musogenic but inade-
quate verbal hints of musical meaning suggested on page 68 FEELING
ANGRYONANOTHERWISEGOODDAY and DESPERATELYTROUBLEDINTHE
MIDSTOFCALMANDBEAUTY. It would not be unreasonable to identify
mood with the general scene the GOOD DAY, the CALM AND BEAUTY
and emotion with the more explicit state of mind FEELING ANGRY and
DESPERATELYTROUBLED. One problem with this distinction is that nei-
ther GOODDAY nor CALMANDBEAUTY are simply moods without affect
or emotion because a GOODDAY (rather than a bad one) involves some
degree of elation rather than depression, while CALM AND BEAUTY
(rather than stress and ugliness) implies a sense of contentment and
wonder (rather than of frustration and indifference). Meanwhile, the
OTHERWISE and the INTHEMIDSTOF both imply that the listener provid-
57. Affect/'lckI/isanimportantconceptinmusicalscholarship.However,sinceitisa
problematicconcept(Meyer,1956:1322;Bartel,1997:2989;Tagg,2000a:4550),its
discussionhastobeomittedfromthisaccountintheinterestsofclarityandbrevity.
74 Tagg: Musics Meanings 2. The most important thing
ing the inadequate verbal hints of musical meaning hears the music in
both cases as each presenting a different type of emotion felt by the
same subject. Its the same person feeling both angry and happy, just as
the person feeling both troubled and the effects of great calm and
beauty is also one and the same. This multi-affect, single-subject con-
ceptualisation would certainly fit the third of page 68s inadequate ver-
bal hints SICK TO THE TEETH OF THE WORLD AND FEELING
IRREPRESSIBLYALIVEBECAUSEOFTHATDISGUST.
58
Does this mean that a
musical mood is a combination of musically encoded emotions or af-
fects? Or are emotions in music, like melody in comparison to speech,
extended to last long enough to become a mood? Or is there a deeper
problem preventing us from distinguishing between mood and emo-
tion in music?
The underlying difficulty is, however tautological it may sound, that
words denote states of mind in logogenic, not musogenic, terms. A
brief scan of mood categories for silent film or in library music cata-
logues reveals this problem clearly.
59
Some musical mood labels denote
emotions (JOY,SADNESS, etc.), but others use demographic, ethnic or ge-
ographical categories (CHILDREN, GYPSY,RUSSIA, etc.), or generic loca-
tions (SEA, WIDE OPEN SPACES, LABORATORY, 1960s, etc.), or types of
activity, social function or ceremony (BATTLE,SPORT,FUNERAL, etc.), or
generic movement (ACTION, TRANQUILLITY, FLYING, etc.), or narrative
genre (CRIME, SCIENCE FICTION, etc.), or episodic function (INTRO,
BRIDGE, ENDING, etc.), or musical style and genre or instrumentation
(CLASSICAL,JAZZ,ELECTRONICA,PANPIPES, etc.).
Emotionwords
The fact that EMOTIONWORDS
60
present just one of several ways of la-
belling musical moods may partly be due to the audiovisual contexts
in which silent film and library music are used, but that is certainly not
58. Or,asrenownedpianistLangLangremarkedaboutLisztsarrangementofSchu
mannsWidmung,Itworkssowellbecauseyouhavethehappinessandthesadness
atthesametime(C*BBC4documentary,20130111,c.21:05hrs.).
59. SeecontentpagesofRape(1924);seealsosectiononlibrarymusic(pp.223227),
particularlyTable62onpage225.
60. Byemotionwordsissimplymeantwordsmostlynounsandadjectivesbutalso
adverbsdenotingemotion,e.g.joy,joyful,joyfully.
Tagg: Musics Meanings 2. The most important thing 75
the whole story. The underlying problem with emotion words when
talking about music is that they denote states of mind in abstracto. They
are not like music which culturally packages an emotion or affect into a
performance, live or recorded, through the process just described (pp.
71-72). Instead they do what words are particularly good at: as signifi-
ers they lexically denote their signifieds. Its in this way that whatever
emotion or affect a word denotes can be conceptually distinguished
from all the gesturality, spatiality, tactility, temporality and kinetics
that are part of the physiological response that is by definition EMO
TION (p. 73) and which is intrinsic to musical conceptualisation of that
emotion or affect.
Consider, for example, the emotion or affect behind the verbal label
joy. Are we talking about: [a] the joy of a small boy excitedly bubbling
over as he plays with a new toy; [b] a calm, confident sense of joy
slowly welling up inside someone realising that the end of the tunnel
may be in sight; [c] the joy of two young girls giggling as they share an
exciting secret; [d] the joy of a large crowd, seen from above in a city
square, celebrating liberation from war and oppression; [e] the joy of a
parent tenderly cradling his/her new-born baby? Those five joys de-
mand very different musics. Some of them will be fast, others slow;
some loud, others soft; some gentle and delicate, others energetic and
ebullient; some high-pitched, others pitched lower; some rhythmically
regular, others irregular; some metric, others rhapsodic; some expan-
sive, others moderated; some private, others public; some outdoors,
others indoors in a confined space, etc. Whatever the single word joy
may mean, it cannot be musical because it gives no hint of the motoric,
social, spatial or physical elements that music must by definition con-
tain as a cross-domain, synaesthetic type of human communication which
causes neurons to fire up all over the brain. But the logogenic-musogenic
contradiction of representing affect can also go the other way.
If joy is too general and abstract as a musical mood descriptor, other
emotion words can seem too precise. There are, for example, clear lexi-
cal differences between the following five states of mind: [1] ENVY
discontentment or resentful longing aroused by anothers better for-
tune; [2] JEALOUSY suspicion or resentment of rivalry in love or of an-
other persons advantages; [3] SUSPICION distrust or doubt of the
76 Tagg: Musics Meanings 2. The most important thing
innocence or genuineness of someone or something; [4] GUILT shame-
ful awareness of having done wrong; [5] EMBARRASSMENT awkward-
ness or discomfort in social interaction.
61
The problem with these
words is that, unless were talking about a fit of uncontrolled rage of
envy or jealousy (in which case the rage itself rather than its causes
would be musically important), the five verbally denoted states of
mind are musogenically very similar. They all involve psychological
discomfort linked to bodily postures of defensive containment. The dis-
trust, disgrace or indignity involved to differing degrees in those five
states of mind are much more likely to be physically expressed in terms
of a motionless body, hunched shoulders, eyes down or to one side, a
furrowed brow and sealed lips rather than in effusive gestures, upright
body posture, full-on eye contact and expressive speech. Everyday lan-
guage makes this link quite clear. We say we are paralysed (not liber-
ated) by ENVY, consumed (not empowered) with JEALOUSY and burdened
with (not relieved by) GUILT, while we hide or hang our heads in SHAME
and cringe with EMBARRASSMENT we literally shrink; we do not stand
tall.
62
In short, the musogenic aspect of these five emotion words is in
the commonality of involuntary physiological response they all share.
Precision of musical meaning is more likely to be determined by how
much of which sort of paralysis, burden, hiding, hunching or cringing
is involved, not in verbal distinctions between the causes of the unpleas-
antness linked to the bodily postures just described. As with JOY, the
problem with ENVY, JEALOUSY, SUSPICION, GUILT, SHAME and EMBAR
RASSMENT is down to the same old tautology: the verbal-lexical preci-
sion of words is logogenic, not musogenic. But thats not all.
Notonlyareemotionwords,aswesawearlier,justoneamongseveral
types of musical mood label; they are also quite uncommon in silent
filmandlibrarymusiccollections.
63
Thosecollectionsrarelyusewords
clearlyrelatingtothephysiologicalresponseaspectofaffectwhat
61. DefinitionsbasedonmeaningsgiveninTheOxfordConciseEnglishDictionary(1995).
62. EmbarrassderivesfromItalianinbararemeaningtobarin,torestrictmovement.
Defensivecontainmentinvolvesmakingyourselfscarce,assmallandasundetecta
bleatargetaspossible,usingmaximuminvisibility,inaudibilityandimmobility.
STEALTHisanothermusogenicvariantonthesamethemeofundetectability.It
involvesmaximuminvisibilityandinaudibilitybutmaximummobility.
63. SeeSelectionoflibrarymusicdescriptivetagsonpage225.
Tagg: Musics Meanings 2. The most important thing 77
definesitasanemotionintermsofanindividualsbodypostureand
movement.Thereis,sotospeak,verylittlebywayofjumpingforjoyor
cringingwithembarrassment.Noneofthismeansthatemotionwords
and,moreimportantly,verbaldescriptionsofbodypostureandmove
mentareuselesswhentryingtogivesomeverbalindicationofamusi
calmood.Itsimplymeansthatconventionsofmusicalmoodlabelling
used on an everyday basis in audiovisual production do not seem to
give emotionrelated words any pride of place. Apart from distinctly
musical and episodic labels like CLASSICAL, JAZZ, or PAN PIPES; INTRO,
BRIDGE or ENDING, and those referring to narrative genres like DETEC
TIVE,DISASTERorDOCUMENTARY,themostcommonlibrarymusiclabel
ling categories, many of them overlapping, are those based on the
followingsortsofdistinction:[1]demographic,ethnic,geographicalor
historicalconceptslikeCHILDREN,GYPSY,RUSSIA,OLDENTIMES;[2]ge
nericlocationslikeLABORATORY,SEA,OPENSPACES;[3]typesofactivity,
social function or ceremony like BATTLE, SPORT, FUNERAL; [4] generic
movementlikeACTION,TRANQUILLITY,FLYING.Imnotsuggestingthat
thesefourlabellingcategoriesaremoreimportantthantheverbaldes
ignationofemotion,merelythattheyaremorecommoninawellestab
lishedandpracticebasedconventionofmusicalmoodnomenclature.
That observation, together with the problem of logogenic versus mu
sogenicprecision,raisesanobviousquestion:whyhaveemotionwords
likeHAPPY,SAD,TENSEandRELAXEDsooftenbeendefaultdescription
modeformystudentswhentheytrytoanswerthequestionwhatdo
youthinkthemusicistellingushere?Dotheythinkparamusicalasso
ciations to music are childish?
64
Dont they know that grownup pro
fessionals in audiovisual media production use the sorts of musical
mood labels just mentioned? Do they believe in notions of absolute
music, euroclassical or postmodernist, that are still propagated in
many conventional institutions of cultural learning?
65
Or, given that
64. Wittgenstein(1966/1938)suggestedthatwordslikeBEAUTIFULandLOVELYarelearnt
inearlychildhoodasinterjectionsandusedregressivelybyadultswhentheycant
comeupwithanythingmoreadequatetosayaboutaworkofart.Thesamegoesfor
emotionwordsforroughlythesamereasonsAWittgensteiniananalysiswould
seemtosuggestthatthisfearofchildishnessisnotonlyitselfchildish,butalsohas
itscausalrootsinearlychildhood(T. P.Uschanov,emailtotheauthor,20121112).
78 Tagg: Musics Meanings 2. The most important thing
languagehaswordsdenotingemotionandthatmusicseemstotouch
ouremotions,dotheythinkthoseemotionwordsgiveanyrealsenseof
whatthemusicistellingus,despitetheobviousproblemoflogogenic
versusmusogenicmeaningjustdiscussed?
I try to deal with some of these questions in the next chapter, but it
shouldalreadybeclearthatprioritisingemotionwordsattheexpense
of other types of vocabulary can seriously skew our understanding of
whatmusiccanandcannotcommunicate.Notonlywillwebelessable
tograsptheprosodic,motoricandkineticaspectsofmusicscrossdomain
representationthatareintrinsictothetypesofphysiologicalresponse
defininganemotion;wealsoriskneglectingmusicsdemonstrableabil
itytopresentaninfiniterangeofcomplexpatternsrelatingtospatiality
andtactility,aswellastohistorical,ethnicandsociallocation.
Metaphor
If,asIvearguedseveraltimes,musiccouldbedescribedinwords,it
would be unnecessary. But since no human society of which we have
any knowledge has ever been without music in the sense defined on
page 44, and sinceone of this books mainaims isto suggestways of
talkingaboutmusicasifitmeantmorethanjustitself,wewillhaveto
findwordsindicatingatleastsomethingofitsperceivedmeanings,how
ever inadequate those indications may be. Given the restrictive prob
lems of emotion words and of musics holistic combination of
simultaneous modes of expression and perception in specific cultural
contexts,itwouldbelogicaltotalkaboutthemeaningofmusicalsound
inwaysthatrecogniseitsintrinsicmultimodality.Thisentailsconsider
ingthesynaestheticandmetaphoricalcharacterisationofmusiclessin
termsofdubiousorfancifulsubjectivityandmoreasapotentiallyvalid
modeofprovidingatleastpartialcluestoitsperceivedmeanings,par
ticularlyif,asweshallseeinChapter6,thosecluestracelinesofinter
subjectiveconsistency.
Metaphors have two poles: [1] a SOURCE which acts as a previously
knownsemanticnetworkormodelforananalogy;[2]aTARGETonto
whichthatnetworkofmeaningismapped.
66
Forexample,thetargetof
65. SeealsounderClassicalabsolutism:musicismusic,pp.89115.
Tagg: Musics Meanings 2. The most important thing 79
LOVE IS A BATTLEFIELD and LOVE IS A JEWEL is love but the sources
mapped on to that same target are very different. Of course, neither
statement is literally true but neither is metaphorically false since the
connotative model of both BATTLEFIELD victims, pain, destruction,
etc. and of JEWEL sparkling, valuable, precious, etc. can be
mappedontodifferentaspectsoflove.
67

A similar sort of mapping is used in suggestive titles given to pieces of


library music like Across the Plains, Caresses by Candlelight, Century of
Progress, Days of the Roman Empire, Fogbound, Green Heritage, Psychotic
Transients, Reactor Test and The Sleepy Cossack.
68
Each piece can be un-
derstood as metaphorological target and its title as the linguistic
source embodying the semantic field or network acting as a model for
some essential aspect of how the music is perceived. Connotative re-
sponses to music work similarly: they supply verbal-visual hints
(VVAs) acting as source models whose meaning is mapped on to the
music eliciting the response.
69
Verbal metaphors of musical meaning
are by definition metonymic. They are not the music and do no more
than suggest part of its perceived meaning. Even more importantly,
they are almost always culturally specific because different audiences
belonging to different social groups in different traditions at different
times in different places under different conditions cannot be expected
to map the same verbal source on to the same musical target. How-
ever, the fact that music is not a universal language (p. 47, ff.) does not
mean that its any less universal a phenomenon than (verbal) language.
On the contrary, to understand how any music can communicate any-
thing apart from itself its necessary to study individual occurrences of
musical semiosis in specific cultural contexts. Its only on that basis that
more general patterns of musical semiosis can be extrapolated, some of
which may be applicable in a wider cultural context.
In short, verbal metaphors of perceived musical meaning are a useful
starting point for anyone wanting to understand how musics sounds
66. SeeForceville(2005)andLakoff&Johnson(1979).
67. Itsalsoworthnotingthatthesemetaphorsareirreversible.Lovecanbeajewelora
battlefieldbutneitherajewelnorabattlefieldcanbelove.
68. AllthesetitlesarefromtheBoosey&Hawkeslibrarymusiccollection.
69. SeeunderReceptiontests,p.200,ff.
80 Tagg: Musics Meanings 2. The most important thing
can carry which types of meaning (p. 4). Some readers may be uncom-
fortable with the notion of words as approximate metaphors for music
because words in our logocentric tradition of knowledge are favoured
as reliable bearers of meaning in a way that music isnt. I would simply
ask those readers to at least consult the following sections of this book
before rejecting the cultural reality of words as metaphors of music:
Polysemy and connotative precision (pp. 167-169), Intersubjectivity (pp.
195-228) and Gestural interconversion (pp. 502-509).
Summaryoftenmainpoints
[1]Whetherornotwehumansarealoneinhavingdevelopedtwosys
tems of sonic communication (language and music), we are probably
theonlyspeciestodistinguishsoradicallybetweenthem(p.54, ff.).
[2]Musicisaformofcommunicationinvolvingtheemissionandper
ceptionofnonverbalsoundsstructuredorarrangedbyhumansforhu
mans. As such, music is a universal phenomenon in the sense that no
humansocietyhaseverbeenwithoutit,eventhoughwhatwemeanby
the word music may have no exact verbal equivalent in many lan
guages(p.44,ff.).
[3]Musicisnomoreauniversallanguagethanlanguageitself.Being
auniversalphenomenondoesnotmeanthatthesamesounds,musicalor
verbal, have the same meaning in all cultures. The fact that language
and music dont trace the same cultural boundaries in no way means
that any music or language can be understood by everyone on the
planet(p.47,ff.).
[4] Music often involves a concerted simultaneity of sound events or
movements.Unlikespeech,writing,painting,etc.,musicisparticularly
suited to expressing collective messages of affective and corporeal
identity, since individual participating voices or instruments must re
latetotheunderlyingtemporal,timbralortonalbasisoftheparticular
musicbeingperformed(p.45).
[5]Bycombininginputfromseveraldomainsofrepresentation,music
forms integral categories of cognition that, from a verbal viewpoint,
mayseemcontradictoryorpolysemicbutwhichcorrespondmoreac
curately and holistically with states of mind as they are actually felt
Tagg: Musics Meanings 2. The most important thing 81
(verbal hints: ANGRY ON A GOOD DAY, SAD AND ELATED, VULNERABLE
ANDEUPHORIC,etc.).Musicalsohelpssynaesthesisandcognitiveflexi
bility(p.62,ff.).
[6] Cognitive neuroscientists have demonstrated that musical experi
encecausesneuronstofireupalloverthebrain.Suchobservationsre
inforcenotionsofmusicasaparticularlysynaestheticandholistictype
ofhumanexpression(p.68,ff.).
[7] Emotion and affect are essential aspects of musical meaning but
preoccupationwithindividualsubjectivityinWesterndiscourseabout
musictendstodivertattentionfromequallyimportantissueslikespa
tiality,movement,energyandtactility,aswellasfromaspectsofethnic,
historicalanddemographicconnotation(p.71,ff.).
[8]Iftreatedwithcare,verbalmetaphorsofperceivedmusicalmeaning
can serve as a useful entry point into the discussion of how musics
soundscancarrywhichtypesofmeaning(p.78,ff.).
[9]Musicis,indifferentwaysandtovaryingdegrees,essentialtoany
humaninthesocialisationprocessleadingfromegocentricbabytocol
laborativeadult(p.58,ff).
[10]Musicisimportantincontemporaryeverydaylifeintermsofthe
amountsoftimeandmoneyspentonit:aboutfourhoursandtheprice
ofaloafofbreadorofalitreofmilkperpersonperday(p.35,ff).Or,to
usethewordsofglobaland/orhistoricalcelebrities:
If you want to know if a nation is well governed, the quality of its
music will provide the answer. Music produces a kind of pleasure
whichhumannaturecannotdowithout.(Confucius)
70
Musicissonaturallyunitedwithusthatwecannotbefreefromiteven
ifwesodesired.(Bothius)
71
Givemecontroloverhewhoshapesthemusicofanation,andIcare
notwhomakesthelaws.(Napolon)
71
Einsteinfiguredouthisproblemsandequationsbyimprovisingon
theviolin.(GJWithrow,personalfriendofEinstein)
71
70. Adaptedfromnumerousonlinequotationsites.
71. AllthreequotesareinODonnell(1999).TheBothiussourceisStorr(1992).
82 Tagg: Musics Meanings 2. The most important thing
Given these ten points and the discussion they summarise, the next
questiontoaskiswhymusic,ifitisimportantinsomanywaystohu
mans,seemstohavesooftenendedupnearthebottomoftheacademic
heap.AlthoughitsstatusinWesterninstitutionsoflearningmaynotbe
as lowly as that occupied by other important aspects of human exist
ence like dance or domestic science, its clearly not up there with
maths,thenaturalsciencesandlanguage.Thisanomalyisexplainedin
thenextchapter.
83
3.Theepistemicoiltanker
F the stopping distance of an oil tanker is measured in nautical
milesanditsturningradiusinkilometres,theinertiaofacultural
legacyloadedwithsocial,economic,technologicalandideological
ballastisbettercalculatedincenturiesthaninyears.Thischapteriden
tifies one such metaphorical oil tanker with a view to charting a less
hazardouscoursethroughthetroubledwatersforwhichthevesselwas
notdesigned.TheoiltankerinquestionisacertainsetofWesternno
tionsaboutmusic,thetroubledwatersarethoseofthepostEdisonera
and theepistemologicalhazardsare theanomaliesrelating tothe un
suitability of that unwieldy vessel in those waters. Now, one of those
hazards is the contradiction between musics humble academic status
and its importance in everyday life. Its an antagonistic contradiction:
eithermusicjustisntasimportantasIvemadeout(inwhichcaseno
contradictionexists)orelsemusicsimportanceisunderestimatedand
itscharactermisunderstood.Assuming,onthebasisofevidencegiven
inChapters1and2,thesecondalternativetobemoreplausible,itwill
benecessarytoexaminethepersistentbeliefsystemofwhichthatcon
tradictionisasymptominordertoclearthegroundfortheideaspre
sentedlaterinthisbook.ThatswhyinthischapterIlltrytoidentify
anddemystifysomewidelyheldarticlesoffaithaboutmusic,whichin
itsturnentailsconsideringconnectionsbetweenideologyandmusical
institutions,aswellasbetweennotionsofmusicandknowledge.
Thebasicanomaly
Compared to the visual and verbal arts, music in Western academe
livesinasortofconceptualandinstitutionalisolationfromtheepiste
mologicalmainstream.Thisrelativeisolationinacademestandsinstark
contrast to musics much greater integration into media production and
perception processes. Every time you put on a DVD, play a computer
game,oraresubjectedtoconsumeristpropagandaontheTV,musicis
usuallyanintegralpartofwhathasbeenproducedandofwhateverit
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84 Tagg: Musics Meanings 3. The epistemic oil tanker
isyouexperienceonhearingandseeingthatmultimediaproduction.
Assumingthatmusicmakesacontributiontothatexperience,why,you
mightwellwonder,inourtraditionofknowledge,doweseemtolack
the conceptual tools thatcouldhelpus understand basicquestionsof
musicalmeaning?
Ive already questioned the notion of music as a universal language
(p. 47,ff.)andsuggestedthatmusicshumblestatusinthepeckingor
derofsignsystemsinalargelylogocentricandscopocentrictradition
of knowledge may be due to its essentially alogogenic character. As
should be clear from the previous paragraph, there is, unfortunately,
moretotheproblemthanthat.
Articlesoffaith
Oneproblemaboutunderstandinghowmusicworksasasignsystem
isthatthosewhohavewrittenaboutsuchthingshavenotalwaysbeen
transparentabouttheiragenda.Anotherproblemisthatmanysources
we rely on for ideas about music date from before the advent of free
publiceducationandthatverballiteracywasuntilthenthepreserveof
anlite.Thesesourceshavealonghistoricallegacy.Theyarealsooften
normative,propounding,fromparticularstandpointsinspecificsocio
historicalsituations,notionsofmusicalrightandwrong,goodandbad,
trueandfalse,beautifulandugly,elegantandvulgar,learnedandigno
rant,etc.Ofcourse,thefactthatliteracywasuntilrecentlythepreserve
ofprivilegedminoritiesinnowayimpliesthatsocietieswithlittleorno
divisionoflabourhavenomusicalnorms,orthatoralcultureshaveno
notionsofhowtheirmusicshouldsound.Itsimplymeansthat,inour
largelyscribaltraditionofinstitutionalisedandacademicallycodified
knowledge, we tend to rely heavily on written documents whose
poweragendasarerarelymadeexplicit.
Musicalpoweragendas:ahistoricalexcursion
Onerecurrenttraitindocumentsaboutmusicfromancienthighcul
tures(Mesopotamia,Egypt,China,Greece,etc.),isitslinktoofficialre
ligiousdoctrineortoostensiblyindisputablephysicalphenomena.
1
In
ancient Mesopotamia for example (3,000600 BC), music theory was
Tagg: Musics Meanings 3. The epistemic oil tanker 85
connectedtoastrologyandmathematics.Thegeneralideawasthat if
you knew the motions of the stars, if you believed in their sway over
humandestiny,thenyouunderstoodtheharmonyoftheuniverse.You
couldtheoreticallybeatonewiththeuniversebymakingmusicwhich
abidedbytherulesofitsharmony.Musicofthecourtandofofficialre
ligionwasheldtoconformtosuchrules;thatofotherclassesandpeo
plesdidnot.Itwasthroughsuchmetaphysicallinksthatanoppressive
politicalsystemcouldbeidentifiedwithasystemofmusicalorganisa
tion which was in its turn aligned with the immutable system of the
universe.Likethedeificationoftheworldlysystemskings,metaphys
icalconnectionsbetweentherulingclasses,theirmusicandtheheav
enlyspherescreatedtheillusionthattheirunjustpoliticalsystemwas
asdivine,eternal,unquestionableandunchangeableastheuniverse.
2
Written records from ancient China are even more explicit. The tonal
systemofimperialmusic,basedonobservationsabouttherelationof
risingfifthstotheperfectratio3:2,
3
wasputintoacosmicperspective.
Accordingtodocumentsfromaround450BC,[s]ince3isthenumeral
ofHeavenand2thatoftheEarth,soundsintheratio3:2harmoniseas
HeavenandEarth.
4
TheimportanceofofficialmusicinancientChina
anditsconnectionwithirrefutabletruthsisalsodemonstratedbythe
establishmentofaMusicBureau(,Yufu)undertheImperialOffice
1. SeeTagg(2002:passim);seealsoLing(1983:1469),CrossleyHolland(1959: 13135).
2. OneMesopotamian(Sumerian,Babylonian,Assyrian,Chaldaean)notionwasthat
theprimarydivisionsofastretchedstring,expressedasthemathematicalratios1:1
(unison),2:1(octave),3:2(fifth)and4:3(fourth)(seenote4),notonlydefineoctaves
andtetrachords,butalsorelatetothefourseasons.Thereisalsoreasontobelieve
thatPythagoras(sixthcenturyBC),afterextensivestudiesinbothEgyptandMeso
potamia,broughtbackknowledgeofharmonicsandscalestoGreece,whereheand
hisdisciplesdevelopedtheirowntheoriesoftheharmonyofthespheres,including
thenotionofethos(modalcharacterandaffect)thatwaslater,viaArabictreatises,
toinfluencemusictheoryinmedievalEurope.SeealsoLing(1983: 1113);Crossley
Holland(1959: 1315).
3. Therisingperfectfifthisatonalintervalspanningfourascendingsteps(1[234]5)
intheWesternmajororminorscale,e.g.a-eskippingtheinterveningb-c-d,orb-
f#withoutthec#-d-einbetween,orc-gmissingoutd-e-f.Formuchmore
aboutfifths,seeTagg(2009:98101).
4. Documents:theYueji( ,MemorialofMusic)andLiji( RecordofRites
(seealsonote2),citedbyCrossleyHolland(1959:4246).
86 Tagg: Musics Meanings 3. The epistemic oil tanker
ofWeightsandMeasures(14187BC).TheBureausbriefwastostand
ardisepitch,supervisemusicandbuildupmusicalarchives.
5
Moreim
portantly, for over 2000 years of Chinese imperial history (221 BC
1911),onesetofmusicalpracticeswasidentifiedbyrulingclassideo
loguesastherightmusic:yyu( )orelegantmusic,asitwas
called,refersbothtocourtmusicofthatlongperiodand,moreparticu
larly,tocourtmusicassociatedwithConfucianphilosophy.
6

The music of imperial Chinese courts, especially yyu (elegant mu


sic),was,aswejustsaw,relatedtothecosmicvaluesofthenumerals2
and3which,intheirturn,wererelatedtonotionsofheavenandearth,
maleandfemale,Yang( ,sun)andYin( ,shade),etc.Yyuwascer
tainlyregulatedbystrictrulesofperformance,notonlyintermsofde
tailed stage positions for instrumentalists and dancers, but also with
regard to tonal norms. Intricate division and subdivision of genres in
termsofbothmusicalstyleandaudiencetypeillustratefurtheraspects
ofcomplexcodification,asdoalltheancienttextssettingoutthehis
tory, aesthetics and metaphysics of imperial musicmaking. These
sources also imply that knowledge of such intricacies was important
forthoseproducingandconsumingtheelegantmusic,whosehistory
couldbetracedbacktowhatwas,eventhen,thedistantpastofanan
cientdynasty.
7
Moreover,imperialChinesemusiccouldbereproduced
quiteconsistentlyfromoneperformanceorgenerationtoanother,not
onlybecauseofthemanytreatisescodifyingitsaestheticsandpractice,
but also because certain types of notation were used. Although such
notation,eitherasideogramsindicatingpitchorastablatureforstring
instruments,wasprobablyusedlessprescriptivelythanthesheetmu
sic followed by euroclassical musicians, it at least helped ensure that
singers and musicians could make the music they composed or per
formedconformadequatelytoprescribedpatterns.
Similar hierarchies of music are found in written sources from other
highcultures.Forexample,toqualifyasclassical(i.e.asbelongingto
5. Malm(1977: 152),CrossleyHolland(1959:48).
6. Pian(1995: 250251).
7. MasterLusAnnals(239BC)citedbyCrossleyHolland(1959:4546).
Tagg: Musics Meanings 3. The epistemic oil tanker 87
the Great Tradition), Indian performing art, be it from the North or
South,must,asPowers(1995:72)pointsout,satisfytwomaincriteria.
Firstlyitmustestablishaclaimtobegovernedbyauthoritativetheoret
icaldoctrine;secondly,itspractitionersmustbeabletoauthenticatea
disciplined oral tradition of performance extending back over several
generations.
The important concept here is doctrine (stra), more specifically san
gitastra(musicaldoctrine).ForIndianmusictoqualifyasdoctrinally
correct,itmustadheretoatleastonecanonicalprecept:melodiccon
structionshouldbegovernedbyoneofthetraditionsrgas.
8
Thisrule
is so important that the proper term for correct musical practices,
striyasangit (doctrinal music), is less frequently used than rgdar
sangit(musicbasedonarga).IndiansalsooftenusetheEnglishword
classicalwhendistinguishingrgatraditionsfrompopularmusicprac
tices.TheOxfordConciseEnglishDictionary(1995)definesclassical,qual
ifyingthearts,as:
seriousorconventional;followingtraditionalprinciplesandintended
tobeofpermanentratherthanephemeralvaluerepresentinganex
emplarystandard;havingalongestablishedworth.
Callingstriyasangitorrgdarsangitclassicalmusicisinotherwords
quiteappropriatebecausenotonlydobuzzwordsofhigherandlasting
valueoccurintheconnotativespheresofbothterms:striyasangitand
classicalmusicalsobothalludetonotionsoftradition,doctrine,conven
tionandlearning.Besides,striyasangitsqualificationasscientificor
knowledgeable rhymes well with Europeanlanguage equivalents of
classicalmusic,likemusiquesavante,musicacolta,msicaculta,msicaeru
dita,EMusik,seriousmusicandartmusic.
9
Unlikemosttypesofpopu
larandfolkmusic,themusicalpracticesqualifiedbysuchepithetsas
classicalareallassociatedwithdoctrinaltextscodifyingthephilosophy,
aesthetics, performance, interpretation, understanding and structural
basisofthemusicinquestion.
8. Rgacanbeunderstoodasamelodicmatrixforimprovisation,withrulesfor
ascendinganddescendingpatternsusingaspecifictonalvocabulary.Thespecificity
ofaragaisalsodeterminedbytherelativeimportanceofparticularnotesinthat
vocabulary,byappropriatemotifsorphrases,aswellasbyparamusical

linkstosea
son,timeofdayandmoods,etc.
88 Tagg: Musics Meanings 3. The epistemic oil tanker
Tocutalongstoryshort,thedivisionofmusicinWesterncultureinto
categoriesofartorclassicalandfolkorpopularhasnumerousparallels
andforerunners.ItsevenpossiblethatelementsofMesopotamianthe
orypassedviaGreekandArabscholarsintothemetamusicalmindset
ofEuropesmedievalclericsandtheirtrichotomyofmusics.
10
Thistri
chotomy consisted of musica mundana (the music of the heavens, of
spheresintheuniverse),musicahumana(musicprovidingequilibrium
ofsoulandbodyandinstilledbyliturgicalsong)andmusicainstrumen
talis(thesingingandtheplayingofinstrumentsthatwereattheservice
ofthedevilaswellasofGod).AsLing(1983: 97)explains:
[I]ntheworldofheavenlylight,theharmoniousandwelltunedmusic
ofeternityisheard.Itsoppositeistheunbearablenoiseanddissonant,
discordantmusicofhell.Bothheavenandhellexistonearth:themusic
ofheavenisreflectedinliturgicalchantitisorganised,wellmeasured
andbasedonscienceandreason.Allothermusicisofthedevil,being
chaotic,illmeasuredanduneducated.
Sincemusicamundanawasanentirelymetaphysicalidea(themusicof
the spheres, of heaven, of Gods perfect creation, etc.), the real world
contained only two sorts of music according to the aesthetic and reli
giouspreceptsofthechurchfathers:(1)musicahumanaastheuplifting
liturgicalsongofMotherChurchandofGodsrepresentativesonearth
and(2)musicainstrumentalisasallothermusic,beitofthedevilorof
God.Thisbasicdualismofmusicschangescharacterquiteradicallyas
partofthelengthyandcomplexprocessbywhichthevaluesystemsof
feudalandecclesiasticallitesaresupesededbythoseoftheascendant
bourgeoisie. These bourgeois music values are important to under
standbecausetheyvebeenatthebasisofmuchdiscourseaboutmusic
in Western institutions of education and research since the mid nine
9. Musiquesavante(French)literallymeansknowledgeablemusicormusicforedu
catedpeopleintheknow.Musicacolta(Italian)andmsicaculta(Spanish)literally
meancultured,refinedmusic,i.e.musicforeducatedandcultivatedpeople.
Msicaerudita(Portuguese)meansofcourseeruditeorlearnedmusic.EMusik
(German)isshortforernsteMusik(ernst=serious),i.e.forpeoplewhotaketheir
musicseriously;itisgenerallyopposedtoUMusik,shortforUnterhaltungsmusik
(entertainmentmusic)butalsosimilartoUBahn(undergroundrailway/subway)
andUmensch(aNaziwordmeaningsubhuman).
10. Seefootnote2,p. 85.
Tagg: Musics Meanings 3. The epistemic oil tanker 89
teenthcentury.TheyincludenotionsofthemusicallyGood,Beautiful
and True thatstillhold swayinmany ofourmusicalinstitutionsand
stillexertastronginfluenceonwhatsortofmeanings,ifany,thoseof
uswhoseeourselvesaseducatedthinkthatmusiccancarry.
Classicalabsolutism:musicismusic
ThenotionofABSOLUTEMUSICandofitssuperiorityisastrikingfeature
ofinstitutionalmusicaestheticsintheWesternworld.Hegel(1815),for
example,madethefollowingdistinctionbetweenthemusicalvaluesof
theinitiatedandthoseoftheaveragepunter.
[W]hatthelayman(Laie)likesinmusicisthecomprehensibleexpres
sionofemotionsandideas,somethingsubstantial,itscontent,forwhich
reason he prefers accompanimental music (Begleitmusik); the connois
seur(Kenner),ontheotherhand,whohasaccesstotheinnermusicalre
lationoftonesandinstruments,likesinstrumentalmusicforitsartistic
use of harmonies and of melodic intricacy as well as for its changing
forms;hecanbequitefulfilledbythemusiconitsown.
11
The most famous ABSOLUTE MUSIC aphorism was coined by Austrian
music critic Eduard Hanslick who, in his treatise On Musical Beauty
(1854),wrote:Musicscompletecontentandtotalsubjectmatterisnothing
otherthantonalformsinmovement.
12
Sincethen,similarviewsofmusic
haveruledtheroostineuroclassicalcirclestosuchanextentthatsome
composers whose tonal forms in movement clearly relate to other
subjectmatterhavedeniedanysuchrelation.Stravinsky(18821971),
forexample,oncequippedthathismusicexpressednothingbutitself,
implying that stage works of his (Petrushka, The Firebird, The Rite of
Spring, etc.) were pure music.
13
It may be true that Stravinsky, a bit
likeDavidBowie,frequentlyrecasthispublicpersonabuttheveryfact
11. MytranslationofapassagefromHegelssthetik(1955,compiledfromlecturenotes
c. 1815),citedinZoltai(1970: 260).ByBegleitmusik(begleiten=accompany)ismeant
musicaccompanyingstageaction,dance,paramusicalnarrative,etc.Sanctuaryof
theHigherArts(AsylederhherenKnste)isanepithetcoinedbyAdolfBernhard
Marx(17951866)who,onMendelssohnsrecommendation,wasappointedDirector
ofMusicattheUniversityofBerlinin1830.
12. TnendbewegteFormensindeinzigundalleinInhaltundGegenstandderMusik,
fromHanslicksVommusikalischSchnen.EinBeitragzurRevisiondersthetikder
Tonkunst,Leipzig(1854).SeealsounderKineticanaphones,p. 498.
90 Tagg: Musics Meanings 3. The epistemic oil tanker
thathesawfit,evenjustonce,todosofromthestandpointofmusical
absolutismsuggeststhatadoptingthatviewmayhaveadvancedhisar
tistic credibility in influential circles. This is certainly what Mahler
(18601911) once felt compelled to do: having already written pro
gramme notes to his first three symphonies, he is reported to have
raisedhisglassatasoirewithMunichilluminatiin1900andtohave
proclaimeddeathtoallprogrammemusic!.
14
ThepressureoncomposerstoconformtothenotionofABSOLUTEMUSIC
throughoutthetwentiethcenturycannotbeunderestimated.Forexam
ple,famousfilmcomposerslikeKorngold(18971957)andRzsa(1907
1995)liveddoublelives,compelledtoseparatetheirMUSICFORMUSICS
SAKEfromtheirworkforthemovies.
15
Similarly,Morriconehasonoc
casionsexpresseddisappointmentatthescantrecognitionhereceives
forhisconcertmusic,howeverwidelyacclaimedhemaybeasamusi
calpioneerbecauseofhisworkforthecinema.
16
Thepointis:iftheinsti
tutionaldominanceofabsolutistaestheticscanaffectthelivesofwidely
acclaimedfigureslikeMahler,Stravinsky,Korngold,RzsaandMorri
cone,thensuchaviewofmusicwillhaveexertedatleastasmuchin
fluence on lesser figures in musical academe. For example, Francs
(1958), in his pioneering research about musical reception, received
13. SeeStravinsky&Craft(1959).TheFirebird(1910)andTheRiteofSpring(1913)are
balletworks.Petrushka(1911)waswrittenforpuppettheatre.Allthreeworksare
explicitlyassociatedwithspecificcharacters,scenesandmoods.
14. Floros(1987)citesSchliedermayrsreport(Leipzig,n.d.:1314)thatMahlersaid
PereatjedesProgramm!afteraperformanceofhissecondsymphonyattheHugo
WolfVerein.ThankstoMMichelsenandJGWilliamsonforthereferences.
15. WolfgangErichKorngold,ViennesecomposerandpupilofMahler,wrotemusicfor
filmslikeCaptainBlood(1935)andTheAdventuresofRobinHood(1938).MiklosRz
sa,HungarianpupilofHonegger,wrotemusicforDoubleIndemnity(1944),TheLost
WeekendandSpellbound(1945),QuoVadis?(1951)andBenHur(1959).Rzsasautobi
ography(1982)isactuallyentitledDoubleLife.Seealsopp. 534541.
16. MorriconewrotescoresforTheGood,TheBadandtheUglyandTheBattleofAlgiers
(1966),1900(1976),TheMission(1986),TheUntouchables(1987)andhundredsof
otherfilms.InNovember1996,whileworkingonLolita(1997),hetoldmethathe
wasuncomfortablewiththenotionofhisfilmmusicasthesiteofmusicalinnova
tion,eventhoughhisworkforthecinemahasnotonlycapturedtheimaginationofa
massaudiencebutalsoearnedhimtherespectofavantgardemusicianslikeJohn
Zorn.SergioMiceli,Morriconesfriendandbiographer,toldmeinDecember1999
thathehadseveraltimesheardthecomposerexpressthesameopinion.
Tagg: Musics Meanings 3. The epistemic oil tanker 91
several indignant responses from his music student informants in
whichtheyexpressedstrongabsolutistviewsofthefollowingtype:
No,noandnoagain.Musicismusic.Icannotconceiveofitasasource
ofemotionalorliteraryramblings.
17
Istill(2012)meetindividualsunabletoacceptthatmusicrelatestoany
thing but itself. It seems in fact that musical absolutism has exerted
suchastronginfluencethatithas,aswellseelater,evenspilledover
intosometypesofdiscourseaboutpopularmusic.
18
Clearly,thenotion
ofABSOLUTEMUSICconflictswithsemioticapproachestomusicanalysis,
butitspalpabletenacityalsosuggeststhatitsanepistemicforcetobe
reckonedwith.Ifthatisso,itwouldbefoolishtosimplywriteoffthe
notionwithoutfirstexaminingitinsomedetail,notleastbecause,asal
readynoted,musicalstructurescaninonesensebeobjectivelyrelatedto
onlyeither:[a]theiroccurrenceinsimilarguiseinothermusic;or[b]
theirowncontextwithinthepieceofmusicinwhichthey(already)oc
cur(p.46).Inonesenseisofcoursetheissueherebecausetheexclu
sivelyintragenericstanceofmusicalabsolutismignoreseverythingelse
towhichmusiccanberelated.InwhatcomesnextIlltrytoexplainthe
natureofandreasonsformusicalabsolutismsepistemiclopsidedness.
Absoluteandnonabsolute
Callingmusicabsoluteliterallymeansthatthemusicsoqualifiedisnei
thermixedupwith,nordependenton,norconditionedby,norother
wise related to anything else. The first problem with this absolute
definitionofabsoluteisthatnoteventhemostadamantmusicalabsolut
istwouldclaimsuchabsolutemusicasalateBeethovenquartettobe
100% independent of the musical tradition to which it belongs. Since
thequartetcannothaveexistedinisolationfromthemusicaltraditions
towhichitscomposerandaudiencesbelonged,anynotionofABSOLUTE
MUSIC must be dependent on at least the existence of other ABSOLUTE
MUSICforitsownidentity.Absoluteisinthiscaserelative,allowingthe
musicinquestiontobeabsoluteonlyinthesenseofunrelatedtoany
thingelseexceptother(absolute)music.Now,apartfromthefactthat
17. Francs(1958: 2889)Non,nonetnon.Lamusiqueestmusique,jeneconoispas
quellepuissetresourcededivagationssentimentalesoulittraires.
18. SeePostmodernistabsolutismandtextdenial,p.101,ff.
92 Tagg: Musics Meanings 3. The epistemic oil tanker
theotherABSOLUTEMUSICwouldrelatetomoreABSOLUTEMUSIC,either
in a loop (circular argument) or, at some final point in an otherwise
endless chain of absolute references, to something other than ABSO
LUTE MUSIC, the slight qualification, just proposed, of absolute as
partlyrelativeisproblematicfortwomoresubstantialreasons.
ThefirstreasonisthatABSOLUTEMUSICreliesontheexistenceofNON
ABSOLUTEMUSICforitsdistinctionasabsolute.SinceNONABSOLUTEMU
SICmust,atleastbyinference,berelatedtoothermusicandtophenom
enathatarentintrinsicallymusical,ABSOLUTEMUSICmustalso,evenif
indirectly,berelatedtootherphenomenathanmusic,thankstoitssine
quanonrelationtoNONABSOLUTEMUSIC,andtothatmusicsrelationto
thingsotherthanitself.Moreover,sincethosewhodistinguishonetype
ofmusicfromothersbythequalifierabsoluteinnowaymakeupthe
entirepopulation,theyarejustoneofmanysocioculturalgroupsiden
tifiablebytheirspecificmusicalvaluesandopinions.
19
Thismeansthat
thetermABSOLUTEMUSICis,likeitornot,linkedtothesocioculturalpo
sition, tastes, attitudes and behaviour of those that use it. It thereby
identifiesnotonlyABSOLUTEMUSICinrelationtoothermusicbutalsoits
fans in relation to users of other music. Due to such inevitable socio
culturalconnotation,ABSOLUTEMUSICisacontradictioninterms.
ThesecondreasonforrefutingthenotionofABSOLUTEMUSICisitsimpli
cationthatthemusicthusqualifiedtranscendsnotonlysocialconnota
tions and uses but also patterns of synaesthesis.
20
If that sort of
transcendenceexisteditwouldmeanthatdemonstrablepatternsofjux
tapositionbetweenmusicandpictures,betweenmusicandwords,or
betweenmusicandbodilymovement(asindance,film,opera,Lieder,
popsongs,adverts,videos,computergamesetc.)couldneverinfluence
theproductionorperceptionofABSOLUTEMUSICandviceversa.More
over, if ABSOLUTE MUSIC were indeed absolute, it would need no ele
mentsofbiologicallyorculturallyacquiredsynaesthesistoexist,with
the consequence that NONABSOLUTE MUSIC (opera overtures, ballet
suites, TV themes, dance tunes, etc.) would be pointless in a music
19. Withoutthisfactofsociology,theUSformatradiosystemwouldfallapart(seeany
numberofTheBroadcastingYearbookofAmerica).
20. SeeCrossdomainrepresentationandsynaesthesis,p.62,ff.
Tagg: Musics Meanings 3. The epistemic oil tanker 93
onlysituation(ataconcert,ontheradio,onyoursmartphone)where
theirvisual,dramaticorchoreographicaccompanimentisnormallyab
sent.Conversely,itwouldmeanthatABSOLUTEMUSICplayedinconnec
tion with anything but itself or other ABSOLUTE MUSIC would also be
useless because its autonomy would preclude any synaesthetic per
ception.Thiswouldinturnimply,forexample,thattheTavianibroth
ersweredeludedwhentheyusedsnippetsfromtheslowmovementof
MozartsClarinetConcertoinA(K622)asunderscoretokeyscenesinPa
drePadrone(1977);itwouldalsomeanthatKubrickmisunderstoodthe
valuesofeuroclassicalmusicin2001(1968),TheShining(1980)andEyes
Wide Shut (1999), or that Widerberg, not to mention his cinema audi
ence,weremusicallyincompetentwhenrespondingtotheElviraMadi
gan(1967)effect.
21
Inotherterms,ABSOLUTEMUSICcontradictsmusics
inherentpropertiesasasiteofcrossdomainrepresentation(pp. 6268).
Inshort,ifmusiccalledABSOLUTEeverhadsocialconnotations,ifitwas
everwrittenorperformedinahistoricalcontextbycertainmusicians,
ifitwaseverheardinparticularcontextsorusedinparticularwaysby
a particular audience, if it was ever related to any drama, words or
dance, then it cannot be absolute. ABSOLUTE MUSIC can therefore only
existasanillogicalconceptorasanarticleoffaith.Ifso,howcanithave
beensoinfluentialandwhyisitsoresilient?Afirstcluetothisenigma
isprovidedinthenextthreequotes.
Passionsmustbepowerful;themusiciansfeelingsmustbefullblown
nomindcontrol,nowittyremarks,nocleverlittleideas!
22
Thissortofstatementcouldhavebeenmadebyadedicatedjazzmusi
cian(seep.408).Infactthewordsdatefrom1762andareutteredbythe
rebelliousmainmusocharacterinDiderotsplayRameausNephew.
21. In2001(1968)KubrickusesJ.StrausssBlueDanubewaltz(1867),R.StrausssAlso
sprachZarathustra(1895)andLigetisAtmosphres(1961).InTheShining(1980)he
usesthethirdmovementofBartksMusicforStrings,PercussionandCelesta(1936).
InElviraMadigan(1967),WiderbergusesthesecondmovementofMozarts21st
PianoConcertoinC,K467(1785),forthehazy,slowmotionsummermeadowlove
scenethatbecameapopulartemplateforromanceinTVadverts(seepp. 167169).
22. Ilfautquelespassionssoientfortes;latendressedumusiciendoittreextrme;
pointdesprit,pointdpigrammes,pointdecesjoliespenses!FromLaquerelle
desbouffonsinLeneveudeRameau(Diderot,1762: 119,lines298299,304305).
94 Tagg: Musics Meanings 3. The epistemic oil tanker
German romanticist Wilhelm Wackenroder had similar ideas. In 1792
hedescribedtheoptimalmusiclisteningmodeasfollows.
[I]tconsistsinalertobservationsofthenotesandtheirprogression,in
fullysurrenderingmyspirittothewellingtorrentofsensationsanddis
regardingeverydisturbingthoughtandallirrelevantimpressions
23
In1799,WackenroderscollaboratorLudwigTieckwrote:
[O]ncemusicisfreedfromhavingtodepictfinite,distinctemotions,
it becomes the expression of infinite yearning, and this indefinite
qualityissuperiortotheexactnessofvocalmusic,ratherthaninferior,
aswasbelievedduringtheEnlightenment.
24
Powerfulpassion,fullysurrenderingthespirit,infiniteyearningetc.on
theonehandand,ontheother,mindcontrol,disturbingthought,irrel
evantimpressions,distinctemotionsandsoon:thevaluedichotomyis
clear in the three viewsof music just cited. Other importantcommon
denominatorsarethattheyall,liketheHegelpassagethatstartedthis
section(p. 89),comefromthesameperiodinEuropeanhistoryandthat
theyareallqualifiableasRomantic.
Absolutesubjectivityandarseholeart
TheriseofinstrumentalmusicineighteenthcenturyEuropecanbeun
derstoodinthecontextoftheEnlightenment,rationalismandthebour
geoisrevolution.Theemancipatoryvaluesofthesedevelopmentsand
thesubjectiveexperienceofthatemancipationfoundcollectiveexpres
sionnotonlyinemotivesloganslikelibert,galit,fraternitbutalsoin
a music that was itself thought of as liberated. Instead of having to
make music under the constraints of feudal patronage and of the Ba
roquetheoriesofaffectassociatedwiththeancienrgime,
25
musiccould
now,itwasbelieved,bepurelyinstrumental,freetoexpressemotions
withouttheencumbranceofwordsorstageaction.
26
23. CitedbyDahlhaus(1988: 95).
24. LudwigTieckPhantasienberdieKunst(1799),citedbyDahlhaus(1988: 18).
25. TheTheoryofAffects(a.k.a.Affektenlehre,DoctrineoftheAffectations,etc.)isasso
ciatedwiththeBaroqueeraandwasparticularlydevelopedinGermany.Itsbasic
gististhatcomposersandperformerscan,byusingparticularmelodic,harmonic
andrhythmicdevices,provokeparticularemotionalresponsesintheiraudience.
ForanextensivecatalogueofBaroqueaffects,seeBartel(1997).
26. ThispartoftheaccountisbasedlargelyonZoltai(1970: 193ff.).
Tagg: Musics Meanings 3. The epistemic oil tanker 95
Of importance to this historical background is the fact that Romantic
views of music were conflated with notions of personality and free
will central to bourgeois subjectivity, both of which were treated as
conceptualoppositestotheexternalworldofmaterialobjectivity.Indi
viduality, emotionality, feelings and subjectivity came to be imagined
as opposite poles to the social, rational, factual and objective. Music
playedacentralroleinthishistoryofideasaccordingtowhichthesub
jects alienation from objective social processes was not so much re
flectedasreinforced,evencelebrated.Sincethehumanistliberationof
the ego from feudalist metaphysical dogma went hand in hand with
thebourgeoisrevolutionagainsttheabsolutismoftheecclesiasticaland
monarchist hierarchy, its hardly surprising to find contemporary no
tions of music unwilling to tie down musical expression by means of
verbaldenotationoranyothertypeofreferencetoanythingoutsideit
self.Afterall,aslongasthemusicalidealswereemancipatoryinrela
tiontoanoutmodedsystemofthoughttheycouldlendsupporttothe
development of revolutionary forms of music and society. But what
happenedwhenthosemusicalidealsbecametheruleandtheiradvo
catestherulers?
Perhaps the most significant change is that the radical instrumental
musicoflateeighteenthcenturyCentralEurope,initiallydubbedRo
mantic,acquiresthelabelclassical.
27
Thisrebrandingwasestablished
bythemidnineteenthcentury,alongwiththemusicsinstitutionalisa
tioninphilharmonicsocieties,concerthalls,conservatories,etc.
Anotherstrikingsymptomofthesameprocesswastheadoptionofre
current buzzwords to signal aesthetic excellence: ART, MASTERPIECE,
GENIUS,FREE,NATURAL,COMPLETE,INSPIRED,INFINITE,ETERNAL,SUBLIME,
etc.
28
Raisedtothestatusofclassical,theonceemancipatoryqualities
27. ClassicalwasnotTiecks,WackenrodersorETAHoffmannslabel.ForHoffmann
(17761822),HaydnandMozartwerethefirstRomanticcomposers(Rosen,1976:19).
Formoredetailsabouthowclassicalbecameclassical,seeLing(1984,1989:both
passim);seealsoStockfelt(1988: 6191).
28. ApartfromtheWackenroder,TieckandHegelquotes(page93),pleasenote[1]A B
Marxs(seenote11,p. 89)viewofthesonataasformoffreedevelopment(Rosen,
1990: 83);[2]Hegelsnotionofmusicascompletewithdrawalintosubjectivity,
citedinZoltai(1970: 243)fromHegel(1955: 806).
96 Tagg: Musics Meanings 3. The epistemic oil tanker
ofthemusicweremystifiedanditsGreatComposersmummifiedinto
thoselittlewhitealabasterbuststhatclassicalbuffsusedtokeepontop
ofwellpolishedpianos.Althoughthedynamicindependencethatthe
canonised instrumental music once possessed had been dynamic and
independentinrelationtoolderformsofmusicthatwereconsideredfet
tered by certain types of extramusical bonding, it was, as classical
music,strippedofthathistoricity.Initsnewstateofsanctityitwascon
servedinconservatoriesthatby1900hadsuccessfullyeradicatedany
thing that might upset the canon, including the improvisation
techniquesthathadoncebeenpartofthetraditionwhosechampions
the same conservatories professed to be.
29
This institutionalisation
process left the seemingly suprasocial ABSOLUTE MUSIC deep frozen as
sacrosanct notation: a centuryandahalfs worth of performers were
subsequentlyconservatorytrainedtoperpetuate it.Atthesametime,
concertsincludedlessandlessnewmusic.Forexample,theproportion
oflivingtodeadcomposersmusicontheconcertrepertoireinFrance
fellfrom3:1inthe1780sto1:3inthe1870s.
30

Freedomofexpressionwithoutverbalortheatricalconstrainthadbeen
the revolutionary drive of the new instrumental music that was later
canonisedasclassical.Oncecanonised,itneededtheoriesthatwould
identify and codify those special qualities. And if the new musics
emancipatorydrivingpowerhadbeenitsunfetteredemotionalexpres
sionthenthatwouldbeanobvioustraittoconserveinconservatories
andtoexpounduponinseriouswritingsonmusic.Oneproblemwas
thatthenewinstrumentalmusichadderiveditsperceivedfreedomof
expression,itsowninternalmusicalrhetoricanddrama,notfrombeing
devoid of words or dramatic action but from the fact that similar music had
beenrepeatedlyassociatedwithparticularwordsorstageaction.Whenmusic
wentinstrumentalandcrossedthestreetfromtheoperahouseorthea
treintotheconcerthall,itsimplycarriedwithitthoselinkstowords
anddramaticsituations.
31
29. Improvisationwasanintrinsicpartoftheeuroclassicaltradition.Bach,Handel,
MozartandBeethovenwerefamousnotonlyascomposersbutalsoasimprovisers.
30. Ling(1989:173)citingWeber(1977).Seealsosectiononnotation,p.121,ff.
Tagg: Musics Meanings 3. The epistemic oil tanker 97
Still,eventhoughtheclassicalsymphonycouldneverhaveacquiredits
sense of dramatic narrative without a legacy of affects from the Ba
roqueera,manyexpertsstillregardtheEuropeaninstrumentalclassics
asABSOLUTEMUSIC.AsDahlhaus(1988: 56)explains:
EarlyGermanromanticismdatesbacktothe1790swithWackenroders
and Tiecks metaphysic of instrumental music, a metaphysic that laid
thefoundationsofnineteenthcenturymusicaestheticsandreignedvir
tuallyunchallengedeveninthedecadesoffindesiclemodernism.
32
Thatmetaphysiclivedonthroughmuchofthetwentiethcentury.Even
Adornoshitlistoflisteningtypes
33
isclearlyHegelianandmusicisstill
sometimes taught as if it were at its best when divorced from words
andthevisualarts.
34
Polarisingtheissueforpurposesofclarity,itcould
be said that keepers of the ABSOLUTE MUSIC seal condemned music, if
deemed bad, to the aesthetic purgatory of entertainment or primitive
ritual;ifdeemedgood,theyraisedittotheloftyrealmsofArt.Itsno
exaggeration to say that a large proportion of musicological scholar
ship since A B Marx
35
has been devoted to propagating an arsenal of
terms and methods describing the complexities of European instru
mentalmusicintheclassicaltraditionattheexpenseofothermusics.
Among those inferior others we find not only the music of peoples
colonised or enslaved by the European capitalist classes (primitive),
butalsothelightmusic(Trivialmusik)ofthenineteenthcenturyEuro
peanproletariatoppressedbythesamerulingclasses(entertainment).
Thatdeprecationoflowbrowbyhighbrowiscallous,tosaytheleast,
31. Rosenshistoricalaccount(1976: 155)oftheclassicalViennesesymphonystresses
thispoint.[T]heapplicationofdramatictechniqueandstructuretoabsolute
musicwasthenaturaloutcomeofanagewhichsawthedevelopmentofthe
symphonicconcertasapublicevent.Thesymphonywasforcedtobecomeadra
maticperformance,anditaccordinglydevelopednotonlysomethinglikeaplot,
withaclimaxandadnouement,butalsoaunityoftone,characterandactionit
hadonlypartiallyreachedbefore.
32. Fordiscussions,explanationsandcritiquesoftheGreatEpistemicDivideinEuro
peanthought,pleasesee,forexample,Bhaskar(1975,1979,1987),Connerton(1989),
Lakoff&Johnson(1979: 189193).SeealsoTagg&Clarida(2003: 2729).
33. SeeAdorno(1941: 3248;1976: 120),Middleton(1990: 5760).
34. ThisprocessisdescribedindetailbyZoltai(1970: 177261).
35. AdolfBernhardMarx(17951866):seenote11,p. 89.
98 Tagg: Musics Meanings 3. The epistemic oil tanker
because the French Revolution of 1789 and the Code Napolon of 1804
wouldneverhavematerialisedwithoutthesupportandsacrificeofthe
popular majority. Despite that support, the bourgeois revolution re
negedonthepromiseoflibertyandequalityforallasitbetrayedthe
fourthestate(workers,peasants,etc.).Youdonthavetobeaprofessor
ofpoliticalhistorytoworkoutthatdeprivationdirectlyaffectspeoples
relationshiptomusic,asthefollowingsimplepointsdemonstrate.
Thelessmoneyyouhave,thelessyoucanaffordconcerttickets,
instruments,rehearsalandperformancespace,musicaltuition,etc.
Thelessmoneyyouhave,themorecrowdedyourlivingconditions
willbe,thelessroomyouwillhaveformusicalinstruments,and
themorelikelyyouwilldisturbyourneighbourswhenyoumake
music,orbedisturbedbythemwhentheymakemusic.
Thelessleisuretimeyouhave,thelesslikelyyouareabletotryout
othermusicsthanthosereadilyaccessibletoyouandthelesslikely
youaretooptformusicrequiringpatientlisteningoryearsoftrain
ingtoperformyourself.
Thenoisieryourworkandleisureenvironments,thelessuseyou
haveformusicinaudibleinthoseenvironments,orformusic
demandingthatyoulistenorperforminaconcentratedfashion
withoutdisturbanceorinterruption.
Bearingthesepointsinmind,Wackenrodersrightwayofrelatingto
music (p. 94) would be out of the question under the conditions that
most people had to endure in industrial cities across nineteenthcen
turyEurope.Norweretheoldmusicalwaysofthecountrysidemuch
ofanalternative.Apartfromthefactthatmusicconnectedwiththecy
cle of the seasons was not suited to life in an industrial town, most
membersofthenewworkingclasswererefugeesfromsemifeudalre
pressioninthecountrysidewhohadlittlereasontoidealisetheirrural
pastinmusicaloranyotherterms.Instead,theoldfolkmusicwasre
placedbystreetballads,lowchurchhymns,musichalltunes,popular
airs from opera and operetta, dance tunes, marches and so on. It was
thismusicalfarethatnineteenthcenturymusicauthoritiesbrandedas
light, trivial, trite, crude, shallow, lowbrow, commercial, ephemeral
entertainment in contrast to the deep, serious, classical, highbrow,
transcendentalArtoflastingvaluewhichtheyprized.Majorfiguresin
Tagg: Musics Meanings 3. The epistemic oil tanker 99
musicology were instrumental in propagating this view of high and
lowinmusic.Forexample,HugoRiemann(1901:313)dismissedpopu
larmusicasembodyingthelowestmusicalinstinctsofthemassesad
dicted to arsehole art.
36
Such overt contempt for the popular classes
andtheirmusicmaystrikeusasbothvulgarandelitistbuteventhose
charitable burghers who sought to raise the musical standards of the
masses unwittingly adopted, through their efforts to improve others
lessfortunatethanthemselves,apositionofculturalsuperiority.So,the
first probable reason for the staying power of absolutist aesthetics in
Europeisthatitworkedforalongtimeasareliablemarkerofclassmem
bership.Eventoday,advertsforfinancialservicesaremuchmorecom
mon on classical format radio than on pop or country stations.
However,theCLASSICALMUSIC=HIGHCLASSequationdidnotjustwork
asasocioculturalindicator.
Members of the new ruling classes faced a series of moral dilemmas,
themoststrikingofwhichisprobablythatbetweenthemonetaryprofit
imperative of the capitalist system and the charitable imperatives of
Christianity. Sell all that thou hast and give unto the poor rhymed
badly with paying your employees as little as possible to produce as
muchaspossibleorwithsendingchildrentoworkdownthemine.As
abusinessmaninafreemarketwithfreecompetition,itmightease
your conscience if you could draw clear dividing lines between your
businessandyourreligion,betweenworkandleisure,publicandpri
vate,personalandsocial,moralsandmoney,etc.Anyconceptualsys
tem rubberstamping such polarities would offer welcome relief and
help you sleep at night. Seen in this light, even the most outr state
mentsofRomanticmusicmetaphysics
37
havetobetakenseriouslybe
36. [D]enniedrigstenmusikalischenInstinktenderMengehuldigende[n]Afterkunst.
AfterliterallymeansarseholeinGerman(cf.theaftofaboat,whatisbehindorat
thebackend).ABMarx(seefootnotes11p.89,28p.95,41p.102)usedtheword
inthesamewayasRiemann.ThankstoPeterWicke(Berlin)forthesereferences
andforhelpwithGermannuancesofmeaning.
37. i.e.Wackenrodersuttersubmersion,Tiecks(andSchopenhauersandWagners)
infiniteyearning,Lamennaisinfinitebeauty,idealmodel,eternalessence
ratherthanthingsastheyare,Rousseausilnyariendebeauquecequinestpas,
Hegelsretreatintoinnerfreedomfromcontent(matter),etc.
100 Tagg: Musics Meanings 3. The epistemic oil tanker
cause the institutionalised concept of ABSOLUTE MUSIC provided an
ethicalgetoutclause:iflisteningtomusicintherightwaywasamat
teroftheemotions,oftheMUSICITSELFandnothingelse,thengoodbusi
nessoughttobeamatterofmakingmoney,BUSINESSITSELFandnothing
else.Or,toputitanotherway,feelingcompassionoranyotherirrele
vant emotion while making money would be as inappropriate as
thinking about money when listening to instrumental music in the
rightway(seep. 94).Toputitinanutshell,MUSICISMUSIC(ABSOLUTEMU
SIC) can only exist in the same way as ORDERS ARE ORDERS or BUSINESS IS
BUSINESS.Allthreestatementsareofcoursetautologicalnonsense,oth
erwisetherewouldbenomusicindustry,noWarCrimesTribunaland
noInternationalMonetaryFund;butthatisntthepointbecausetheef
fectsofthepracticescharacterisedbysuchconceptualabsolutismand
bytheideologicalpurposesitservesarestillpainfullyreal.Theconcep
tualdissociationofmoneyfrommorality,militaryordersfromethics,
andtheworldoutsidemusicfrommusic,allillustratethewayinwhich
capitalist ideology can isolate and alienate our subjectivity from in
volvementinsocial,economicandpoliticalprocesses.Weareinother
wordsbacktotheissueofdualconsciousnessraisedatthestartofthe
prefacetothisbook.
RefocusingonMUSICISMUSIC,weneedtomentiononefinalreasonfor
thestayingpowerofmusicalabsolutism.Imreferringheretotheway
inwhichmembersofthehautebourgeoisie,alreadyontopofsocietys
monetarypyramid,couldeasily,byclaimingtheartistichighgroundof
musical taste transcending mundane material reality, convince them
selvesthattheyweresuperiortothemassesinmorethanmerelymon
etaryterms:theycultivatedwhatestablishedexpertsagreedwasgood
taste in music, they adopted the right way of listening to the right
music;lessermortalsdidnot.Bytheoreticallylocatingtheirmusicalex
perience outside the material world, the privileged classes were not
onlyabletofeelsuperior:theycouldalsodivertattentionfromthefact
thatitwastheywhoexertedtherealpower,theywhoenjoyedthereal
materialprivileges,actuallyinthematerialworld.
Inthishistoricalcontext,theRomanticmetaphysicsofmusicanditsno
tionofABSOLUTEMUSIC,bothofwhichbecamecornerstonesinthecapi
Tagg: Musics Meanings 3. The epistemic oil tanker 101
taliststatesmusicalestablishment,canbeseenasessentialsuppliesin
the conceptual survival kit of bourgeois subjectivity. Its for such rea
sons hardly surprising if academic institutions in a society still gov
erned by the same basic mechanisms of capital accumulation
38
have
untilrecentlypropagatedconceptualsystemsvalidatingdissociationof
thesubjective,individual,intuitive,emotionalandcorporealfromthe
objective,collective,material,rationalandintellectual.Itsalsohistori
callylogicalthatthissamedissociationshouldaffectourunderstand
ing of music and dance, the most clearly affective and corporeal of
symbolicsystems,withparticularseverity.Thatdissociationlivesonin
ourcultureevenoutsidetheeuroclassicalsphere.
Postmodernistabsolutismandtextdenial
Remember Rameaus fictitious nephew back in 1762 and his ideal of
musicmakingwithnomindcontrol?OrTieckandWackenrodersdream
of music freed from having to depict distinct emotions and their ideal lis
tener fully surrendering to the welling torrent of sensations, disregarding
everydisturbingthought?
39
Nowcomparethatwiththesethreequotes.
[1] The point is [to] overthrow the power structure in your own
head.Theenemyisthemindstendencytosystematise,tosewupexpe
rience.[]Thegoal[is]inOBLIVION.(Reynolds,1987)
40
[2] [T]he power of pop lies not in its meaning but in its noise, the
nonsignifying, extralinguistic elements that defy content analysis:
thegrainofthevoice,thematerialityofthesound,thebiologicaleffect
oftherhythm,thefascinationofthestarsbody.(Reynolds,1990)
40
[3]Rockandrolliscorporealandinvasive[W]ithoutthemediation
ofmeaning,thesheervolumeandrepetitiverhythmsofrockandroll
producearealmaterialpleasureforitsfans.(Grossberg,1990:113)
38. SeeKMarx:Grundrisse(1973:221223).
39. ThefullquotesstartwithDiderotsLeneveudeRameauonpage93.
40. Sources:[1]Reynolds(1987,hiscapitals),citedinMichelsenetal.(2000: 262);[2]
Reynolds(1990: 10),citedbyMichelsenetal.(2000: 259260).Heresafourthquote.
Musicexcitesthebodytoautomaticmovement,anexhilarationthatdefeatsbore
domandinspiresinsightMusicgivesthebodycontroloveritself,grantingper
sonalfreedomandrevealingsexualpotential.(Lull,1992: 2930).
102 Tagg: Musics Meanings 3. The epistemic oil tanker
Itsworthnotingfirstthataversiontotheideaofmusicmediatingany
thing but itself isnt the only common denominator between anglo
phone pomorockology in the late twentieth century and the musical
metaphysicsofGermanromanticisminthelateeighteenthbecause,as
Table31(p. 103)shows,bothtraceasimilarpathfromradicalalterna
tivetoinstitutionalnormwiththefollowingtraits.[1]Acanonicreper
toireisestablished(row4inTable31).[2]Subjectivityandindividual
freedomarepromotedaskeynotions(row7).[3]Astrongrelationship
withpoliticalpowerdevelops(rows910).[4]Theeducationalinstitu
tionalisationofeachbodyofmusictakesplaceagenerationorsoafter
the apogee of the original musical development subjected to subse
quentcanonisation(rows12inTable31).
41

Ossification (row 4 in Table 31) of the European classical repertoire


causesfeweyebrowstoberaised:itsseenasthenatureofthebeast,so
tospeak.Lesscommonknowledgeisthatsimilartendenciesdeveloped
intheanglophoneworldofpopandrockmusic:whereasalbumcharts
fromthe1960sand1970sincludedveryfewreissues,backcatalogue
accountedforthemajorityofpopsalesin2000.
42
Suchprocessesofrep
ertoire consolidation and conservation occur after an initial period of
musicalinnovationassociatedwithsocialchange(row8).Theseproc
esses also include the adoption and patronage by state or corporate
powerofmusicthatwasseenasatleastinappropriate,sometimeseven
asathreat,intherecentpast.
41. Forexample,thecityofBerlinsawitsfirsthighranking(classical)musicacademic
agenerationafterBeethovencomposedhisfifthsymphonyanditsfirstprofessorof
popularmusicagenerationaftertheBeatlesSergeantPepperalbum.ABMarxwas
appointedMusicalDirectorofthecitysuniversitysin1830andPeterWickewas
appointedprofessorattheHumboldtUniversitysForschungszentrumpopulreMusik
intheearly1990s.ThisdoesnotmeanthatWickeorABMarxaretheproblem;the
systemrepresentedbytheestablishedinstitutions,however,is.
42. Seepp. 9696fordiscussionofdeadcomposersandtheirdominationoftheFrench
concerthallrepertoireby1870.SeealsolistingsinJoelWhitburnsTopLPs1945
1972(1973b).AccordingtoKarenCollins,whofrom1997to1999ranthemusicsec
tionofFutureShop(Canadassecondlargestrecordretailers)inKitchener
(Ontario),itwascompanypolicytoaimfor60%salesofbackcatalogue:Thats
whereallthemarginiswasthemessagecirculatedtostaffinacorporateemail.
Tagg: Musics Meanings 3. The epistemic oil tanker 103
Table 3-1: Classical and popular music as institutionalised fields of study
One obvious UK example of state sanctioning (row 9) is the concert
held in Buckingham Palace gardens in June 2002, to celebrate Queen
Elizabeth IIs fifty years on the throne.
43
A succession of ageing rock
stars, including Eric Clapton, Brian Wilson, Ray Davies and Sir Paul
McCartney,troopedonstagetoperformastringoftunesfromthelate
sixtiesandearlyseventies.
44
Sirisperhapsaparticularlyreliableindi
catoroftheprocessbecauseveryfewpopularmusicknighthoods(bot
classicalmusicstudies popularmusicstudies
1.initialperiod 1830s1860s 1970s2000s
2.institutions
created
conservatories,departments
ofmusicandmusicology
performingartscolleges,social
scienceandmediacourses
3.musicalheritage instrumentalclassical firstjazz,thenpop/rock
4.ossification
tendencies
Musicbydeadcomposers
graduallydominates
1960s:fewreissuesincharts;
2000:60%ofsalesbackcatalogue
5.musicallingua
franca
CentralEuropean,
mainlyGermanic
AngloAmerican
6.globalhegemony Europeancolonialism USimperialism
7.libertiesandatti
tudetopleasure
liberationoftheego,emo
tionality,postponedgratifica
tion
liberationoftheid,corporeality,
consumerism,immediategratifi
cation
8.hegemonicclass
movement
risingcapitalistmerchant
classagainstfeudalaristoc
racyandabandonedfourth
estate
nouveauricheagainstold
culturedcapitalismandnew
lumpenproletariat
9.examplesofstate
appropriationand
sanctioninginUK
Hndel(massappeal)
becomesHandel,musical
representativeofUKstate
power
Queensjubilee:BrianMay,Eric
Clapton,BrianWilson;Abba
songsonsymphonyorchestra
repertoire
10.UKofficial
honoursbestowed
(selection)
Knighthoods:A.Sullivan,C.V.
Stanford,C.H.H.Parry,E.
Elgar,R.VaughanWilliams,
A.Bliss,W.Walton,M.Tip
pett,P.MaxwellDavies,R. R.
Bennett,J.Tavener
Knighthoods:CliffRichard,
AndrewLloydWebber,George
Martin,PaulMcCartney,BobGel
dof,TomJones,EltonJohn,Mick
Jagger.Dame:VeraLynn,Shirley
Bassey.OBE:VanMorrison;MBE:
RingoStarr,GeorgeHarrison
43. ShownonBBC1,20020602PartyatthePalace.
104 Tagg: Musics Meanings 3. The epistemic oil tanker
tomofTable31)existedbeforeThatchercametopowerin1979,since
whenBritshavebeenpresentedwithSirCliffRichard,SirPaulMcCa
rtney, Sir Elton John, Robert Geldof KBE, Sir George Martin, Sir An
drew Lloyd Webber, Sir Michael Jagger, Sir Tom Jones and Dame
ShirleyBassey.
45

If theincorporation of previously oppositional music intoestablished


power structures had only been a matter of honorary titles, things
wouldnotbesobad.Unfortunately,theoldepistemicpatternsunder
pinning the dual consciousness that prevents individuals from inte
grating subjective and objective aspects of (musical) life have been
muchmoresubstantiallyboostedbythewayinwhich(notbythefact
that!)variousformsofpopularmusichavebecomeacademicallyinsti
tutionalised on two fronts: knowledge in and knowledge about music
(seep. 115, ff.).Inthefirstofthese(thepop/rockconservatoire)reper
toire canons and national exams were established, first for jazz and
laterforrockperformance,notjusttolegitimisethosemusicsandthose
whorosesociallywiththem(row8inTable31),butalsotomeetthe
neomanagerialmonstersinsatiableappetiteforillusoryindicatorsof
educational value.
46
These standardisation mechanisms have often
made it hard for educators to find room on the curriculum for music
still in dynamic interaction with extramural reality, while budget re
44. Thestarsandtheirsongs(withreferencetooriginalrecordings)were:EricClapton:
Layla(Derek&theDominoes,1970);BrianWilsonGodOnlyKnowsandGoodVibra
tions(BeachBoys,1966a, b);RayDavies:Lola(Kinks,1970);SirPaulMcCartney:
BlackbirdandHeyJude(Beatles,1968).OtherageingUKrock/popstarsattheevent
includedOzzyOsbourne,StevieWinwood,SirTomJonesandSirCliffRichard.
45. OBE=OfficeroftheOrderoftheBritishEmpire,higherthanMBEbutlowerthan
knighthood(Sir/Dame/KBE/DBE)intheleaguetableofUKroyalhonours.
PopularmusichighhonourspreThatcher:HarryLauder(KBE),VeraLynn(DBE),
GracieFields(DBE).BritisheuroclassicalcomposersknightedsinceThatchercame
topower:MalcolmArnold,RichardRodneyBennett,HarrisonBirtwistle,Elizabeth
Maconchy,PeterMaxwellDavies,AndrzejPanufnik,JohnTavener.GavinBryars,
BrianFerneyhoughandAlexanderGoehrhaveyettomakeit.
46. Assessment,accountability,enhancement,excellence,outcome,qualityassurance,bench
marking,leaguetablesandotherKafkaesqueconceptsreducethecomplexqualitative
realitiesofteaching,learningandresearchtothebureaucraticabsurdityofone
dimensionalschemesofquantification.Itstillhurtsmejusttowritethosewords,let
alonespeak,readorhearthem.Foracritiqueofthesedestructivepractices,please
readAudititis,arampantcontagionattagg.org/rants/audititis/audititis.html#AUT.
Tagg: Musics Meanings 3. The epistemic oil tanker 105
strictionsoftencauseproblemsinkeepingupwiththechangesinme
diatechnologythatmusictechnologygraduateswillhavetoconfront
intheoutsideworld.
However,moredamagingtothedevelopmentofanalyticalperspective
presentedinthisbookhasbeentheinvertedmusicalabsolutismthatwas
so fashionable, at least in the anglophone world around 1990 and
which,liketheoldstyleartmusicabsolutismdiscussedearlier,exhib
its avid aversion to making linksbetween musicas soundon the one
handanditsmeanings,usesandfunctionsontheother.Invertedmusi
calabsolutismhasitsownarticlesoffaithaspartofanirrationalbelief
system and still rules the roost in a significant number of institutions
supposedly devoted to studies of culture, including music. Im refer
ring here to what, in the context of popular music studies, I call
pomorockologyandwhosetendenciesareexemplifiedinthethreenum
beredquotesonpage 101.
Theresnoroomheretoprovidemuchdetailabouttherise(andfall?)
ofpostmodernistapproachestomusicandItakethelibertyofrefer
ringreaderselsewhereforafulleraccount.
47
Itis,however,important
tounderstanditsbasicproblems,notleastbecauseitcirculatedwidely
in the nonmuso humanities and social sciences before gaining any
footholdinmusicology.
Itwasaround1980thatpostmodernistapproachestomusicseemedto
takerootamongradicalanglophoneintellectualswho,throughlackof
anything else they could understand about music had, so to speak,
nothingtoreadbutAdorno.
48
ThemoststrikingtraitsinAdornoswrit
ings on popular music are: [1] ignorance of the music on which he
passes judgement; [2] absence of musicalstructural levels of concre
tion;[3]absenceofempiricalevidence(sociological,anthropological,or
otherwise)tosupporthistheorising.
49
Moredirectlyinfluentialonrock
criticism in particular was Adornos protg Herbert Marcuse who in
the 1960s popularised the socialcritical philosophy of the Frankfurt
School among radical US students, including founding Rolling Stone
47. SeeTLTT:6689Pomorockology,consumerismandtheliberationoftheid.
48. SeeGrahamMurdockscommentsinTLTT:8182.
49. FormoreonAdornoandpopularmusic,seeTLTT,pp.4143.
106 Tagg: Musics Meanings 3. The epistemic oil tanker
columnist Jon Landau and pioneer rock historian Carl Belz (1969). It
wasfromtheseoriginsamonguppermiddleclassstudentsofphiloso
phy,literatureandsociologynotmusicthataliterarystyleofrock
journalismdevelopedwhichpromotedsubversionandspontaneityas
key criteria of authenticity.
50
To cut a long story short, while in the
1960s and 1970s rock critics of this school concerned themselves with
radicalismandalternativepolitics,usingtermslikeTHESPIRITEDUNDER
DOG, or BODY MUSIC THAT ENTERTAINS AND PROVOKES, the discourse
shifted,asrockbecamepartofthemassmediaestablishment,inthedi
rectionofNOISEandOBLIVION,awayfromOPPOSITIONandSUBVERSION.
Characteristicwastheinsistenceon,touseReynoldsownwords,mu
sicsnonsignifyingelements thatdefycontentanalysis.
51
Like He
gelsconnoisseurfulfilledbythemusiconitsownandWackenroders
ideallistenerdisregardingeverydisturbingthought,pomorockology
promotedaMUSICISMUSICaestheticinwhichrefusaltoconsidermusic
asameaningfulsignsystembecameanarticleoffaith.Theoriginsof
thisproblemliepartlyinthehistoryofCulturalStudies.
Most Cultural Studies pioneers examined the verbal or visual media,
i.e. the symbolic systems privileged in public education and those
whichweretechnicallyreproducibleforteachingpurposesatthetime:
literally, the sort of thing you could photocopy, as Simon Frith once
putit.
52
Theirconcernwithmusic,atleastaswemusosunderstandthe
word,seemedwithfewexceptionstobesporadic,unsystematicormar
ginal.
53
Indeed,therewaslittlepointinphotocopyingmusicalnotation
if neither students nor teachers could decipher it. More importantly,
therewas,asseveralcolleaguesinculturalandcommunicationstudies
50. Michelsen(1993: 63)andTLTT: 43.Michelsenetal.(2000)chartthecourseofAnglo
USrockcriticismfromjournalismintotheacademy,registeringrecurrentthemesin
thedevelopmentoftherockologistcanon.Formoredetails,seeTLTT: 6465).This
literarytraditionoftenseemstohaveaLeavisiteagenda.Itusesthemagicargu
mentofauthenticitytoconfirmthemusicaltastesofthefaithfulandtobringcon
vertsintothefold.Itsalsocharacterisedbyremarkablescribalsleightofhandand
sometimesbyverbalvirtuosityparadingasintellectualoraestheticauthority.
51. Fordetailsofquotes,seeTLTT: 65.ThefullReynoldsquoteisno.2onpage101.
52. Phoneconversation,20020617.
53. AmongtheexceptionstothistrendareofcourseFrith(1983,1996)andLaing(1969,
1985).Imonlydiscussinggeneraltendencieshere,nottheexceptions.
Tagg: Musics Meanings 3. The epistemic oil tanker 107
havepointedout,nothingmuchtoreadinEnglishatthattimeabout
music except Adorno.
54
For example, when asked over the phone in
2002 why he thought Cultural Studies scholars had engaged so little
withmusicastext,DaveLaingreplied:
55
[T]herewasntmuchouttherebymusicologists,exceptforlonerslike
Wilfrid[Mellers].Buttheresmoretoit.IthinkAdornogotintheway.
Hehadhighartandleftwingcredthatsuitedthewaythingswerego
inginsociology[and]CulturalStudies.[H]isOnPopularMusicrein
forcedprejudicesaboutthepopularclassicalsplit.Weknewthatpop
music had different values (intensional versus extensional and so on)
andmusicologyseemedmostlytobeaboutnotesonthepage.Besides,
[popularmusic]wassomuchaboutstyleandclothesandawayoflife,
notjustaboutthemusicanddefinitelynotaboutnotes.So,Idontthink
itevenoccurredto usto askanyone inthe MusicDepartment[and] I
dontthinkanyofuswerereallyawareofethnomusicologyeither.
Laings retrospective ties in with the justified questioning of musicol
ogysusefulness,asexpressedbythenonmusocolleagueswhointhe
1980saskedmeforamusicologicalexplanationofpopvideos(p. 3, ff.)
and which first prompted me to think about writing this book. That
said,conventionalmusicologysgeneralinabilitytodealwithrelations
between musical text and context wasnt the only problem because it
takestwototangoandatleasttwotodecidenotto.Nordoesitexplain
theparadoxwherebypomorockcriticsdevelopedtheirownvariantof
the ABSOLUTE MUSIC value aesthetics which characterised the conven
tionaltypeofmusicologywhoselegitimacytheycriticised.
54. See,forexample,interviewwithGrahamMurdockinTagg(ed.1980:6672).
55. 20020701.DaveLaingsanswerexistsinafullerversion,completewiththeellipses
Iveremovedhereforreasonsofclarityandspace,inTLTT:82.Itsalsoworthquot
ingpartofPeterWickesexplanationofthereluctanceofCulturalStudiesscholars
todealwithmusicastext.FirstIthinkitsbecausetheyjustdidntknowhowto
describesoundinaprecisewayanddidntwanttoappearhandicappedThenI
thinktherewasapseudopoliticisationwhentheytriedtoexplainmusicinsocial
termsGoingintothemusicmeansconfrontingotherexperiences,notjustyour
own.Theywouldhavehadtotheorisetheirsocialpositioninrelationtoothers,
buttheyoftenjustmystifiedtheirownculturalexperienceinstead(phoneconver
sationwiththeauthor20020701).
108 Tagg: Musics Meanings 3. The epistemic oil tanker
The fact that music became and largely remained a troublesome
appendagetoCulturalStudiesisfrustratinglycleartothoseofuswho
haveworkedasmusicians.
56
Apartfromthefactthatthelasttobehired
andfirsttobefiredasstaffmemberatBirminghamUniversitysfamous
CCCS was its only musicologist,
57
it has often been disheartening to
registerthattheeffortswemakeasmusicianstopresentsoundxrather
thanytoproduceeffectzincontextsa,borcareusuallypassedoverin
silencebynonmusocolleaguessupposedlystudyingmusic.Iveeven
feltliketheinferiorpartnerinanunequalmarriagewhereImexpected
to enthuse about Baudrillard and embeddedness while very few of
myCulturalStudiescolleaguesbothertofindoutwhatpentatonicism
orsynthpresetsareallabout,ortounderstandhowstructuringsounds
indifferentwaysrelatestothesocioculturalcontextsinwhichtheyre
produced and used. Still, however annoying such lack of reciprocity
maybe,gripingaboutitwillnotimprovematters.Itsbettertoexplain.
OneproblemwithCulturalStudieswasthatithadbythe1980sbecome
thevictimofitsownsuccess.Havingstartedwithademocraticagenda,
includingstudiesofculturalidentitiesformedaroundvarioustypesof
popular music (youth subcultures),
58
the Birmingham school attracted
acolytes like moths to a flame from a wide range of disciplines. The
Centre consequently needed to maintain its identity by providing a
common epistemological umbrella for all those new recruits from all
thosedifferentdisciplines.Theensuingtheoreticalsuperstructurethat
swelledtounmanageableproportionswaslargelybasedonwhatMat
telart and Neveu (1996) call (in French) La French Theory. It featured
figureslikeBarthes,Baudrillard,Bourdieu,Derrida,Deleuze,Foucault,
Kristeva, Lacan, Lyotard and (later) iek as heroes of the archetypal
pomo bibliography.
59
Members of this disciplinarily heterogeneous
bunch of scholars (linguists, literary critics, philosophers, social theo
56. TheTROUBLESOMEAPPENDAGEepithetisFrancoFabbris(email19950623).
57. ThemusicologistwasDickBradley;seeBradley(1992)andTagg(ed.1980:7379).
58. e.g.StanleyCohensFolkDevilsandMoralPanics(1972),PaulWillis(1974)onbiker
boyculture,and,mostinfluentially,DickHebdigeonsubculture(1979).
59. Byemphasisingtheritualnatureofpomoreferencetosuchauthor[itie]sIminno
wayimplyingthattheirideasareuseless!Theresjustnoroomheretodiscusstheir
prosandcons.BattleofthebibliographiesisaphrasecoinedbyBarsky(1998).
Tagg: Musics Meanings 3. The epistemic oil tanker 109
rists,butnotasinglemuso)featuredasmandatoryauthoritiestowhich
countlesswritersseemedobligedtoreferintextsemanatingfromthe
postmodernist establishment.
60
This practice has had two deplorable
sideeffects:[1]thosewhodontcomplywithitsimperativescanbeos
tracised fromtheinstitutional community it helpsdefine;
61
[2]theory
sectionsofwritingsaboutanyculturalphenomenonoftenswelltoludi
crousproportions,leavinglittleornoroomforempiricalorstructural
investigation,thatisassumingthatsuchpracticesareallowedatallin
extremist pomo circles. Mattelart and Neveu (1996 69) do not mince
wordsaboutsuchmetatheoreticalexcesses.
Facedwithaworldwhosecomplexityisnomorethanaconvenientslo
gan,CulturalStudiestookupthechallengebyintroducinganabusive
inflationofmetadiscoursesratherthanbyinvestigatingatheoryofthat
complexity.
62
Thefact that youarereadingthesewordsrightnowmeansthateven
thisbookisblightedbytheproblem.Icannotavoidtheissueandcan
not pretend that these obstacles to our understanding of music dont
existbecausetheyarestillwidelyacceptedincircleswhere,atleastin
anglophone academe, the very people Im writing for actually work
andstudy.Itsregrettablehavingtodevotesomuchtimetounravelling
misconceptions in order to focus on what really needs to be written
about,butIshallpersevere.
63
60. AgoodideaofthesortoflitanyImreferringtocanbeseenonthePostmodernism
Generatoratelsewhere.org/pomo/ [100927].Itjustgeneratedtwopapers:[1]Subcul
turaldeconstructionandthepreconceptualparadigmofexpression(Derridaisinthefirst
sentence);[2]TheBrokenSky:NeocapitalistdematerialismintheworksofJoyce,which
beginslikethis.Truthisusedintheserviceofsexistperceptionsofsexualiden
tity,saysSontag.ThesubjectiscontextualisedintoaLyotardistnarrativethat
includescultureasareality.Therefore,Marxsanalysisofneocapitalistdematerial
ismimpliesthatrealityiscreatedbythecollectiveunconscious.
61. ThisissuchaseriousissuethatIcannotgiveexampleseveninafootnotelestthe
pomopoliceintheinstitutionsImthinkingoftakeitoutonindividualsopposedto
theirauthoritarianrgimewithallitsantiauthoritarianslogans.
62. Thepassagecontinues:Itshouldberememberedthatthelabeltheoryisonly
warrantedbyconceptualconstructionswhichhelpsolveproblemsandwhich
renewourabilitytounderstandobjectsTheconceptualsophistry[ofCultural
Studiesinthe1980s]concealsmodesofthinkingwhicharedrenchedinconformity
andwhichareunabletotacklethenewpowerrelationsthatarisewiththegenerali
sationoftechnicalandproductivesystems.
110 Tagg: Musics Meanings 3. The epistemic oil tanker
ThesecondproblemrelatingtoCulturalStudiesinthe1980sconcerns
the subjects new recruits. Unlike the babyboomer generation, they
hadnofirsthandexperienceofthepostwarchangesinpopularculture
thatweremusicallymanifestedintheformofrockandpopmusicand
which were related to radical changes in patterns of subjectivity.
64
Raised with a TV in the home and with access to 24hour pop radio
channels, the new Cultural Studies generation entered an intellectual
environment that differed markedly from what confronted baby
boomerswhentheyhadattendeduniversitytwentyyearsearlier.The
newscholarsalsolivedinaverydifferentpoliticalclimatetothatofthe
1960s as the Thatcher and Reagan regimes unleashed their virulent
strainofcapitalismonthepopulation.Workingclassvaluesofcommu
nityandresistancesufferedseveresetbacksfromantiunionandanti
welfarepolicies,whileleftwingintellectualswereinaquandaryabout
howtoreactastheirownsecuritywasthreatenedbygovernmentcru
sadesagainstsociologyandbytheimpositionofmonetaristmanage
ment models on universities. The problem was compounded by the
apparentinabilityofCulturalStudiestomanageitsownsuccessinside
an establishment to which it had been at least partially opposed and,
perhaps more significantly, its loss of its social foothold outside aca
deme.
65
Onesymptomofthisinstitutionalmalaisewasthatoneofthe
subjectsmostinfluentialtheoreticalmodels,thatofsubculturalopposi
tion,becamesomethingofaparadoxonceitwasitselfpartofasuccess
fulenterprise:itbecameasortofacademicparalleltothemoreblatant
anomalyofcontinuingtocelebratethesubversiveunderdogwhenrock
wasalreadypartofthebigbusinessestablishment.
ThemostobviouschangeinCulturalStudiesinthe1980swasprobably
theshiftinemphasisonpopularagencyawayfromactiveparticipation
in sites of opposition to the celebration of massculture consumers as
63. Theamountoffootnotetextonpage109isindicativeoftwothings:[1]Iwantto
dedicateaslittleaspossibleofthemaintexttoproblemsofpomo;[2]atthesame
timeIhavetoconvincethoseinhabitingpomoplanetthattheywillneedtoconfront
otherargumentsandotherauthorsbeforethrowingmyideasoutwiththerubbish.
64. ThechangefromBlueTangotoHoundDog,sotospeak;seeTLLT:6364.
65. SeeMattelart&Neveu(199662)forthispartofCulturalStudieshistory.
Tagg: Musics Meanings 3. The epistemic oil tanker 111
agents in the construction of meaning. Of course, information about
audiences is vital to understanding the dynamic of any cultural ex
changebut,asMattelartandNeveu(1996:70,76)explain,obsession
withthenotionoftheaudiencesfreedomtodeterminethemeaningof
massmediated messages easily obscures power relations existing be
tween members of the audience and the socioeconomic order which
imposesrestrictionsontherangeofreadingseffectivelyopentonego
tiation.Suchidealisationofalternativereadingsconstituteslittlemore
thananacademicvariationontheoldFREEDOMOFCHOICEthemechanted
atconsumersbyzealotsofthefreemarket.
66
Thischangeoffocusco
incideswiththereplacementofapartiallyKeynesianeconomicpolicy
by neoliberalist monetarism. It also coincides with pomorockologys
abandonmentoftheSUBVERSIVEUNDERDOGinfavourofthesortofDECON
TEXTUALISEDBODYcelebratedinthequotesonpage101.
67

Thedecontextualisedbodyisperhapsthemostinsidiousarticleoffaith
tocomeoutofpostmodernistCulturalStudiesandrockcriticism.Like
theidealofuninhibitedfullblownfeelingsandtheestablishmentof
anABSOLUTEMUSICaestheticaroundthetimeofthebourgeoisrevolu
tion,postmodernistbodyismalsocelebratedmusicinabsolutistterms
but with one significant difference: it believed in the liberation of the
bodyratherthanoftheemotions(theidandtheegoinrow7ofTable3
1p.103)anditcelebratedtheimmediacyandonenessofmusicalex
periencesothatthesoundofthemusicisseenasinseparablefromthe
bodyrespondingtoit.Thisnotionisproblematicbecauseitimpliesthat
musicaltextsdontexist,asthefollowinganecdoteillustrates.
DuringadiscussionIhadinthemid1990swithsomepopularmusic
studiescolleagues,twopomorockologistsinastateoftextdenialheld
thatthePercySledgehitWhenAManLovesAWomanfrom1966wasnot
66. SeeforexampleCrossculturalreadingsofDallas(Liebes&Katz,1993).
67. Thisproblemiscentraltoanystudyofpopularculturebutcannotbediscussed
here.Mattelart&Neveu(199635)suggestitwouldbeworthaskingifpopulist
divaricationsidentifiedattheendoftheeightiesmaynothaveprecedentsinthe
generoususeofthelabelresistancetocoverarangeofculturaltraitsandprac
ticeswhichmightjustaswellbeunderstoodastheresignedacceptanceofdomina
tion,astheadmissionofimpotencebehindthemaskofderisionorinsolence.
112 Tagg: Musics Meanings 3. The epistemic oil tanker
the same in 1987 after its use in a widely diffused jeans commercial,
eventhoughthemusicusedintheadvert,nottomentionthesongsre
issue following the popularity of the commercial, were both identical
withthesameoriginalrecordingfrom1966.Thepomocaseagainstthis
empirically demonstrable fact started quite convincingly: since the
recordbuyingandTVviewingpublicaretheultimatearbitersofpops
meaningsandvalues,andsincethecontextofthejeanscommercialwas
differenttothatofthesamerecordingsoriginalreleasein1966,differ
entconnotationsanddifferentvalueswereperceivedinrelationtothe
song.Ihadnotroublewiththat.Thenmypomocolleaguesarguedthat
ifthesamemusicdidnotcomeacrossasthesamethingtothoseusingit
inthenewcontext,itcouldnotbethesameasbeforebecauseaudiences
arethearbitersofmusicalmeaning.That,Ithought,wasanonsequitur
because,accordingtotheirlineofreasoning,musicwasdefinedonlyas
theresponseitreceivesand/orasthesymbolicvaluesattributedtoitin
some context or other, not as and not even in relation to the sonic text
which elicited that response or to which those meanings were attrib
utedinthatcontext.Thefactthatcommercialexploitationoftheorigi
nalrecordingsconnotationswasdependent,twentyyearslater,onthe
TVaudiencesabilitytohearthemusic,whetherornottheyrecognised
itfrombefore,asaparticularsongwithaparticularsoundandpartic
ular connotations rather than another song with another sound and
otherconnotationsdidnotseemtomatter;nor,apparently,didthefact
that Atlantic (Sledges record label) cashed in on the same songs re
newed popularity, under new circumstances and with new connota
tions,byissuingasimplererelease,i.e.withouthavingtorerecorda
singletrack,withouthavingtoproduceanewmusicaltext.
68

BymarginalisingordisregardingthemusicalTEXT,pomorockologists
conflatedspecificsetsofculturallyorganisedsoundwiththeactivities
68. YoumightwanttoarguethatGAYwasnotthesamewordin2011asitwasin1910
becauseitsmeaninghadshiftedsoradically.However,althoughfigurativeconfla
tionofsignifierandsignifiedmaybecommonineverydayspeech,itsadifferent
matterifyouwanttoexplaintheprocessesbywhichEnglishspeakingsexual
minoritiesappropriatedmainstreamvocabularytosignifytheirownidentityin
positiveterms.Youdbehardpushedtodosoconvincinglyifyoucouldnotdistin
guishbetweenthewordGAY(text)anditsvariousmeaningsindifferentcontexts!
Tagg: Musics Meanings 3. The epistemic oil tanker 113
andreactionstheybelievedtooccurinconnectionwiththoseparticular
soundsunderaparticularsetofcircumstances,eveniftheypresented
neitherevidenceofthoseactivitiesandreactions,nordetailsofthecon
texttheyhadinmind.Obviously,ifnomusicaltextexiststherecanbe
norelativelyautonomoussetofmusicalsoundswhichcanexistinother
contexts where those same sounds may or may not be invested with
differentmeanings,giverisetodifferentreactions,havedifferentfunc
tions, etc. Indeed, it makes you wonder why pieces of music have
namesandwhytheyrerecordediftheyrenotunderstoodasbeingat
least in some way the same under whichever circumstances theyre
heard.Withoutthedialecticoftextandcontext,allthatremainsisjust
oneidealisedandabsolutecontext(pomoabsolutism)oroneidealised
text(romanticistabsolutism).Putinsimplesemioticterms,whereasthe
oldmusicalabsolutismhadpotentialsignifiersbutnosignifieds,pomo
absolutism had only potential signifieds but no signifiers. Whichever
wayyoulookatit,semiosisisoutofthequestion.Suchastandpointis
clearlyofnouseifyouwanttoknowhowmusiccommunicateswhat
to whom, but it must be a godsend to anyone with a canonic axe to
grind: with semantics and pragmatics out of the picture, the coast is
clearforpropagatinganauthoritarianviewofmusic,notsomuchbe
cause sociosemiotic evidence is inadmissible as because it has been
abolished.Bymystifyingtextanddisregardingcontext,Romanticmu
sicmetaphysicscouldrankwaysofrespondingtomusiconascaleof
arbitrary aesthetic excellence compatible with bourgeois notions of
subjectivity. By mystifying context and abolishing text, pomorockol
ogy did the same in reverse for the latterday ideology of consumer
ism.
69

Thegistoftheargumentisthatpomorockologyssociallydecontextu
alisedbodyinanidealisedabsolutecontextisnobetterthanconven
tional musicologys idealised, socially decontextualised emotions
expressedinanidealisedabsolutetext.Bodyismmayinfactbeworse
69. Thereisnoroomheretopursuethelinksbetweenpomorockologyandconsumer
ism(bodyismsliberationoftheid,sexfixation,immediategratification,consum
eristregression,compulsionsthroughdysfunctionalobjectrelations,etc.).For
more,pleaseseeTLTT:7073,7677.Seealsonextpage.
114 Tagg: Musics Meanings 3. The epistemic oil tanker
inonesense,becausewhileconventionalmusicologyreliesatleaston
syntax and diataxis, pomorockology speculates about pop/rock aes
thetics, viewing semantics with suspicion and throwing both syntax
andpragmaticsoutthewindow.
70
Indeed,if,asseemstobethecasein
extremepomorockology,thereisnomusicaltext,thentherecanbenei
ther pragmatics, norsyntax,nor even semantics because,sotospeak,
the music IS THE BODY (or vice versa) in no specific social context; or
rather(whichamountstothesamething),musicISthebodyinoneim
plicit,idealised,absoluteandseamlesscontext.Ifthatisthecase,we
arentsomuchdealingwithalatterdayvariantofHanslicksabsolutist
claimthatmusicisnothingotherthantonalformsinmovement
71
(MU
SICISMUSIC),butwithsomethingevenmoremetaphysical:theISofpo
morockologist aesthetics conflates music with the body instead of
clarifying particular types of relationship between the two, while the
body,devoidofsocialcontext,remainsaculturallyundefinedentity.
Theproblemshouldbeclearenough.Byconflatingsignifierwithsigni
fied,mediumwithmessage,messagewithresponse,responsewithtext
and text with context, pomorockology, like the finance capitalism un
der which it grew and flourished, created an inscrutable black box
whosecontentswerehiddenfromview.Allthoseconstituentpartsof
semiosis were conceptually imprisoned, inaccessible, invisible, name
less.Allwegottoseewasthebox,thepackaging.Thisreificationofan
abstractionwhichobscuresthematerialandsocialdynamicsofmusic
seemstomirrorlargercontemporaryprocessesofreificationtoofaith
fullyforittobeinterpretedasahistoricalfluke,especiallyinviewof
othercoincidencesbetween,forinstance,thecelebrationofrockinten
sionality and consumerisms dependence on immediate gratification,
orbetweentheabandonmentofrocksSUBVERSIVEUNDERDOGandthedis
mantlingofthewelfarestate.
72
Viewedfromthisperspective,itseems
that pomorockology helped create the impression of an inscrutable
monolithofpowerinwhichthepoliticaleconomy,itsideology,culture
70. Syntax,semanticsandpragmaticsareexplainedonpage158andintheGlossary.See
thestartofChapter11forexplanationsofsyntaxanddiataxis.
71. Seepage 89forcompleteHanslickquote.
72. Formore,pleaseseeTLTT:7073,7677.
Tagg: Musics Meanings 3. The epistemic oil tanker 115
and patterns of subjectivity were fused into a seamless postmodern
whole.Thepointisthatifonetypeofsubjectiveexperienceofamusical
textinaparticularcontextisconfusedwiththemusicastext,andifthat
experienceisconflatedwiththespecificculturalcontextinwhichitoc
curs,thentherecanbenonegotiationofmeaningbetweentextandcon
text. With the effective denial of such negotiation, individual and
collective experiences of music are bound to be conceptualised as in
scrutableandmonolithic.ItsinthiswaythatcanonicCORPOREALOBLIV
IONcanbeunderstoodasaconsumeristvariationontheoldabsolutist
theme of music as UTTER SUBMERSION, INFINITE YEARNING or ETERNAL ES
SENCE.Inshort,itshouldbeobviousbynowthatpostmodernistabso
lutismwillbeofasoflittleuseasitseuroclassicalcounterpartingetting
togripswithmattersofmusicalmeaning.
Musicalknowledges
The staying power of ABSOLUTE MUSIC, be it packaged as classical or
postmodernist, is reflected in and reinforced by the institutional or
ganisation of musical knowledge. This symbiosis of institutional and
valueaestheticcategoriesisfuelledbytheintrinsicallyalogogenicand
largely nondenotative nature of music. The problem can be under
stoodintermsoffiveanomalies,oneofwhichhasalreadybeenmen
tioned several times: musics lowly status in institutions of education
andresearchversusitsobviousimportanceineverydayreality.
Thesecondanomalyfollowsfromthefirst.While,forexample,critical
readingandtheabilitytoseebelowthesurfaceofadvertisingandother
formsofpropagandaareconsideredessentialtoindependentthought,
andalthoughsuchskillsarewidelytaughtinliteraryorCulturalStud
ies, equivalent skills relevant to understanding musical messages are
not.Thisbookisasasteptowardstofillingthatgap.
Structuraldenotation
Thethirdanomalyisreallyanotheraspectofthesecond.Ithighlights
disparitybetweentheanalyticalmetalanguageofmusicintheWestern
world and that of other symbolic systems. More specifically, it deals
with peculiarities in the derivation patterns of terms denoting struc
turalelementsinmusic(structuraldenotors)whencomparedtoequiv
116 Tagg: Musics Meanings 3. The epistemic oil tanker
alentdenotativepracticesappliedinlinguisticsorthevisualarts.This
thirdanomalyrequiressomeclarification.
Itispossibleatthisstage,usingasimplifiedversionoftermsexplained
in Chapters 5 and 7, to equate the notion of a meaningful musical
structureorelementwithPeircessign,i.e.thatpartofmusicalsemiosis
whichrepresentswhateverisencodedbyacomposer,performer,stu
dioengineer,DJ,etc.(thesignsobject)andwhichleadstowhateveris
decoded by a listener (the signs interpretant). For example, the final
chordoftheJamesBondtheme(Em
9
),playedonaFenderStratocaster
treated with slight tremolo and some reverb, is a structural element
(sign)encodingwhateveritscomposer,arranger,guitaristandrecord
ingengineerintended(object)andwhateveritconnotestolisteners(in
terpretant),mostlikelythesortofexcitementoractionassociatedwith
crime,spies,danger,intrigue,etc.
73
Themusicalstructure(sign)isde
scribedherefromapoeticstandpointbecauseEm
9
(Eminormajor
nine)designateshowthechordisconstructed,FenderStratocasterthein
strumentonwhichthatchordisplayedandsoon.Thedescriptionisnt
aesthesic because it isnt presented in terms of its interpretant: it isnt
identified as a danger cue, spy sound, crime chord, detective
chordetc.
74
POETICwillqualifytermsdenotingastructuralelementofmusicfrom
the viewpoint of its construction in that such a term derives primarily
fromthetechniquesand/ormaterialsusedtoproducethatelement(e.g.
consordino,glissando,majorminorninechord,analoguestringpad,phasing,
anhemitonic pentatonicism). AESTHESIC, on the other hand, will qualify
terms denoting structural elements primarily from the viewpoint of
perception(e.g.allegro,legato,spychord,Scotchsnap,cavernousreverb).
75
73. Thischord(Eminormajornine)containsthenotese b g d# f#.TheFenderStra
tocasterisatypeofelectricguitar.Thechordisalsosoundedonavibraphone.
74. PoeticandaesthesicaretermsborrowedfromMolinoviaNattiez(1976).Ihadprevi
ouslyusedtheadjectivesconstructionalandreceptionaltodesignatethesamething
aspoeticandaesthesic.Thoughetymologicallymoreesoteric,Nattiezsadjectives
havetwoadvantages:[1]theyareshorter;[2]theyareoftenusedinsemioticcircles.
75. Thelasttwodescriptors,spychordandcavernousreverb,actuallymixbothaes
thesic(spy,cavernous)andpoetic(chord,reverb)modesofdenotation.
Tagg: Musics Meanings 3. The epistemic oil tanker 117
Intheanalysisofvisualart,itseems,atleastfromalaypersonspointof
view, that its just as common for the identification of structural ele
ments to derive from notions of iconic representation or of cultural
symbolism as from concepts of production materials and technique.
Forexample,structuraldescriptorslikegouacheorbroadstrokesclearly
derivefromaspectsofproductiontechniqueandarethereforepoetic,
whiletheiconicrepresentationof,say,adoginafigurativeworkofart
wouldbecalleddog,anaesthesicterm,ratherthanbelabelledwithde
tailsofhowthevisualsignofthatdogwasproduced.Toputsomemeat
on the theoretical bone, the dog in Van Eycks famous Arnolfini mar
riageportrait
76
couldalsobeconsideredasignonindexicalaswellas
iconic grounds, if it were established that dog was consistently inter
pretedinasimilarwaybyagivenpopulationofviewersinagivenso
cial and historical context: the dog might be understood as recurrent
symboloffidelity,inwhichfaithfuldogwouldworkasanaesthesicde
scriptoronbothindexicalandiconicgrounds.
Inlinguisticstherealsoseemstobeamixtureofpoeticandaesthesic
descriptorsofstructure.Forexample,thephonetictermvoicedpalatoal
veolar fricative is poetic in that it denotes the sound /Z/, as in genre
[!ZAnr], iek [!Zi:ZEk] or Zhivago [ZI!vA:go], by referring to how its
produced or constructed, not how its normally perceived or under
stood: its an etic (as in phonetic) rather than emic (as in phonemic)
term. One the other hand, terms like finished and unfinished, used to
qualifypitchcontourinspeech,areaesthesicratherthanpoetic:they
refer to what is intended by the particular sound or to how its inter
preted,nottotechnicalitiesofitsconstruction.
Giventheseperspectives,itshouldbeclearthat,comparedtothestudy
ofvisualartsandofspokenlanguage,conventionalmusicanalysisin
theWestexhibitsapredilectionforpoeticterminology,sometimesex
cludingaesthesiccategoriesfromitsvocabularyaltogether.Thistermi
nologicaltendencymaybefineforformallytrainedmusiciansbutits
usually gobbledygook to the majority of people and prevents them
fromverballydenotingmusicalstructures.
76. TheMarriageofGiovanniArnolfiniandGiovannaCenami;1434;oilonwood,81.8x59.7
cm;NationalGallery,London.
118 Tagg: Musics Meanings 3. The epistemic oil tanker
Skills,competences,knowledges
The fourth anomaly involves inconsistency in Western thinking with
regardtothestatusofaesthesiccompetenceinlanguagecomparedto
other symbolic systems. Whereas the ability to understand both the
writtenandspokenword(aesthesicskills)isgenerallyheldtobeasim
portantasspeakingandwriting(poeticskills),aesthesiccompetenceis
notheldinequalesteemwhenitcomestomusicandthevisualarts.For
example, teenagers able to make sense of multiple intertextual visual
referencesincomputergamesarentusuallydubbedartistic,norcred
itedwiththeaudiovisualliteracytheyclearlyown.Similarly,thewide
spread and empirically verifiable ability to distinguish between, say,
two different types of detective story after hearing no more than two
secondsofTVmusicdoesnotapparentlyallowustoqualifythemajor
ityofthepopulationasmusical.Indeed,artisticusuallyseemstoqual
ifysolelypoeticskillsinthevisualartssphereandmusicalityseemsto
apply only to those who perform as vocalists, or who play an instru
ment, or can decipher musical notation. Its as if the musical compe
tence of the nonmuso majority of the population did not count. The
fifthandfinalanomaly,infactasetoftwotimestwodichotomies,of
ferssomecluesastoapossibleremedy.
Table32dividesmusicalknowledgeintotwomaincategories:musicas
knowledgeandknowledgeaboutmusic.Bytheformerismeantknowledge
relatingdirectlytomusicaldiscourseandthatisbothintrinsicallymu
sicalandculturallyspecific.Thistypeofmusicalknowledgecanbedi
videdintotwosubcategories:poeticcompetence,i.e.theabilitytocom
pose,arrangeorperformmusic,andaesthesiccompetence,i.e.theability
torecall,recogniseanddistinguishbetweenmusicalsounds,aswellas
betweentheirculturallyspecificconnotationsandsocialfunctions.Nei
therpoeticnoraesthesicmusicalcompetencereliesonanyverbalde
notationandarebothmoreusuallyreferredtoasskillsorcompetences
ratherthanasknowledge.
Tagg: Musics Meanings 3. The epistemic oil tanker 119
Table 3-2: Types of musical knowledge
Theinstitutionalunderpinningofdivisionbetweenthesefourtypesof
musicalknowledgeisstrongintheWest.Intertiaryeducation,poetic
competence (1a) is usually taught in special colleges or conservatories,
musical metadiscourse (2a) in departments of music or musicology as
wellasinconservatoriesorcolleges,andcontextualmetadiscourse(2b)in
practicallyanyhumanitiesorsocialsciencedepartment,lesssoinmu
siccollegesandconventionalmusic(ology)departments.
Aesthesiccompetence(1b)isvirtuallyimpossibletoplaceinstitutionally
becausetheabilitytodistinguish,withoutresortingtowords,between
musical sounds, as well as between their culturally specific connota
tionsandsocialfunctionsis,withtheexceptionofisolatedoccurrences
inauraltrainingandinsomeformsofmusicalappreciation,generally
absent from institutions of learning. Aesthesic competence remains a
largely vernacular and extracurricular affair. Indeed, there are no
coursesinwhenandwhennottobringoutyourlighteratarockcon
cert, nor in when and when not to stage dive, not even in when and
whennottoapplaudduringajazzperformanceorataclassicalconcert.
Andwhatabouttheabilitytodistinguishmusicallybetweendegreesof
Type Explanation Seatsoflearning
1.Musicasknowledge(knowledgeinmusic)
1a.Poetic
competence
creating,originating,producing,com
posing,arranging,performing,etc.
conservatories,
collegesofmusic
1b.
Aesthesic
competence
recalling,recognising,distinguishing
musicalsounds,aswellastheircultur
allyspecificconnotationsandsocialfunc
tions
?
2.Metamusicalknowledge(knowledgeaboutmusic)
2a.
Competencein
musical
metadiscourse
musictheory,musicanalysis,identifica
tionandnamingelementsandpatterns
ofmusicalstructure
departmentsof
music(ology),acade
miesofmusic
2b.
Competencein
contextual
metadiscourse
explaininghowmusicalpracticesrelate
tocultureandsociety,including
approachesfromsemiotics,acoustics,
businessstudies,psychology,sociology,
anthropology,CulturalStudies.
socialscience
departments,litera
tureandmediastud
ies,popularmusic
studies
120 Tagg: Musics Meanings 3. The epistemic oil tanker
threat, between traits of personality, between social or historical set
tings,betweenstatesofmind,behaviouralattitudes,typesofloveorof
happiness, sadness, wonder, anger, pleasure, displeasure, etc.; or be
tween types of movement, of space, of location, of scene, of ethnicity
andsoon?Thosesortsofmusicalcompetencearerarelyacquiredinthe
classroom:theyareusuallylearntinfrontoftheTVorcomputerscreen,
orthroughinteractionwithpeersandwithothersocialgroups.Infact,
the epistemic problem with music, as it has in general been academi
callycategorisedintheWest,canbesummarisedintwomainpoints.
Firstly,knowledgerelevanttomusicsproductionandstructuraldeno
tation has been largely separated from that relating to its perception,
usesandmeanings.Establishedinstitutionsofmusicaleducationand
research have therefore tended to favour etic rather than emic and
poeticratherthanaesthesicperspectives.Suchimbalance,insymbiosis
withalonghistoryofclassspecificallypowerfulandmetaphysicalno
tionsofgoodmusicsabsoluteandtranscendentqualities(pp. 84101),
hasledtofrequentmisconceptionsaboutmusicasasymbolicsystem
(e.g.pp. 4650,8990).Thisimbalancehasalsoexacerbatedontological
problemsofmusicsalogogenicityandmadetheincorporationofmusi
cal knowledge(s) into a verbally and scribally dominated tradition of
learninganevenmoredifficulttask.
Secondly,thevirtualabsenceofaesthesiclearning(knowledgetype1b)
in official education has meant that, compared to analytical metalan
guageusedwithvisualorverbalarts,relativelyfewviableaesthesicde
notors of structure exist in musical scholarship. This paucity of user
orientedterminologyhasrestrictedmusicologysabilitytoaddressthe
semanticandpragmaticaspectsessentialtomusicalsemantics.Ifthat
werenotthecase,thisbookwouldbesuperfluous.Inadditiontothese
twooverridingproblemsrelevanttothedevelopmentofasimplesem
ioticapproachtomusicanalysis(therealsubjectofthisbook),onefinal
majorissueofinstitutionallegacyneedstobeaddressed:Westernmu
sicalnotation.
Tagg: Musics Meanings 3. The epistemic oil tanker 121
Notation:Ileftmymusicinthecar
Useandlimitation
Notationalliteracyisuseful,evenintheageofdigitalsound.Letssay
youneedtoaddextra backingvocals toarecording,thatneitheryou
nor the other musicians in your band are able to produce the sound
yourelookingforandthatyoucontactsomeprofessionalvocaliststo
resolvetheproblem.Youcouldgivethosesingersanaudiofileofthe
mix so far and indicate where in the track you want each of them to
comeintosingroughlywhatatwhichsortofpitchusingwhichkindof
voice.Thiswouldbeatimeconsumingtaskinvolvingyourrecording,
fordemonstrationpurposesonly,somethingnooneinyourbandcan
singanyhow.Itwouldalsoinvolveeitherextrarehearsalwiththevo
calistsortheriskofthemarrivinginthestudioandfailingtosingwhat
youactually had in mind. Its clearlymuch more efficientto sendthe
vocaliststheirpartswrittenoutinadvance.Itsquickerforthemandits
bothquickerandlessexpensiveforyoubecauseyouwontwastestudio
timeandmoneyonunnecessaryretakes.
This utilitarian aspect of notation is important for two reasons: [1] it
highlightstheabsurdityofexcludingnotationalskillsfromthetraining
ofprofessionalmusiciansanditcontradictswidelyheldnotionsabout
notations irrelevance to the study of popular music; [2] it illustrates
thattheprimefunctionofmusicalnotationistoactasasetofparticular
instructions aboutmusicalperformancerather than asa storage medium
formusicalsound.Thislastreasonisofparticularrelevancetothedis
cussionofmusicalmeanings.
Many welltrained musicians can read a score and convert whats on
thepageintosoundsinsidetheirheads.Thisabilityisnomoremagical
than being able to imagine scenery when perusing a decent physical
map.However,althoughnosignsystemistotallyirreversible,theabil
ity to make sense of any such system presupposes great familiarity
with its limitations, more specifically an intimate knowledge, usually
nonverbalised,ofwhatthesystemdoesnotencodeandofwhatneeds
tobesuppliedtointerpretitusefully.Forexample,ifthevocalistshired
122 Tagg: Musics Meanings 3. The epistemic oil tanker
foryourrecordingsessionareprofessionalsandifthenotationyousent
themisadequate,theyshouldbeabletodeducefromexperiencewhat
everelseyouwantthemtocomeupwithinadditiontothemerenotes
onthepage.Justbylookingatthatnotation,anexperiencedmusician
willunderstandwhatmusicalstyleitbelongstoand,inthecaseofpro
fessional vocalists, will produce classical vibrato, gospel ornamenta
tion,smoothcrooning,rockyellingorwhateverelseyouhadtakenfor
granted.Inshort,theywillknowtoapplyawholerangeofexpressive
devicesrelevanttotheircraftandtothestyleinquestion,makingdeci
sionsabouttimbre,diction,dialect,pronunciation,breathing,phrasing,
vocalregisterandsoonthatarenowheretobeseenonthepaperorin
theemailattachmentyousentthem.
Westernmusicalnotationisinotherwordsausefulperformanceshort
handforcertaintypesofmusic.Itgraphicallyencodesaspectsofmusi
calstructurethatarehardtomemorise,especiallysequencesofpitchin
termsofmelodicline,chordalspacingandharmonicprogression.Itcan
also encode these tonal aspects in temporal terms of rhythmic profile
andperiodicplacement,butitdoesnotconvertthedetailedarticulation
of these elements. Moreover, elements of timbre and aural staging
hardlyeverappearinnotationandparametersofdynamics(volume),
phrasing, and sound treatment are, if they appear at all on the page,
limited to terse or imprecise written instructions like f, cresc., leg., con
sord.,sottovoce,laisservibrer,mediumrockfeel,brisk,etc.
77

AnotherimportantlimitationofWesternnotationisthatitwasdevel
opedtovisualisesomeofthetonalandtemporalparametersparticular
toaspecificmusicaltradition.JustastheRomanalphabetwasnotcon
ceivedtodealwithforeignphonemeslike/T/,/D/(TH),/S/or/Z/(SH,ZH),
Western music notation was not designed to accommodate African,
Arab, Indian, Indonesian or even some European tonal practices.
78
Moreover, since the establishment, in the early eighteenth century, of
theubiquitousbarlineinWesternmusicnotation,ithasbeenvirtually
77. ParametersofmusicalexpressionaredealtwithinChapter8(p.263).
78. SeesectionBluenotesinTagg(1989)forjustoneexampleofEuropeanpitches
incompatiblewithWestern(art)musicnotation.
Tagg: Musics Meanings 3. The epistemic oil tanker 123
impossibletographicallyencodethecrossrhythmsofmusicfromparts
of SubSaharan Africa or Latin America where the notion of a down
beatoftenmakeslittlesense.Eventhefrequentdownbeatanticipations
inbasicallymonometricjazz,blues,gospel,funkandrockstyles,sofa
miliartoalmostanyonelivingintheurbanisedWest,canonlybeclum
sily represented on paper.
79
In terse technical terms, the efficiency of
ournotationsystemisrestrictedtothegraphicencodingofmonometric
musiccontainingfixedpitcheswhichconformtoadivisionoftheoc
taveintotwelveequalintervals.
80
Onceawareoftherestrictionsjustexplained,itisofcoursepossibleto
makegooduseofwrittenmusic,notonlyasperformanceshorthand,as
withthebackingvocalistsmentionedonpage121,butalso,ifyouhave
that kind of training, as a viable way of putting details of tonal and
rhythmicparametersontopaper,providedofcoursethatthemusicin
questionlendsitselftosuchtranscription.Indeed,theanalysisofmusic
and its meanings would be easier if scholars held such a pragmatic
view.Theproblemisthatthesesimpletruthsstillhavetobeexplained
tosomestudentsandcolleagueswhoholdthescopocentricbeliefthat
thescoreisinsomewaytheMUSICALTEXTortheMUSICITSELF.
81

Now,giventhehegemonyofthewrittenwordininstitutionsofEuro
peanknowledge,itwouldinonesensebeoddif,beforetheadventof
soundrecording,musiconthepage,ratherthanjustfleetinglyintheair
orasthemomentaryfiringofneuronsinthebraincellsofmembersof
a musical community, had not acquired a privileged status. After all,
notation, despite its obvious shortcomings, was for centuries musics
only tangible medium of storage and distribution. The weight of this
legacyshouldnotbeunderestimatedbecauseittiesinwithimportant
historical developments in law, economy, technology and ideology.
Theresnoroomheretodisentanglethatnexusbutitsessentialtograsp
somethingofnotationsradicalinfluenceonmusicandonideasabout
musicinWesternculture.
79. SeeTagg(2000a: 4244).
80. SeeChapter9,pp. 316,ff.,325,ff.forexplanationoftheseterms.
81. ThankstoBruceJohnson(Sydney)forthetermscopocentricandtoJeanJacquesNat
tiez(Montral)forgraphocentric.
124 Tagg: Musics Meanings 3. The epistemic oil tanker
Law,economy,technology,subjectivity
Wellbeforetheadventofmusicprintingaround1500,
82
notationwas
already linked to the sort of subjectivity that later became central to
bourgeoisideology.Ofparticularinterestinthiscontextisapassagein
theentryonnotation(Notschrift)fromthe1956editionofMusikinGes
chichteundGegenwart.
83
Thearticledrawsattentiontothemusicaldoo
dlings of an anonymous monk who should have been copying
plainchantbutwhoseownmusicalimaginationseemstohavespilled
outontotheparchment.Hewassupposedtobeusingthetechnology
of notation to perpetuate the immutable musica humana of Mother
Church,notforrecordingideaslikewhatifIarrangethenoteslikethis
instead? or what if I combine these two tunes? or what if I change
theirrhythmtothis?Ofcourse,theabbotoverseeingtheduplicationof
liturgicalmusichascrossedouttheoffendingmonksnotes.Notonly
hadthisinsubordinatebrothermadeaunholymessinaholybook;he
hadalso,bycommittinghisownmusicalthoughtstopaper,challenged
ecclesiasticalauthorityandthesupposedtranscendenceofGodsmusic
initsworldlyform(musicahumana).
84
PreservingMotherChurchsmu
sic for perpetuity was good; allowing the musical thoughts of a mere
mortaltobestoredforposteritywasnot.Amillenniumorsolater,the
democraticpotentialofmusictechnologieslikedigitalsequencing,re
cordingandediting,nottomentioninternetfilesharing,issometimes
ignoredordemonisedbyotherauthorities,elitistorcommercial,whose
interests,likethoseofthemedievalabbot,lieinpreservinghierarchical
legaciesofsocial,economicandculturalprivilege.
85
Atleasttwolessonscanbelearntfromthisstoryofthewaywardmonk.
One is that there is nothing conservative about musical notation as
such,eventhoughitslongstandingsymbiosiswithconservatorytrain
inganditsconceptualoppositiontographicallyuncodifiedaspectsof
musical production (improvisation, etc.) can lead those who rarely
make compositional use of the medium to believe that notes on the
82. Woodcutmusicprintingdatesfrom1473(Eslingen,Germany),moveabletype
musicprintingfromaround1500(Petrucci,Venice).
83. MGGisanauthoritativeGermanlanguagemusicencyclopaedia.
84. Musicahumana:seepp.8889.
85. ThankstoJanLing(Gteborg)fortheMGGreference.
Tagg: Musics Meanings 3. The epistemic oil tanker 125
pageconstituteanintrinsicallyrestrictivetypeofmusicalpractice.The
anonymousmonksdoodlingsandourstudiovocalistsnotationalliter
acy(p. 121)bothsuggesttheopposite.Itsalsoworthrememberingthat,
unlikeEuropeanclassicalmusic,othertraditionsoflearnedmusicrely
rarely,ifatall,onanyformofnotationtoensuretheirdoctrinallycor
rectreproductionovertime.
86
Thesecondlessonisthattheconnectionbetweennotationandsubjec
tivity has a long history whose development runs parallel with the
emergenceofnotionsoftheindividualdiscussedearlier.Ofparticular
importanceistheprocessbywhich,inthewakeoflegislationaboutau
thorialownershipinliteraryworks,creativemusicians,nolongersub
jected to the anonymity of feudal patronage, were able to put their
printedcompositionsontheopenmarket.Inlateeighteenthcentury
London, for example, the market was a growing throng of bourgeois
consumers wanting to cultivate musical habits befitting the status to
whichtheyaspired.AsBarron(2006: 123)remarks:
Thecapacitytoearnalivingbysellingonesworksinthemarketfreed
the artist of the burden of pleasing the patron; the only requirement
nowwastopleasethebuyingpublic.
Notation was a key factor in this development. As the judge, Lord
Mansfield,
87
statedduringa1774courtactionbroughtbyJohannChris
tianBachagainstaLondonmusicpublishinghouse:
Musicisascience:itcanbewritten;andthemodeofconveyingtheidea
isbysignsandmarks[onthepage].
88

Thankstothesemarketablesignsandmarks,composersbecamethe
legalownersoftheideasthesheetmusicwasseentoconvey.Compos
ersbecameauthorsofnotonlyatangiblecommodity(sheetmusic)but
also of financially quantifiable values derived from use of that com
modity:theybecamecentralfiguresandprincipalpublicactorsinthe
productionandexchangeofmusicalgoodsandservices.
86. SeesectiononIndia,pp. 8687.Forexample,RigVedachantshavebeenpasseddown
orally,withgreatattentionpaidtodetail,forthelast3000yearsorso.
87. WilliamMurray,firstEarlofMansfield(17051793)wasarecognisedauthorityon
mercantilelawandstronglyopposednotionsofslaveryslegality.
88. BachvLongman(1774:624),citedbyBarron(2006: 118).
126 Tagg: Musics Meanings 3. The epistemic oil tanker
Asthebuyingpublicdiversifieditstastes,many[composers]cultivat
edgreaterselfexpressionandindividuality(itwasawayofbeingno
ticed).Undertheswayofpatronage,[thecomposer]wasexpectedto
beselfeffacingCraftcountedmorethanuniquenessTheriseofa
wider,morevariedandanonymous[public]encouraged[composers]to
carveoutdistinctivenichesforthemselves.Theywerefreertoexperi
ment,becauselesscommonlyworkingtopeerexpectationorcommis
sion instead producing in anticipation of demand, even to satisfy
theirownsenseofCreativeTruthandpersonalauthority.
89

Rameaus nephew (p. 93) would have been delighted at this turn of
events,perhapsevenmorepleasedbythemagicattributedtotheArtist
by representatives of German romanticism, at least if the following
characterisationoftheirnotionofthetextisanythingtogoby.
Thetext,whichresultsfromanorganicprocesscomparabletoNatures
creationsandisinvestedwithanaestheticororiginality,transcendsthe
circumstantialmaterialityofthe[score][I]t acquiresan identity im
mediatelyreferabletothesubjectivityofits[composer].
90
HerewearebackinthemetaphysicalmusicalworldofTieck,Wacken
roderandHegel,exceptthatthistimewerearmedwithnotationasle
gallyvalidproofofthecomposerssubjectivityandoftheauthenticity
ofhisText/Work/Oeuvre.
91
Inshort,musicalnotationinEuropearound
1800standsinthemiddleofacomplexintersectionbetween:
theestablishmentofmusicasamarketablecommodity;
developmentsinthejurisprudenceofintellectualproperty;
theemergenceofcomposersfromtheanonymityoffeudalpatron
ageandtheirappearanceaspublicfiguresandprincipalactorsin
theexchangeofmusicalgoodsandservices;
Romanticnotionsofgeniusandsubjectivity.
89. RoyPorter:EnglishSocietyintheEighteenthCentury(1990,London:Penguin;p. 248),
citedbyBarron(2006: 123).IvereplacedartistorwriterinthePorterquotewith
[composer]oneachoccasion.
90. RogerChartier:TheOrderofBooks(1994,Cambridge:PolityPress,pp. 3637),cited
byBarron(2006: 123).Chartierisinfactcharacterisingtheliteraryontologysubse
quentlyadvancedbysucharchitectsofGermanromanticismasHerder,Kantand
Fichte.Onceagain,Ivechangedbookto[score]andauthorto[composer].
91. SeeTheMusicalWork.RealityorInvention(Talbot,2000).
Tagg: Musics Meanings 3. The epistemic oil tanker 127
AddtothesefourpointstheproblemofMUSICISMUSIC(ABSOLUTEMU
SIC) and its institutionalisation (pp. 8495), plus the fact that notation
wastheonlyviableformofmusicalstorageanddistributionforcentu
riesintheWest,anditshouldcomeasnosurprisethatmanypeoplein
musicalacademestilladheretothescopocentricbeliefthatnotationis
THE MUSIC it encodes so incompletely. Indeed, this belief is so en
trenchedinsomemusocirclesthatthewordmusicstilloftendenotesno
morethansignsandmarksonpaper,asinstatementslikeIleftmy
musicinthecar.Theinstitutionalmagicofthisequationshouldnotbe
underestimated. For example, one research student told me his sym
phonic transcription of a Pink Floyd track was intended to give the
musicthestatusitdeserves;andIwasonceaccusedoftryingtolegit
imisetrashbecauseIhadincludedtranscriptionsinmyanalysesofthe
KojakthemeandAbbasFernando.
Another important reason for the longevity of the equation MUSIC =
SHEET MUSIC is of course that notation was, for about a century and a
half(roughly 18001950),the mostlucrative mass medium for the musical
homeentertainmentindustry.Inmostbourgeoisparlours,thepianowas
asfocalapieceoffurnitureastheTVinlatterdaylivingrooms.Before
themassproductionofelectromagneticrecordingsinthelate1920s,or
evenaslateasthe1950sandtheadventofvinylrecords,sheetmusic
was,likeanaudiofile,encodedcontentinneedofsoftwareandhard
waretodecodeandreproduce.Theparlourpianowasonlypartofthat
hardware; the rest of the hardware and all the necessary software re
sidedinthevaryingabilityofsheetmusicconsumerstodecodenotes
onthepageintoappropriatemotoricactivityonthepianokeys(oron
otherinstruments,orbyusingthevoice).Thesheetmusicmediumon
whichconsumersreliedinordertorealiseanaestheticusevalue,hope
fully commensurate with the commoditys exchange value (its mone
taryprice),demandedthattheycontributeactivelytotheproductionofthe
sounds from which any aesthetic use value might be derived. In this
way,consumerpreoccupationwithpoeticaspectsofmusicalcommu
nicationwasmuchgreaterthanitwastobecomeintheeraofsoundre
cording.Poeticconsumerinvolvementinmusicalhomeentertainment
wasalsogreaterthanthatrequiredforderivingusevalue,aestheticor
otherwise,fromanewspaperornovel,especiallyaftertheintroduction
128 Tagg: Musics Meanings 3. The epistemic oil tanker
ofcompulsoryeducationanditsinsistenceonverballiteracyforallciti
zens:notationalliteracywasneverconsideredsuchanecessity,evenin
theheydayofsheetmusicpublishing.
The fact that those who regularly use Western notation today are al
mostexclusivelymusicians,notthegenerallisteningpublic,reinforces
thedichotomybetweenknowledgesofmusic,especiallythatbetween
vernacularaesthesiccompetence(e.g.auralrecognitionofaparticular
chordintermsofcrimeanditsdetection)andtheprofessionalabilityto
denote musical structures in poetic terms (e.g. minor major nine).
What composers, arrangers or transcribers put on to the page is, as
weve repeatedly stated, usually intended as something to be per
formedbytrainedmusicianswho,inordertomakesenseofthesigns
andmarks,havetosupplyfromtheirownexperienceatleastasmuch
of what is not as of what is on the page. It goes without saying that it
wouldtodaybeeconomicsuicidetoproducesheetmusicenmassein
the hope that Joe Public would derive any value from it. Despite this
patentshiftinprincipalcommodityformduringthetwentiethcentury
fromsheetmusictosoundrecording,musicalscopocentrismisstillgo
ingstrong,notonlyinthemusicalacademybutalsoinlegalpractice.In
November2003,aCaliforniajudgedeclinedtoawardcompensationto
a jazz musician whose improvisation had been sampled on a Beastie
Boystrack.Judgementwaspassedonthegroundsthattheimprovisa
tionwaspartofaworkwhosescoretheplaintiffhadpreviouslydepos
itedforcopyrightpurposesinwrittenformbutthattheimprovisation
inquestionwasnotincludedinthatcopyrightedscore.
92
Onefinalaspectofthedynamicbetweennotation,subjectivityandthe
institutionalisation of musical knowledges deserves attention if any
strategy for developing more democratically accessible types of dis
courseaboutmusicistobeatallviable.Thisdynamichastodowith
thecomposersstarstatusintheWesternclassicaltraditionafter1800.
Backtracking to the nineteenthcentury bourgeois music market for
thelasttime,composersbecame,aswehaveseen,thelegalownersand
recognisedauthorsofideasconveyedthroughthetangiblecommodity
92. Formoredetail,seeNewtonvDiamond(2003).
Tagg: Musics Meanings 3. The epistemic oil tanker 129
ofsheetmusic.Inthiswaytheyalsobecameabitlikeactssignedby
thelatetwentiethcenturysrecordlabelsthemosteasilyidentifiable
individualsinvolvedintheproductionofmusic.Forexample,thebig
gestnamesonpopularsheetmusiccoverswere,intheheydayofnota
tion, those of the composer and lyricist, while the AS PERFORMED BY
data,whichonlystartstoappearregularlyintheinterwaryearsafter
the commercial breakthrough of electromagnetic recording, was as
signedamuchsmallerfont.Ofcourse,intheclassical field,pianore
ductions and pocket scores virtually never include details of notable
recordings of the work in question. Indeed, although nineteenthcen
tury artists like Jenny Lind or Niccol Paganini were unquestionably
treatedlikepopstarsintheirday,theyneveracquiredthesamehigh
artstatusofcomposersenshrinedasGreatMastersinWesternmusical
academeshalloffame.Romanticnotionsoftheindividual,ofmusicas
a refuge of the higher arts and of virtually watertight boundaries be
tween subjective and objective contributed to this canonisation proc
ess.
93
Among the continuing symptoms of this romanticised auteur
centrismishistoricalmusicologyszealfordiscoveringmusicalUrtexts
or for reinterpreting Beethovens notebooks compared to its relative
lackofinterestinhowsuchmusicwasusedandinwhatitmeanttoau
diences,eitherthenormorerecently.Inshort,musicologicaltextbooks
still tend to deal more with composers, their subjectivity, their inten
tions and their works, the latter overwhelmingly equated with the
poeticallyfocusedmediumofnotation,thanwiththeeffects,usesand
meaningsofthatmusicfromtheviewpointoftheusuallymuchgreater
numberofindividualswhomakeupthemusicsaudiences.
94
93. AsylederhherenKnste:ftnt.11p.89.Celebrationofsubjectiveobjectivesplit:p.95.
94. Oneexceptiontothisrulemightbetheminusculefanbaseforcertaintypesofcon
temporaryeuroclassicalmusic.Ivebeentorecitalsofesotericmusicwherecom
posersactuallyoutnumberlisteners.Thisstrangemilieuislinkedtoanother
symptomofauteurcentrism.Ireferheretotheoftenbizarreteachingofcomposi
tionintheacademywhereRomanticsubjectivityseemstorunriot,oneofitssad
destsyndromesbeingtheinnovationangstaffectingyoungcomposerswhofeel
obligedtoconformtotheoriginalityedictsoftinytotemgroupsDarmstadt,anti
Darmstadt,postDarmstadt,modernism,serialism,postserialism,postmodernism,
stochasticism,minimalism,avantgardesensualism,aleatorics,acousmatics,elec
troacoustics,etc.adinf.
130 Tagg: Musics Meanings 3. The epistemic oil tanker
Theconsequencesofnotationslongstandingcentralpositioninmusic
education are, in the perspectives just presented, quite daunting.
Thankfully,severalmajortwentiethcenturydevelopmentshavehigh
lightedmanyaspectsoftheanomaliesbroughttogetherinthediscus
sionsofar.Thesedevelopments,discussedinthenextchapter,havenot
onlyenabledacritiqueofconventionalmusicology:theyalsoprefigure
thesortofideaspresentedinChapters614.
Summaryofmainpoints
[1]Musicsrelativelylowstatus in theacademic pecking order isdue
notonlytoitsinherentlyalogogenicnaturebutalsotoitsinstitutional
isolationfromtheepistemologicalmainstreamofEuropeanthought.
[2]Therelativeisolationofmusicfromotheraspectsofknowledgein
ourtraditionoflearningisnotonlyduetothelatterslogocentricand
scopocentricbiasbutalsotoapowerfulnexusofhistorical,social,eco
nomic,technologicalandideologicalfactors.
[3] Sociomusical power agendas are a severe obstacle to the under
standingofmusicasameaningfulsignsystem.Musicsrelativeisola
tion in our tradition of knowledge is partly due to a long history of
institutional mystification: notions of suprasocial transcendence have
forthousandsofyearsbeenarecurrenttraitinlearnedwritingsabout
learnedmusics.Thedoctrinalghostofonesuchnotionofsuprasocial
ity ABSOLUTE MUSIC (MUSIC IS MUSIC) still haunts the corridors of
musicalacademeintheWest.
[4] The strong link between ABSOLUTE MUSIC and romanticist (bour
geois)notionsofsubjectivityreinforcesamoregeneraldissociationor
alienationofindividualsfromsocial,economicandpoliticalprocesses.
Insodoing,thelinkbetweenABSOLUTEMUSICandbourgeoisnotionsof
individualityalsoobscurestheobjectivecharacterofsharedsubjectiv
ity among audiences, placing disproportionate emphasis on the indi
vidualcomposerorartistinthemusicalcommunicationprocess.
[5]Postmodernistabsolutismisalatterdayvariantonitseuroclassical
counterpart.Itexhibitssimilartraitsof:[i]changefromradicalalterna
tive to established intellectual canon; [ii] repertoire ossification; [iii]
Tagg: Musics Meanings 3. The epistemic oil tanker 131
adoptionandpropagationbyprivilegedclasses;[iv]metaphysicaland
illogical discourse, often authoritarian, promoting the superiority of
certainmusicalpracticesoverothers.
[6]Postmodernistabsolutismcameoutofliterarystylerockjournalism
andCulturalStudies,notoutofinstitutionalisedmusicstudies.While
classical absolutism focused on musical texts at the expense of their
context, postmodernist absolutism tended to deny the existence of a
musicaltextaltogether.Ineithercasesemioticapproachestomusicare
outofthequestion.
[7]Overridingemphasisontheproductionofmusic,ratherthanonits
usesandmeanings,issofirmlyentrenchedin(euroclassical)Western
institutionsofmusicallearningthattermsdenotingelementsofmusi
cal structure are mostly poetic, rarely aesthesic. Consequently, those
withoutformalmusicaltrainingareunabletoreferinadoctrinallycor
rect fashion to such structural elements (signs). This lack of officially
recognisedaesthesicstructuraldenotorsmakesthediscussionofmusi
calmeaningbythosewithoutformaltrainingaverydifficulttask.
[8]Thelongevityofnotationastheonlymediumofmusicalstorageand
distribution before the advent of recorded sound, combined with its
subsequentstatusasthemostlucrativemediumduringtheearlypartof
the twentiethcentury, hascompoundedmany of thedifficultiesmen
tioned above. Unlike the written word, notation, conceived and used
almost exclusively for the production of musicalsound rather than for
itsperception,exacerbatesthepoeticimbalanceofmusicallearningin
theWest.Atthesametime,notationslongstandingstatusascommod
ity form, combined with its historical association with European no
tionsofsubjectivity,especiallyduringtheRomanticeraandinthewake
oflegislationrubberstampingthecomposerasanauthenticoriginator
andownerofmarketableproperty,hasfurthercontributedtothepoet
iclopsidednessofthoughtaboutmusicinWesterninstitutions.Ithasin
theprocessalsoreinforcedthemetaphysicalviewsofmusicandsubjec
tivitymentionedinpoints3and4.
132 Tagg: Musics Meanings 3. The epistemic oil tanker
Bridge
Thelongandshortoftheseeightpointsandofthediscussiontheysum
mariseisthatitshouldcomeasnosurpriseifintelligentpeoplecapable
ofembracingasociallyinformedsemioticsoflanguageorcinemaare
generallyunabletodothesamewithmusic:thehistoricallegacyofmu
sicallearningintheWesthassimplymadethattaskextremelydifficult.
At thesametime,although it isvitaltounderstandthe causesofthis
problem,itsalsoobviousthatitmustbesolved.Musicalrealitiesafter
acenturyofmassdiffusedsoundclearlydemandthatthementalma
chineryofthehistoricallegacybeoverhauled.
Therefore,returningtotheanalogythatstartedthischapter,weareper
hapsnowslightlybetterplacedtodeterminewhatcargotosalvageand
whattodiscardalongwiththeballastoftheoiltankerrepresentingthe
historicallegacyjustreviewed.Althoughwemaybeabletoneitherma
noeuvre the massive vessel satisfactorily nor bring it to a complete
standstill,wecanatleastdecreaseitsinertiaandmoreeasilypredictits
behaviour.Ifallelsefails,wecanabandonshipandrowourlifeboats
towards another point on the shoreline. Hopefully the tanker can be
safely moored before it causes more damage so that we can use as
much fuel as possible salvaged from its hold to run less cumbersome
vessels providing a more efficient and ecologically friendly shipping
serviceinthepublicinterest.Severalepistemologicallifeboatshaveal
readyputout.Theyarethesubjectofthenextchapter.
Tagg: Musics Meanings 133
4.Ethno,socio,semio
HISchapterdealswiththeepistemologicallifeboatsmentioned
attheendofChapter3.Theyformanimportantpartofthefoun
dations on which the rest of this book rests. For reasons of brevity, I
shallcalltheselifeboatsETHNO(asinethnomusicology),SOCIO(asinthe
sociologyofmusic)andSEMIO(asinthesemioticsorsemiologyofmusic).
These three qualifiers imply that studying music should, unlike con
ventionalstudiesintheWestwhichhavenosuchqualifyingprefixes,
entail considering music as an integral part of human activity rather
thanasjustmusicassound(ABSOLUTEMUSIC).Putsimply,ETHNOre
latesmusic,asdefinedonpage 44, topeoplesandtheirculture,SOCIO
tothesocietyproducingandusingthemusicinquestion,SEMIOtothe
dynamicrelationsbetweenstructureandperceivedmeaninginmusic.
Ethno
Theearliestmajorchallengetoinstitutionalisedwisdomaboutmusicin
thenineteenthcenturyWestcamefromwhatisgenerallycalledeither
ethnomusicologyortheanthropologyofmusic.
There are several plausible explanations for the rise, in Europe and
North America around 1900, of these ETHNO approaches. One reason
may be that alienated European and North American intellectuals
soughtalternativeculturalvaluestothoseofthebrutalmonetaryecon
omytheylivedin.Anotherreasonmayhavebeenconcernforthefate
ofpreindustrialculturesthreatenedbyurbanisation,athirdthesearch
fornationalmusicalidentity.Whateverfactorsmayhavesparkedinter
estinfolkandothermusicsattheturnofthepreviouscentury,one
thingisclear:ethnomusicologywouldnothaveflourishedwithoutthe
inventionofrecordedsound.
1
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4
-
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n
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.
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m
.

2
0
1
3
-
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134 Tagg: Musics Meanings 4. Ethno, socio, semio
Now,althoughnotation,notsoundrecording,was,duringthefirsthalf
ofthetwentiethcentury,themainmusicalstoragemediumintheWest,
acousticrecording,commerciallyavailablesincearound1900,allowed
collectorsofnonnotatedmusictostorewhattheysoughttodocument
asitsoundedratherthanasscholarshearditorwereabletotranscribeit.
Thankstothenewrecordingtechnology,standardsofreliabilityinmu
sicaldocumentationimproved:collectorscouldnolongerreturnfrom
fieldtripswithmeretranscriptionsofthemusictheywantedtostudy.
Through repeated listening to a recording of an identical sequence of
musicalevents,theycouldmoreeasilygraspunfamiliarwaysofstruc
turingpitch,timbreandrhythm,takingnoteofallrelevantparameters
ofexpression,notjustthosesuitedtostorageintheEuropeansystemof
notation.
Thisearlydevelopmentinethnomusicologyisofimportancetoanyone
studyingmusicstoredand/ordistributedinauralratherthangraphic
formbecausefocusonmusicaltextsshiftsfromnotationtosoundre
cording. With the early ethnomusicologists, audio recording became
theprimarymediumformusicalstorageandactedasthebasisfortran
scription.Putanotherway,therolesofnotationandrecordingwerere
versed.Euroclassicalcomposersandarrangersproducednotationthat
servedastheprimarymediumonwhichliveperformanceandanysub
sequentrecordingwerebased,whereasthenotationofmusicinother
traditionsreliedonsoundrecordingofaprimaryliveperformancefor
itsexistenceasatextusedforpurposesofstudyratherthanfor(re)per
formance.Later,aftertheadventofmovingcoilmicrophonesandelec
tricalamplificationinthe1920s,fieldrecordingsbycollectorslikePeer,
HammondandLomaxweretohaveanevengreaterimpact:previously
1. Constructionofanationalmusicalidentityinthelate19thandearly20thcentury
seemstohavebeenparticularlyimportantinEuropeancountriesoutsidethedomi
nantCentralEuropeanmusicalsphere,e.g.Hungary,theBalkans,Russia,Spain,
Scandinavia,Ireland,ScotlandandEngland.Edisoninventsthecylinderphono
graphin1877;Berlinerpatentsthefirstflatdiscgramophonein1888;recordingsof
NativeAmericanmusicstartin1889;StumpfstriptoSiamdatesfrom1900,Bartk
andKodlysfirstcollectionsfrom1904,Hornbostelsfirstexpeditionfrom1905,
Sachs&Hornbostelsorganologyfrom1914.
Tagg: Musics Meanings 4. Ethno, socio, semio 135
nonnotatedmusictraditionslikehillbillyandthebluescouldnowbe
stored,reproducedanddistributedinquantitiesthatwouldsoonout
strip those of sheet music publishing. By the time of the Beatles Ser
geant Pepper (1967), of course, media primacy is in the recording, live
performancebecomingatbestanattempttoreenacttherecordingon
stage,oftenanoutrightimpossibility,whilenotationhaslittleornorel
evance.
2
Giventhishistoricalbackground,thereareatleastthreerea
sons for stressing the importance of ethnomusicologys three great
challengestoWesterninstitutionsofconventionalmusicallearning.
FIRST:byusingaudiorecordingintheirstudies,earlytwentiethcentury
scholars, researchers, collectors and musicians made other musics
available for interested Westerners to hear, study and appreciate.
Throughsubsequentworkbyscholarsandcollectors,moremusicfrom
more cultures became available on phonogram, this development in
creasing the Western listeners chances of finding aesthetic values in a
greatervarietyofmusicsandsubstantiallyreducingtheviabilityofmain
tainingasingledominantaestheticcanonformusic.
SECOND: due to obvious differences in structure between Central Eu
ropesmusicallinguafrancaandtheothermusicsstudiedbyethno
musicologists, we Westerners could never take the meanings and
functionsoftheirmusicforgrantedinthesamewayaswethought
wecouldwithourown.Weneededexplanationsastowhytheirmu
sicsoundedsodifferentfromours.Theirmusicremainedincomprehen
sibletousunlessitwasrelatedtoparamusicalphenomena,thatis,unlessit
couldbeconceptuallylinkedtosocialorculturalactivityandorganisa
tion other than what we would call musical to religion, work, the
economy, patterns of behaviour and subjectivity etc. If applying no
tionsoftheabsolutetofamiliarmusicinfamiliarsurroundingsis,as
we already argued (p. 91, ff.), a contradiction in terms, applying such
notionsto unfamiliar music in unfamiliar contextswouldbeevensil
2. Themediaprimacyofrecordinginpopmusiccanbetracedbackatleastasfaras
PhilSpectorintheearly1960s(RichardWilliams,1975).SeeGreen(2001)fornota
tionsabsenceinpopularmusiclearningstrategies.
136 Tagg: Musics Meanings 4. Ethno, socio, semio
lier.So,forcedtoputthesoundsofunfamiliarmusicintothespecific
socialcontextofforeigncultureinordertomakeanysenseofthemat
all,wehadtocomparethesoundsofourownmusicwiththoseofpeo
plelivinginothercultures,andthecontextoftheirmusicwithourown
cultural tradition. Perhaps we would need to ask how our music
worked in their context if their music was incomprehensible to us
withoutunderstandingitintheircontext;andifwehadtoaskthose
sorts of question, maybe we would need to start thinking more seri
ously about how our music worked in our own context. Whatever
the case, understanding anything of the unfamiliar music that ethno
musicologistsrecordedmeantthinkingcomparatively.Itmeantreflect
ing on the givens of our own music, culture and society in order to
understand theirs; it entailed thinking in terms of cultural relativity.
Undersuchcircumstances,musicalabsolutismwasoutofthequestion.
THIRD:asalreadysuggested,attemptsattranscribingothermusicsac
tualisedthelimitationsofourownsystemofnotationandtherebythe
limitations of music encodable within that system. This process pro
videdinsightsintotherelativeimportanceofdifferentparametersofmusical
expressionindifferentmusicculturesandpavedthewayforamusicology
ofnonnotatedmusics.Diversityofaestheticnormsformusicbecame
reality and musical ethnocentricity, including Eurocentric notions of
musicalsuperiority,absolutemusicand eternaloruniversal val
uescouldbechallenged.Thissenseoftherelativityofaestheticnormsfor
music was of central importance in the latter formulation of aesthetic
valuesforallformsofmusicoutsidetheEuropeanclassicalcanon.
Inshort,ethnomusicologyrefutedtheviabilityofmaintainingjustone
aestheticcanon.Italsodrewattentiontotheimportanceofnonnotata
bleparametersofexpressionand,ofparticularrelevancetothisbook,it
obliged any serious scholar of music to deal with questions of function and
meaninginasocioculturalframework.
Tagg: Musics Meanings 4. Ethno, socio, semio 137
Socio
Theearliesttextdevotedexplicitlytothesociologyofmusicappeared
in1921.
3
Thatdatecoincidesroughlywiththeinventionofthemoving
coil microphone and with the first broadcasting boom. A few years
later,patentsweretakenoutonelectromagneticrecordingandonop
ticalsound.
4
Thesenewsoundcarryingtechnologieswereessentialto
the developmentofradio,records andtalkingfilm.Massdiffusionof
music via these new media highlighted differences in musical habits
between social classes within the same nation state because people
were now much more frequently exposed to what everyone else
those others again! listened to. Its also essential to note that the
same interwar years saw momentous social and political upheavals,
includingtheemergenceoftheSovietUnion,theincreasingstrengthof
workingclassorganisations,generalstrikesandsuchdisastrouseffects
of capitalism as the Wall Street Crash, economic depression, rampant
inflationandtheriseoffascism.
Realisation of this socioeconomiccultural conjuncture and concern
about the future of individuals within this new and unstable type of
masssocietyseemtobethemainreasonsbehindthedevelopment,not
least during the sociopolitical turmoil of the Weimar republic, of a
sociologyofmusicdealingwiththeeverydaymusicalpracticesofthe
popularmajority(thoseothersagain!).Hence,forexample,theestab
lishment in 1930 of the Berlin journal Musik und Gesellschaft, subtitled
WorkingPapersfortheSocialCareandPoliticsofMusic.Beforedis
appearingaftertheNaziMachtbernamein1933,MusikundGeselleschaft
had contained articles about, for example, music and youth, amateur
musicians,urbanmusicconsumersandaboutmusicintheworkplace.
5
Therewere,inshort,goodethicalandpoliticalreasonsforintellectuals
3. MaxWebersDierationellenundsoziologischenGrundlagenderMusik.Forafuller
accountofthissociosection,pleaseseeTagg&Clarida(2003: 3948).
4. Forexample,(1924)BBCradiolicensesalesrisetotwomillionandWesternElectric
patentelectromagneticrecording;(1925)firstcommercialelectromechanical
recordingsandstandardisationofr.p.m.to78;(1926)formationofNBCbyRCAand
firsttalkingfilm;(1927)100millionrecordsalesintheUSA;(1928)Foxacquire
rightsonopticalsound;(1931)70%ofBBCairtimeismusic.
138 Tagg: Musics Meanings 4. Ethno, socio, semio
totakeaseriouslookatinteractionsbetweenmusic,culture,class,soci
ety and values. Out of these political, social and aesthetic concerns
aboutprewarpopularcultureemergetwogeneraltrendswhichexert
considerable indirect influence on the understanding of music in the
West. One of these SOCIO trends was more empirical, the other more
theoretical.
Theempiricaltrendinthesociologyofmusicconcentratedlargelyon
documenting the musical tastes and habits of different population
groups.Itcaninverygeneraltermsbeunderstoodasservingbothex
ploitativeanddemocraticpurposes.Itsexploitative,forexample,when
thedemographicdataitproducesisusedbycommercialmediatosell
sociomusically defined target groups to advertisers, while its demo
cratic potential lies in the fact that similar demographic data can be
usedasargumentsforthedemocratisationofpublicpolicyinthearts
andeducation.Putsimply,thedemocraticpotentialofempiricalsocio
logynotonlycontributedtoageneralbroadeningofthenotionofcul
ture,aconceptualcornerstoneinwhatbecameCulturalStudies;italso
fuelled the opinion that publicly funded music institutions were un
democratic.Suchcritiquehelpedpavethewayfortheseriousstudyof
musics of the popular majority, musics whose producers, mediators
andusersaresotangiblyinvolvedinthecomplexconstructionandne
gotiationofsounds,meanings,valuesandattitudesinourownsociety.
Under such circumstances it would be absurd to study music as just
music,illogicaltodetermineanyaspectofmusicalstructurationwith
outconsideringitsfunctionormeanings.
5. Thecomplete193031runofMusikundGesellschaftisreprintedinonevolume(Kol
land,1978).Theauthorsoftwoarticles(TheEffectsofRhythmintheFulfilmentof
IndustrialisedFactoryWork,MusicalRhythmsinFactoryWorkandMusical
RhythmasaMeansofIncreasingtheProductivityofTypists)askifmusiccan
humaniseanimpersonal,mechanicalworkingenvironmentorifitjustatoolfor
increasingproductionandfornumbingthepoliticalwilloftheworkingclass?For
informationabouttheconnectionbetweenMusikundGesellschaftandpopularmusic
studies,seeTagg(1998a).Massobservationstudiesofpopularculturewerealso
conductedintheUKduringthe1930sbyscholarslikeQ. D.Leavis(thankstoBruce
JohnsonforthisinformationaboutQueenieLeavis,wifeofProfessorF.R.Leavisof
Leavisitefame).
Tagg: Musics Meanings 4. Ethno, socio, semio 139
SeveralproponentsofthemoretheoreticalSOCIOtrendheldverydif
ferent views about the music of the popular majority. The most well
knownrepresentativeofthistrendwasAdorno,afiguresofrequently
referred to by other writers on popular culture that anyone seriously
studying music in the mass media is almost ritualistically obliged to
mentionhim.OnereasonforAdornosacademicnotorietyisthat,de
spitetheMusikundGesellschaftconnectionjustmentioned,heistreated
as if he were the first music scholar to deal with popular music. The
chapterOnPopularMusicfromhisIntroductiontotheSociologyofMu
sic(1962)isAdornosclaimtoacademicfameinthisrespect.
On Popular Music has always struck me as uninformed and elitist.
Adornoseemstohaveveryvaguenotionsaboutthemusic,musicians
andaudienceonwhomhepassesjudgement.
6
Healsopresentsahier
archyoflisteningmodes,accordingtowhichconcentratedlisteningas
youfolloweventsinthescoreisgoodandhavingmusiconintheback
groundasyoudothedishesisbad.
7
Moreover,Adornosequationofa
strong,regularbeatandaneasilysingabletunewiththemanipulation
ofthemassesexpressesdisdainformusicssomaticproperties,aswell
asfortheworkingclasswhich,accordingtothesocialismheprofessed
to embrace, would rid society of the capitalism he himself criticised.
How can such a learned man be so contradictory? According to Paul
Beaud(1980),Adornosdeafearforpopularmusiccanbeexplainedas
follows:
His texts [on popular music] date from his [US] American period
whenhewasonthelookoutforfascismeverywhere.Anythingresem
blingrhythmheequatedwithmilitarymusic.Thiswasthevisceralre
actionoftheexiled,aristocraticJewduringtheHitlerperiod.
This plausible explanation raises two other problems. One is that pop-
ular music in the Third Reich was not dominated by military marches
but by sentimental ballads (Wicke, 1985), a fact substantiating the view
that Adorno was out of touch with the musical habits of the populace.
6. FormoreonAdornosproblemswithjazzandpopularmusic,seeGracyk
(1996: 149174);seealsoTagg&Clarida(2003: 41).
7. ThisviewstronglyresemblesWackenrodersmetaphysicofimmersion(p.94)
140 Tagg: Musics Meanings 4. Ethno, socio, semio
The other problem is that Adornos aversion to musics somatic power
is contradictory to the point of anti-intellectualist absurdity because it
precludes the development of rational models capable of explaining
musics relation to the body and emotions. Since, as well see next,
Adorno exerted considerable indirect influence on alternative studies
of music in the second half of the twentieth century, and since no mean
amounts of music in our contemporary media have such clear emo-
tional or somatic functions, awareness of Adornos shortcomings is es-
sential. Ignorance of popular music, disdain for the musical habits of
the popular classes, aversion to musics corporeal aspects and celebra-
tion of its cerebral aspects are hardly the ideal premises on which to
base a serious understanding of Abba or Adele, let alone of capoeira,
cmbia, death metal, fado, flamenco, funk, games audio, karaoke, line
dancing, reggae, samba, valses musettes, and so on ad infinitum.
So, why bother about Adorno at all? Because he has been so influen-
tial is the easy answer, but its an answer that begs other questions. If
Adorno was himself light years away from forming a viable approach
to understanding music in the mass media, why is he so often referred
to by scholars with that particular field of interest? That question raises
serious epistemological issues which anyone trying to develop a musi-
cology of mass-mediated music would be wise to consider. One expla-
nation is that Adornos influence on two areas of thought about music
has been indirect and paradoxical.
First, Adorno, a musicologist with some high-art composition creden-
tials, introduced music academics to a vocabulary of social philosophy
which, despite its obvious shortcomings,
8
made it just that little bit
harder for those academics to bury their heads in wonted formalist
sand. Second, and more importantly, Adorno was Herbert Marcuses
mentor and it was Marcuse who popularised the social-critical philoso-
phy of the Frankfurt School among radical U. S. students in the sixties,
not least among those who, wittingly or not, contributed to the formu-
8. Forexample,whatdoesAdornoactuallymeanbythefollowingpejoratives:Reiz
(stimulation),[Wirklichkeits]Flucht(escape[fromreality]),Ablenkung(distraction),
Bekrftigung(affirmation)andNivellierung(standardisationorhomogenisation),
avantgarde,jazzandkitsch?Noneofthesetermsareclearlydefinedorexemplified.
Tagg: Musics Meanings 4. Ethno, socio, semio 141
lation of the rock canon.
9
Its in this second way that Adorno indirectly
contributed to the establishment of influential types of postwar Eng-
lish-language discourse on music. In journalistic or academic guise, this
discourse, which was also influenced by traditions of literary criticism
and political theory, seems typically to concern itself with a certain set
of social and cultural issues youth, subculture, fashion, the business
and the media, etc. and with alternative aesthetic canons of authen-
ticity in popular music. This aspect of Adornos indirect influence is
paradoxical because the rock canon of authenticity, for example the
spirited underdog and the body music that provokes,
10
contrasts
starkly with Adornos cerebral anti-somatic stance.
Two other explanations will serve to complete the bizarre picture that
is Adornos position in the pantheon of authorities to which scholars of
contemporary culture so often seem obliged to refer. One reason is sim-
ple: that Adorno was much more widely translated into English than
other comparable authorities. That prosaic reply begs the question
why Adorno and not others?
The general gist of the second explanation is that many aspects of
Adornos writing neatly align with pre-existing value systems and con-
ventional categories of thought in the humanities. More precisely,
Adorno is empiriphobic and undialectic on two fronts, for not only are
the voices of musics creators and users absent in his writings; his work
also involves very little concrete reference to music as text. Adorno is
on this second count at an advantage in institutions where conceptual
boundaries between musical and other types of knowledge are kept
tight because no discussion of musical structure means that scholars
without musical training can be spared the embarrassment of not
knowing what minor-major-nine and other items of muso jargon actu-
ally mean (see p. 89). For scholars in other arts or in social science, the-
orising around music (metacontextual discourse) is much less trouble
9. BlackPantherleaderAngelaDavis,YippiepartychairmanAbbieHoffmanand
foundingRollingStoneeditorJonLandauwereallstudentsofMarcuseatBrandeis
University.CarlBelz,oneofthefirsthistoriansofrock,taughtatBrandeisatthe
sametimeasMarcuse.TherockcanonisdiscussedinTagg&Clarida(2003: 5988).
SeealsoMichelsenetal.(2000:63,ff.).
10. TheseexpressionsderivefromRobertChristgauandJonLandaurespectively.
142 Tagg: Musics Meanings 4. Ethno, socio, semio
than discourse involving reference to the sounds of music in the terms
of those who produce them (metatextual discourse with its poetic de-
scriptors). At the same time, Adornos lack of ethnographic and socio-
empirical concretion, combined with his evident unfamiliarity with the
realities of popular culture, are symptomatic of the conservative sort of
art criticism or literary theory whose value judgements seem to de-
mand no empirical underpinning. As long as the language is erudite
and as long as the implicit aesthetic values are taken for granted, disci-
plinary boundaries can be maintained and there need be no disconcert-
ing paradigm shifts. Add to all this the left-wing credibility inherent in
Adornos status as a critical intellectual Jew having fled from the Nazis
to the English-speaking West, and his popularity as reference point for
anglophone academics who see themselves politically left of centre
should come as no surprise.
11

Inshort,Adornosvalueladentheorisinghasthrowntwomajorobsta
clesinthepathofthosewhowanttounderstandhowmusiccancarry
meaningincontemporaryurbansociety.
[1] By omitting musical texts from his discussions of music, Adorno
reinforcesdisciplinaryboundariesbetweenstudiesofmusicalstructu
rationandotherimportantaspectsofunderstandingmusic.
12

[2] By excluding empirical concretion, by privileging unsubstantiated


value judgements and by his apparent unawareness of his own igno
ranceaboutthemusicofthepopularmajority,Adornohasreinforced
scholastictendenciesinartsacademetoconfusetheelegantexpression
ofaestheticopinionwithscholarship.
11. ErnstEmsheimer,ethnomusicologist,bornintoanotherwelltodoJewishfamilythe
sameyearandinthesamepartofFrankfurtasAdorno,fledeast,notwest,from
NaziGermany.Althoughhisinfluenceonpopularmusicstudiesismoreconstruc
tivethanAdornos,hiscontribution,throughJanLingsworkinGteborg,remains
largelyunknownoutsideofethnomusicology(seeTagg, 1998a).Anotherproblem
relatespartlytothefamousAdornoBenjamindebateandtoatwoedgedpathosfor
educationandselfbettermentamongtheintellectualpetitbourgeoisie(myback
ground)andaspiringmembersoftheworkingclass.Suchselfbettermentoften
involvedacquiringtheculturalandintellectualtrappingsoftherulingclassesrather
thaninvestigatingthedialecticsofpopularculture,includingitsdemocraticpoten
tial.IthinkAdornoselitismreinforcedsuchundialecticaltendencies.
12. SeeSkills,competences,knowledges(p. 118, ff.).
Tagg: Musics Meanings 4. Ethno, socio, semio 143
Tosummarise:Adornosvalueliesinwhathisstatusasmuchquoted
authoritytellsusaboutthetraditionofknowledgethathaskepthimin
thatposition.ItsinspiteofhimthattheSOCIOchallengetotheoldabso
lutist aesthetics of music met with any success. That challenge came
mainlyfromempiricalstudiesofmusicallifeintheindustrialisedWest,
studies enabling scholars to argue for the democratisation of institu
tionsofmusicallearning,aswellasforthevalidityofstudyingmusics
ofthepopularmajority.SOCIOwasalso,itshouldbeadded,aconven
ientmultipurposelabelwhichforaverylongtimecouldbestuckonto
studiesthatdiscussedmusicasanintegralpartofsocioculturalactivity
orwhichexaminedmusicsoutsideboththeEuropeanclassicalcanon
andtheconventionalhuntinggroundsofethnomusicology.
13

OnefinalsymptomofproblemswithbothSOCIOtrendsinmusicstud
ieslinksbacktotheabsenceofmusicaltextsinmostworkaboutmusic
inthemassmedia.Suchstudiesarestilloverwhelminglyconductedby
scholarswithabackgroundinthesocialsciencesorculturalstudies.It
wouldbeunreasonabletodemandofthosecolleaguestheexpertiseas
sociatedwiththedescriptionofmusicalstructures,morereasonableto
expectmusicologiststohavedevotedmoreefforttostudyingthevast
repertoireofmusicscirculatingonaneverydaybasisviathemassme
dia.Withtheexceptionofethnomusicologists,whountilquiterecently
ingeneralavoidedthatvastrepertoire,veryfewmusicscholarsexam
inedrelationshipsbetweenthatmusicandthesocial,economicandcul
turalconfigurationsinwhichitplaysacentralpart.Asaresultofthis
epistemological gap and thanks to the relative accessibility of the un
substantiatedtheorisingproducedbyAdorno,thedenialofcontextas
sociated with Romantic theories of absolute music could be replaced,
just as idealistically, with explicit denial of the existence of musical
texts.Fromthemusiciansperspective,suchtextdenialisofcourseab
surd.
14
How this problem affects the main point of this book may be
easiertounderstandwiththehelpofTable41(p. 144).
13. InNovember2007IdiscoveredIhadbeenlabelledsociologuebytwoFrenchmusicol
ogists.Sociologist,eh?Thatshouldcausemirthamongmysocialsciencefriends!
14. Forafulldiscussionofthemusicaltextdenialproblem,seePomomusicology,con
sumerismandtheliberationoftheidandMusic:atroublesomeappendageto
culturalstudiesinTagg&Clarida(2003: 6688).
144 Tagg: Musics Meanings 4. Ethno, socio, semio
Fig. 4-1. Typical topics for ETHNO and SOCIO studies of music
Figure41suggeststhatSOCIOapproachesdealmainlywithsocialas
pectsofWesternmusicoutsidetheclassicaltradition,rarelywithmusic
innonWesterncultures.ETHNOstudies,ontheotherhand,havetradi
tionallydealtwiththemusicsofnonWesternculturesand,asthethick
doubleended arrow indicates, with the interaction between music as
soundandthesocioculturalfieldofwhichitispart.Figure41alsosug
geststhatconventionalEuropeanmusicstudiesaremainlyconcerned
withtheproductionanddescriptionofeuroclassicaltexts,lesswiththe
musics social aspectsor with interaction between textand context.
AnethnomusicologyofothermusicsinWesternsociety(thefirsttwo
columnsontheETHNOlineinTable41)wouldthereforebeextremely
usefulifwewanttounderstandthemeaningsandfunctionsofmusicin
the contemporary mass media. Since such studies are still relatively
rare,wemayhavetolookelsewhere.
15

15. OnenotableexceptionisItalianethnomusicologistSerenaFacciandherstudiesof
mobilephoneringtones(2005)andofaerobicsmusic(2009).Moreover,atthe2008
conferenceoftheSocitfranaisedelethnomusicologie,Ifoundthatyoungerscholars
werepayingalotofattentiontourbanmusicsinexoticplaces.Ormaybeitsjust
thatthenoblesavagesoncehuntedbyethnomusicologistsarenowanendangered
speciesandneedtobereplacedbyotheranthropologicalothers.
Tagg: Musics Meanings 4. Ethno, socio, semio 145
Semio
Thesemioticsofmusic,inthebroadestsenseoftheterm,dealswithre
lationsbetweenthesoundswecallmusicalandwhatthosesoundssig
nifytothoseproducingandhearingthesoundsinspecificsociocultural
contexts. Defined in this way, SEMIO approaches to music ought logi
callytothrowsomelightontheinteractionbetweenanymusicastext,
anywhere or at any time, and the sociocultural field[s] in which the
textisproducedandused.Indeed,SEMIOstudiesofmusicshouldide
allyexhibittheprofileshownfigure42.Thetroubleisthatthemajority
ofmusicstudiesdisplayingtheSEMIOlabeldealonlywithcertaintypes
ofmusicand/oronlywithcertainaspectsofmeaning.Thisverybroad
generalisationneedssomeexplanationsincethereisnosinglesemiotic
theoryofmusicbutrather,asNattiez(1975: 19)hassuggested,arange
ofpossiblesemioticprojects.
SEMIOapproachestostudyingmusicfirstappearwiththatlabelaround
1960 and initially draw quite heavily on linguistic theory of the time.
Theseearlystudieswerelatercriticisedbysemiomusicologists
16
who
drewattentiontoproblemscausedbytransferringconceptsassociated
withthedenotativeaspectsoflanguagetotheexplanationofmusical
signification.Suchlaudablecautionaboutgraftinglinguisticconcepts
ofmeaningontomusicseemsneverthelesstohaveresultedinarever
siontoalargelycongenericviewofmusic.
17
Indeed,themajorityofar
ticlesinvolumesofsemiomusicalscholarshippublishedinthe1980s
and1990sshowanoverwhelmingconcernwiththeoriesofmusicsin
ternal structuration. The same literature shows much less interest in
musicsinterrelationwithothermodesofexpressionandpaysscantat
tention to musics paratextual connections (semantics). Evidence link
16. ForexampleImberty(1976b),LerdahlandJackendoff(1977),Keiler(1978).
17. Monelle(1992: 2829)providesausefulsummaryoftheproblemofmetatheorising
inmusicsemioticsofthe1970s.
Fig. 4-2.
Ideal topics for
SEMIO studies
146 Tagg: Musics Meanings 4. Ethno, socio, semio
ingmusicalstructuretomusicianintentionsorlistenerresponsesand
discussionoftheseaspectsofsemiosistothetechnology,economy,so
ciety and ideology in which that semiosis takes place (pragmatics) is
conspicuousbyitsabsence.Thisobservationisbasedontheperusalof
88 articles published in three learned semiomusical volumes.
18
59 of
those 88 articles (67%) discuss either overriding theoretical systems
ratherthandirectevidenceforthevalidityofthosesystems,orelsethey
deal with syntax, usually in terms of narrative form (diataxis), rather
thanwithsemanticsorpragmatics.Intheremaining33%(29articles)a
fewsemanticissuesareaddressedbutonlythreearticles(3.4%)discuss
pragmatics,eachofthosethreefocusingonmusicians,noneonmusics
finalarbitersofsignificationitsusers.
18
Clearly,fixationonnarrative
form(diataxis)andalackofattentiontosemanticsandpragmaticswill
notbemuchuseifwewanttounderstandhowmusiccommunicates
whattowhomonaneverydaybasisinthemodernworld.Indeed,Eco
(1990: 256 ff.),emphasising thenecessity ofintegratingsyntax,seman
tics and pragmatics in any study of meaning, provides a very critical
opinionofthesemiotictendenciesjustmentioned.
To say that pragmatics is one dimension of semiotic study does not
meandeprivingit[thesemioticstudy]ofanobject.Rather,itmeansthat
thepragmaticapproachconcernsthetotalityofthesemiosisSyntax
andsemantics,whenfoundinsplendidisolationbecomeperverse
disciplines.(Eco,1990: 259)
One possible reason for the lack of semantics and pragmatics in so
manymusicsemiotictextsmaybethefactthatthetypeoflinguistics
fromwhichtheoreticalmodelswereinitiallyderivedaccordedsemiotic
primacytothewrittenword,todenotationandtothearbitraryorcon
ventionalsign.
19
Suchnotionsofdenotativeprimacywereunderstand
18. Thethreevolumesare:[1]amusicissueofSemiotica(vol. 661/3,1987);[2]Musical
SemioticsinGrowth(Tarasti,1996)and[3]papersfromthe5thInternationalCongress
onMusicalSignification(Stefanietal.,1998).Iassumethat:(a)syntaxdenotesaspects
ofsignificationbearingonthetemporalrelationshipofsignifyingelementswithina
givenmodeofcommunicationandthatdiataxis(narrativeform)isthelongterm,
episodicaspectofsyntax(Chapter11);(b)thatsemanticsdealswiththerelation
betweensuchsignsandwhattheystandfor,andthat(c)pragmaticsfocusesoncul
turalandsocialactivityrelatingtotheproductionandinterpretationofmeaning.
Tagg: Musics Meanings 4. Ethno, socio, semio 147
ably considered incompatible with the general nature of musical
discourse.However,denotativeprimacyhasbeenradicallychallenged
by many linguists. Some of them argue that prosody and the social
rules of speech (including also timbre, diction, volume, facial expres
sion and gesture)are as intrinsictolanguageas words, andthat they
should not be regarded as mere paralinguistic addons.
20
Other lin
guistsrefutedenotationsprimacyoverconnotation,andallunderline
theimportanceofstudyinglanguageassocialpractice(pragmatics).
21
Music semiotics has, it seems, been slow to assimilate such develop
mentsinlinguistics.Howcansuchreluctancebeexplainedifincompat
ibility with linguistic theory is so much less of an issue today than it
wasinthe1960sand1970s?
The syntax fixation of many musicologists rallying under the SEMIO
banner is regrettably difficult to understand in any other terms than
those discussed in Chapter 3 the hegemony of musical absolutism in
Western seats of musical learning. While ethnomusicologists had to re-
late musical structure to social practice if they wanted to make any
sense of foreign sounds, and while the sociology of music dealt mostly
with society and hardly ever with the (socially immanent) phenome-
non of music as sound, most music semioticians were attached to insti-
tutions of musical learning in which the absolutist view still ruled the
roost. Their tendency to draw almost exclusively on euroclassical mu-
sic for their supply of study objects provides circumstantial evidence
for this explanation,
22
not because music in that repertoire relates to
nothing outside itself (on the contrary, see p. 89-90), but because the no-
tion of absolute music has been applied with particular vigour to mu-
sic in that tradition. Without exaggerating too grossly, it could be said
19. Arbitraryorconventionalsign:forexplanation,seeChapter5,pp.163166,including
sectionDenotationandconnotation.
20. e.g.Atkinson(1984)onthebodylanguageoforatingpoliticians,Hirsch(1989)on
turntakinginconversations,Bolinger(1989)onintonationandgrammar.
21. SeeLakoff&Johnson(1979)onmetaphor,Lakoff(1990)ontheculturalandexperi
entialbasisoflinguisticcategories,etc.SeealsoHarris(1981),Halliday(1985),Cruise
(1988)andKress(1993).
22. Thatevidenceiseasilyobtainedbyperusingmajorworksofmusicsemiotics(e.g.
Monelle(1992),Nattiez(1975),Tarasti(1978)),nottomentionthe88learnedarticles
(p. 145146).
148 Tagg: Musics Meanings 4. Ethno, socio, semio
that the tradition of music semiotics we are referring to is not only per-
verse in the sense put forward by Eco, but also based on a flawed (ab-
solutist) notion of a limited musical repertoire developed during a
limited period of one continents history by a minority of the popula-
tion in a limited number of communication situations.
The main problems with the majority of semio-musical writing in the
late twentieth century West can be summarised in five simple points.
1. Itshamperedbyitsinstitutionalaffiliationwiththeabsoluteaes
theticsofmusic.
2. Itsobjectsofstudyareusuallydrawnfromthelimitedrepertoireof
theeuroclassicalcanon.
3. Itexhibitsapredilectionforeithersyntaxorgeneraltheorising,less
interestforeithersemanticsorpragmatics.
4. Itconcentratesalmostexclusivelyonworkswhosecompositional
techniquesmustbeconsideredasmarginal,i.e.astheexceptionto
ratherthanastheruleofcurrentmusicalpractices,codesanduses.
5. Itusesnotationasstorageformonwhichtobaseanalysis.
The general neglect, by musicologists and semioticians, of Western mu-
sics outside the classical canon as a field of serious study is of course a
matter of cultural politics, but its also a matter of importance to the de-
velopment of both musicology and semiotics. The reason is that music
circulating in contemporary media cannot be analysed using only the
traditional tools of musicology developed in relation to euroclassical
music
23
because the former, unlike the latter, is:
1. conceivedformassdistributiontolargeandsometimesheterogene
ousgroupsoflisteners;
2. storedanddistributedinmainlynonwrittenform;
3. subject,undercapitalism,tothelawsoffreeenterpriseaccording
towhichitshouldhelpsellasmuchaspossibleoftheaudiovisual
productorcommoditytoasmanyaspossible;
4. conceivedinavarietyofstyles,manyofwhichareincompatible
withtheprinciplesofeuroclassicalmusic.
23. Musicfortheaudiovisualmedia,whateveritsstyle,isconsideredhereaspartofthe
popularinanaxiomatictriangleconsistingofart,folkandpopularmusic.For
definitionoftheseterms,seeTagg(2000a: 2945).
Tagg: Musics Meanings 4. Ethno, socio, semio 149
Accordingtothethirdpoint,themajorityofmusicheardviathemass
mediashouldelicitsomeattractionatfirstlisteningifthemusicisto
standachanceofmakingasellor,inthecaseofmusicandthemoving
image,ofcatchingaudienceattentionandinvolvementmoreefficiently
thancompetingproduct.Italsomeansthatmusicproducedundersuch
conditionswilltendtorequiretheuseofreadilyrecognisablecodesas
abasisfortheproductionof(neworold)combinationsofmusicalmes
sage.Failuretostudythisvastcorpusoffamiliarandgloballyavailable
musicmeansfailingtostudywhatthemusicaroundususuallymedi
ates as a rule. It surely makes more sense to start by trying to under
stand what is mediated in our cultures mainstream media before
positinggeneraltheoriesofsignificationbasedondiscussionofsubcul
tural, countercultural or other alternative musical codes like avant
garde techno, speed metal, bebop, Boulez, Beethovens late period or
any other repertoire contradicting or complementing rather than be
longingtothedominantmainstreamofmusicalpracticesinoursociety.
Usingexceptions toestablish rulesmay beconsidered standard prac
ticeforscholarsprojectinganimageofhighartorhighcredcoolbutit
isnotaviableintellectualstrategyforconstructingasemioticsofmusic
intheeverydaylifeofcitizensintheWesternworld.
24

The neglect of popular music as an area for semiotic analysis causes
otherbasicproblemsofmethod.Wehavealreadytouchedontenden
ciesofgraphocentrismwhichtreatthescoreasreificationofthework
ortextwheninfactthenotesrepresentlittlemorethananincomplete
shorthand of musical intentions.
25
Such confusion is less likely in the
studyofpopularmusicbecausenotationhasforsometimebeensuper
sededastheprimarymodeofstorageanddisseminationtotheextent
thatpopularmusicTEXTS(seep.604)areusuallyeithercommodifiedin
theformofsoundrecordingcarriedonfilm,tapeordisc,orstoreddig
24. YoumightaswellclaimthatgeneralsemioticprinciplesoftheEnglishlanguagecan
beestablishedbyanalysingEbonics(wasjivetalk),Cockneyrhymingslangorthe
poetryofE. E.CummingsorJohnDonne.
25. Notationasreificationofthechannelbetweenemitterandreceiver(Eco,1976:
33)seemsunsatisfactoryevenformusicpredatingtheeraofsoundrecording.For
moreontheproblemsofmusicalnotation,seepp.119130.
150 Tagg: Musics Meanings 4. Ethno, socio, semio
itallyforaccessovertheinternet.Duetotheimportanceofnonnotata
ble parameters in popular music and to the nature of its storage and
distribution as recorded sound, notation cannot function as a reliable
representationofthemusicaltextscirculatinginthemassmedia.
Moreover, it is probable that the professional habitat of music semioti-
cians in institutions of conventional music studies which still focus on
the euroclassical canon tends to encourage a return to the old absolutist
aesthetics as the line of least intellectual resistance. Conventional musi-
cologys pre-occupation with long-term thematic and harmonic narra-
tive (diataxis) usually precludes discussion of the meaningful elements
of now sound (syncrisis) from which musical episodes or sections are
constructed, and without which no narrative form can logically exist.
26

This account of the SEMIO phase has been quite discouraging. We seem
to have ended up where we started (p. 133), still dogged by notions of
musical absolutism. I find myself describing a subdiscipline that is
semiotic by name rather than by nature. In fact, Id argue that if the
semiotics of music, at least as Ive encountered it institutionally, were a
commercial venture, it might well qualify for indictment under the
Trades Description Act.
There are, however, exceptions to the general trends of grand theory
and syntax fixation just discussed. A few of these exceptions are explic-
itly SEMIO, while most of them are semiotic by nature if not by name.
They have all informed, to varying degrees and in different ways, the
type of approach presented later in this book and have all challenged,
sometimes in the face of considerable opposition, the institutionalised
conventions of ABSOLUTEMUSIC. One work deserves special mention in
this context: it is Francs doctoral dissertation La perception de la mu-
sique (1958), a thoroughly researched and pioneering semio-musical
work that has influenced the ideas presented in this book but which is
26. [i]DIATAXISandSYNCRISIS:seeGlossaryandChapters1112.[ii]Thespectreofabso
lutemusiccanevencastitsshadowoverempiricallysubstantiatedstudiesinwhich
listenerresponsesarerestrictedtoadjectivesofgeneralaffectandfromwhichcon
notationsofconcretephenomenaareexcluded.Formoreonthisproblem,see[a]
Emotionwords(pp.7478),[b]Gesturalinterconversionandconnotativepreci
sion(Tagg,2005a)andp. 502ff.inthisbook.Thesameissuewasaddressed43years
earlierbyRobertFrancs(1958: 278ff)!
Tagg: Musics Meanings 4. Ethno, socio, semio 151
seldom mentioned by those who defer to Adorno or who rally under
the semio-musical banner. For reasons of space we can do no more than
merely list, in the next footnote (no. 27), some of the other SEMIO excep-
tions relevant to the issues raised in this book.
27

Bridge
This chapter has dealt with twentieth-century challenges to the grapho-
centrism and to the absolutist aesthetics of music in official institutions
of education and research in the West. Although some of the tendencies
described seem to have done little more than reformulate conventional
conceptual differences between musical and other forms of knowledge
(the SOCIO avoidance of music as sound, the SEMIO syntax fixation, etc.),
the three challenges ETHNO in particular have made it much easier
to address questions of musical meaning in the everyday life of citizens
in the Western world. At the same time, although an absolutist aesthet-
ics of music may still be on the agenda of many learned institutions, it
can also be viewed as a historical parenthesis: it has after all only been
official policy in Western institutions for little more than a century
and a half. More importantly, everyday musical reality outside the
academy has been consistently unabsolute. Musicians have continued
to incite dancers to take to the floor and to gesticulate energetically or
smooch amorously, while lonely listeners have regularly been moved
to tears by sad songs and derived joy or confidence from others. More
recently, movie-goers and TV viewers have been scared out of their
seats, or they have distinguished between the good and bad guys, or re-
acted to urgency cues preceding news broadcasts, or registered a new
scene as peaceful or threatening, or understood that they are in Spain
27. Thosestudiesmaynotbeexplicitlysemioticbuttheyalldealconvincinglywith
musicsmeanings.Thosestudiesinclude,inalphabeticalorder:Asafyev(1976),
Bernstein(1976),Bjrnberg(1984),Blacking(1976),Boils(1976),Brackett(1995),
Cooke(1959),Davies(1994),Delalande(1993),Feld(1982),Francs(1958/1972),
Imberty(1986),Huckvale(1990),Jirnek(1998),Karbuicky(1986),Kramer(1990,
2007),VanLeeuwen(1999),Ling(1978),Kivy(1989),Marconi(2001),Martnez
(1997),Marthy(1974,1987),Mellers(1962,1973),Middleton(1983,1990),Nattiez
(2000),Rsing(1977,1978,1983),Stefani(1976,1982),Stilwell(1997),Tarasti(1978)
andWalser(1993).ReaderswantingtoknowmorearereferredtoMarconisMusica,
espressione,emozione(2001)forausefulandextensivehistoricalcoverageofsemiotic
approachestomusic.
152 Tagg: Musics Meanings 4. Ethno, socio, semio
rather than in Japan or Jamaica, etc., etc., all thanks to a second or two
of music carrying the relevant message on each occasion.
Even inside the academy, the notion of music as a symbolic system
neverreallydied. Therewerealwayschampionsofmusical meaning,
people like Herman Kretzschmar, who declared autonomous instru
mentalmusictobeageneraldangertothepublic,
28
orDeryckCooke
(1959),or,asjustmentioned,RobertFrancs.Buttherewerealsoorgan
ists.Organists?Yes,churchorganistshavealwayshadtodothingslike
extemporisebetweentheendoftheirinitialvoluntaryandthearrivalof
thebrideataweddingserviceorthecoffinatafuneral.Onsuchocca
sions,organistshavetocreatemoodsencouragingthecongregationto
adoptappropriateposturesandattitudes.Myownorganteacher,Ken
Naylor, even encouraged me to wordpaint hymns, as the following
zoominononemicrocosmofactualmusicmakingdemonstrates.
Prowlingbeasts
Number 165 in the old Methodist Hymn Book (1933) is Forty Days and
Forty Nights, a popular hymn for Lent, referring to Jesus fasting in the
wilderness and often sung to the tune Heinlein by M Herbst (1654-1681).
The words of verse two are:
Sunbeamsscorchingalltheday,Chillydewdropsnightlyspread,
ProwlingbeastsaboutThyway,StonesThypillow,earthThybed.
FollowingKenNaylorsexampleIlearnttoapplyvariationsoftimbre
toeachofthefourlinesjustcited.ForSUNBEAMSSCORCHINGIwould,on
theGreatmanual,pushdownallmixturetabs,fifteenths,etc.,flickup
all16footandloud8foottabs,andremovemyfeetfromthepedals.
29
These poetic actions translate into aesthesic terms as follows: I re
movedthedark,boominglownotesandproducedasparkling,sharp,
bright,highpitched,edgytimbre:sunbeamsscorching.
30
28. Kretzschmar,concertmusiccriticinLeipziginthe1910s,seesHanslicksnotionsas
untenable(seep. 89).Healsostates:instrumentalmusicuninterruptedlydemands
theabilitytoseeideasbehindthesignsandforms[ofthemusic](quotedbyKneif,
1975:65).Hoeckner(2002)providessubstantialandthoughtprovokingdocumenta
tionofhermeneuticsappliedcontinuallytothemostabsoluteandineffable
momentsofnineteenthcenturyclassicalmusic.
29. KenNaylor(seep.9).Itwasa3manualpneumaticWillisorganwithtabs,notstops.
Tagg: Musics Meanings 4. Ethno, socio, semio 153
ForCHILLYDEWDROPSImovedfromGreattoChoirorgan,makingsure
that 4 and 2foot claribel flutes were in evidence. I would still desist
fromusingthepedalboard.Thisoperationproducedasmaller,much
lesssharp,morerounded,cooler,slightlyairybutpreciseanddelicate
kindoftimbre,stillwithoutthedarknessofbassnotes.
For the PROWLING BEASTS I lifted my hands up to the full Swell organ
with all its reed tabs selected, ensuring at the same time that my feet
wereplayingallpossiblepassingnotesinthebasslineassignedtothe
16foot Posaune. Full reeds on the Swell is as close as a church organ
gets to guitar distortion: it gives a rich, gravelly, dangerous kind of
sound.Togetherwiththelowpitched,roughsoundingPosaunenot
unlikethefatbasstimbreofanOberheimsynthandtheinsertionof
extranotestoproduceawalkingbassline,theprowlingbeastswere,
Ithought,appropriatelymusicked.
ForSTONESandEARTH(linefour)IreturnedtotheGreat,thistimewith
only8footDiapasonselected.Idisabledthe16footPosauneandsup
pressed the tendency to go on playing passing notes with my feet. It
createdamediumvolumesound,quitelargebutdevoidofbrilliance,
delicacyorroughedgesaloudishsortofflat,average,normal,grey,
matteroffactsound:stonesthypillow,earththybed.
30

Thispersonalanecdotedocumentsamusicalrealitythatfliesintheface
ofideaspropoundedbymusicalabsolutists,partlybecausethesounds
I produced actually communicated something to someone other than
myself,makingmeawareofrelationshipsbetweentimbreandvarious
aspects of touch, movement and space. As a musician I also learnt
which harmonies made the old ladies in the local Methodist church
moresentimental,whichbasslicksworkedbetterwithmembersofmy
universitysScottishCountryDanceSociety,whichplacementofwhich
mike connected to which amp with which settings made me sound
morelikeJerryLeeLewis,whichpatternsonaHammondorganmade
peoplethinkourbandresembledDeepPurple,whichtypeofarpeggia
tionmadetheaccordionsoundmoreFrench,etc.Itsthiskindofexpe
rience, which I share with countless other musicians, arrangers and
30. <tagg.org/bookxtrax/NonMuso/mp3s/Heinlein.mp3.
154 Tagg: Musics Meanings 4. Ethno, socio, semio
composers,thatmotivatedmyattemptstocritiquethedrythemespot
tingexercisesofmusicanalysisthestorysofarinthisbookandto
developwaysofexaminingmusicasifithadusesbeyonditsmereself
asjustsound,i.e.asifthesoundsactuallymeantsomething.Therestofthis
booktakesthatempiricallyprovenpoeticconvictionforgranted.
Summaryofmainpoints
[1] Ethnomusicology has been particularly important in developing
ways of relating music as sonic text to its meanings, uses and func
tions.Ithasalsodemonstratedtheabsurdityofpropagatingonesingle
aestheticcanonforallmusicand,throughitspioneeringuseofsound
recording, drawnattention to the importance of nonnotable parame
tersofmusicalexpression.
[2]Twotypesofsociology,neitherofwhichconcerneditselfwithmusi
cal structuration, have made an indirect contribution to the develop
ment of analysis methods presented in this book. Through Adorno a
tradition of critical theory became popular among students of litera
ture,communicationstudiesandCulturalStudies,while,moreimpor
tantly,empirical,demographicsociologyhelpedmotivatetheinclusion
of popular music in academe, i.e. music evidently incompatible with
notionsoftheabsoluteandclearlydemandingadifferentmindset.
[3]Despiteitstheoreticallypromisingpotential,thesemioticsofmusic,
with its disciplinary habitat in seats of conventional musical learning
whosecorridors were still haunted by theghostofABSOLUTEMUSIC at
the turn of the millennium, focused largely on syntactical aspects of
musicalsemiosisattheexpenseofsemanticsandpragmatics.Alterna
tive views of music as meaningful sign system (e.g. Kretzschmar,
churchorganists)neverthelesspersistedthroughoutthereignofmusi
cal absolutism and have influenced the development of analytical
methodusedinthisbook.
Tagg: Musics Meanings 155
5.Meaningandcommunication
ORTINGoutnotionsofmusiciswhatthisbookhasmainlybeen
about so far and the previous chapter ended with a promise to
treat music as if it actually meant something beyond itself. In
deed we shall, but the promise cannot be kept without first bringing
someorderintotheconceptsofmeaningandcommunication.
Conceptsofmeaning
Meaning,sign,semiotics
Meaning,inthesenseofonethingconveying,indicatingorreferringto
somethingelse,isarecurrentconceptinthisbook.Signification,treated
here as a virtual synonym to meaning, contains the morpheme sign.
Sign,initsturn,simplymeansathingindicatingorrepresentingsome
thingotherthanitself.ItsinthissensethatCharlesPeirce,USphiloso
pher and father of modern semiotics, ended up by using the word.
1
Signalsoturnsupinexpressionslikesignsystemandsigntype.
Sign system denotes a set of conventions of meaning, like this kind of
writtenEnglish,orlikeimpressionistpainting,orlikemusicforsilent
filmsinNorthAmerica.Signtypedesignatesthewayinwhichasignre
latestowhatitsignifies,forexample,ifitphysicallyresembleswhatit
means(icon,p. 161)oriftherelationisarbitraryorconventional(p. 163).
SignisalsoatranslationoftheAncientGreekwordssma()and
smeon () found at the root of words like semiotics, semiology,
semiosis,semaphoreandsemantics.
Semiotics, deriving from Peirces semeiotic, means the systematic study
of sign systems. Semiology, a term coined by Swiss linguist Ferdinand
de Saussure, is generally used to mean the same thing as semiotics.
2
There are some important differences, a few of which will be discussed
shortly, between Peircean and Saussurean terminology. Saussures
most widely used concepts are probably the signifier, a translation of
1. Peirceeventuallyreplacedrepresentamen,atermhehadusedearlier,withsign.
2. Infact,Saussuredefinedsemiologyasthesciencewhichstudiesthelifeofsigns
withintheframeworkofsociallife(LepetitRobert:Paris,1970).
N
M
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5
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S
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m
i
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.

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1
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156 Tagg: Musics Meanings 5. Meaning and communication
the French word signifiant ( sign) and the signified (signifi = what the
sign stands for or represents).
Unlike silicosis, SEMIOSIS is not a clinical condition but, like osmosis, a
process.Semiosisissimplytheprocessbywhichmeaningisproduced
and understood. It includes the totality of, and the connections be
tween,threeelementsthatPeircecalledobject,signandinterpretant,and
which Ill explain next. As already suggested, its simplest to think of
the sign as a thing, with an identifiable physical existence, that repre
sentsorstandsforsomethingotherthanitself.
Semiosis:yourauntsdogandasteelguitar
Letssaythatthesignisaphotoyouoncetookofyourauntsdog.The
photo clearly isnt your aunts dog its a photo of it, even though
youmightpointtothephotoandsaythatsmyauntsdog:thephoto
represents your aunts dog. What you saw the moment you took the
photo,thatmomentaryvisualperception,constituteswhatPeircecalls
theobject,
3
whilethephotorepresentingthatobjectisitssign.However,
when you look at the photo long after you took it and see MY AUNTS
DOG, your visual perception can never totally correspond with what
yousawwhenyoutookthephoto(itsobject).Thislaterperceptionand
interpretationofthesign,ratherthanyourperceptionofthedogwhen
you took the photo, is called its interpretant. Now this distinction be
tweenobjectandinterpretantmightseemlikeacademicnitpickingbe
cause its obvious that the photo looks like your aunts dog. Still, that
veryobviousnesscanbeaproblembecausedifferencesbetweenobject
andinterpretant,aswellasbetweeninterpretants,inevitablyoccurin
relationtothesamesign.Thosedifferencescausemeaningstoberene
gotiated,tochangeandtoadapttonewneeds,functionsandsituations.
To understand that dynamic more easily, lets go back to your aunts
dogandputsomemoremeatonthepooranimalsconceptualbone.
3. Theobjectcorrespondstoanentityofanexternalworldoraprototypicalrepresent
ativeofsuchanentityasperceived,rememberedorreflectedonbyanindividual
agent.Itiscalledexternalentity.Thisentitycanbeanykindofunit:aphysicalor
imaginedobject,anemotionorsensoryperception,anexperience,anobservedor
imaginedrelation,arememberedeventorsituation,andsoon.(Priss,2001: 1612).
Tagg: Musics Meanings 5. Meaning and communication 157
Manyyearsaftertakingthesnapshot,youopenyourfamilyalbumand
lookatthatsameoldphotoofyourauntsdog.Notefirstthatithasnow
becomethatsameoldphoto.Timehaspassed, youaredifferentand
circumstanceshavechangedbutthephoto(thesign)remainsthesame.
Maybeyourbelovedaunthasdiedinthemeantime,ormaybeyousub
sequentlylearntthingsaboutherthatputherinabadlight.Orperhaps
youyourselfnowhaveadevoteddog,orperhapsyouwerebadlybit
tenrecentlybyonethatlookedlikethedoginyourphoto.Anyofthese
factorscouldeasilyaffecttheinterpretant[s]youformwhenlookingat
thesamephotoatthatlaterdate.True,theprosaicMYAUNTSDOGas
pect of the interpretant will still work after all those years, but it will
likelygiverisetoanarrayofdifferentfinalinterpretants,rangingfrom
wistful longing for bygone days, when you were a child and you
playedwithyourkindauntsdog,toWHATAMANGYMONGREL!orWHAT
A MEAN OLD WOMAN! And just wait until you start showing your MY
AUNTS DOG photo to friends and family. When you do, they will, in
their turn, form other final interpretants of the photo. The content of
thoseinterpretantswilldependonthingslikehowwellyourfamilyor
friendsknewyourauntandherdog,onwhetherornottheylikedogs,
whether or not they like you, and on a whole host of other factors.
Whateverthecasemaybe,thisMYAUNTSDOGstoryillustratesthene
cessityofdistinguishingbetweenobjectandinterpretant,aswellasbe
tween interpretants, in relation to the sign. These distinctions are
essential when it comes to understanding how musical signs work,
howthesamesoundscanmeandifferentthingstodifferentpeoplein
differentcontextsatdifferenttimes.
Acomplementarywayofunderstandingsemiosisis,asIjustimplied,
to look at it in terms of a message and its communication. There are
three main aspects to this process, too: [1] the thing or idea to be en
coded(similartoPeircesobject),[2]theconcreteformofthatcodethe
signand[3]thedecodedversionorinterpretationofthatcode(simi
lartoPeircesinterpretant).Seeninthislightofintentionandinterpreta
tion, the ideal semiosis would theoretically produce total unity
betweenthesignassemioticallyintendedandasinterpreted.Theword
chairwould,forexample,representafullyidenticalnotionofCHAIRin
the minds of both speaker/writer (as an object) and listener/reader (as
158 Tagg: Musics Meanings 5. Meaning and communication
aninterpretant),whilethephotoofyourauntsdogwouldbeperceived,
by anyone at any time, in exactly the same way as you saw the dog
when you took the photo. Since exact correspondence between in
tended and interpreted message is impossible (and well shortly see
how,eveninthecaseofchair), semiosisisalsosometimesusedtorefer
toprocessesbywhichmeaningsofexistingsignsaremodifiedandre
negotiated, aswithyourinterpretantsthatchangedovertimein rela
tiontothesameMYAUNTSDOGphoto.
To put a musical slant on these observations about shifts in meaning
overtime,justthinkofthedistinctivewhiningsoundofthepedalsteel
guitar in Country & Western music. This sound may have derived
somethingfromdobroandslideguitartechniquesintheUSsouth,but
itsmostobvioussonicforerunneristheHawaiianguitar,popularinthe
USAinthelate1920sandearly1930s,beforeelectricallyamplifiedmu
sical instruments were commonplace. To cut a long story short, from
originallyconnotingthingslikeHAWAIIandSUNSHINE,thosesteelgui
tar glissandi (swooping, sliding sounds) were gradually incorporated
intotheC&WmainstreamandendedupasstyleindicatorsofCountry
musicwithouttheHawaiianconnotations.
4
Theadvantageoflooking
atsemiosisinsuchwaysisthat,byincludingintentionaswellasinter
pretation,thesemioticprocessismoreopentounderstandinginterms
ofsocialandculturalinteraction.
Semantics
Semantics,atermcoinedbyFrenchlinguistMichelBral,isdefinedas
the study of the relationships between signs and what they repre
sent.
5
Semanticsisjustoneaspectofsemiotics(orsemiology)andthe
wordisoftenusedincontradistinctiontoboth[a]syntax(theformalre
lationshipsofonesigntoanotherwithoutnecessarilyconsideringtheir
meaning)and[b]pragmatics(theuseofasignsysteminconcretesitua
tions, especially in terms of cultural, ideological, economic and social
activity).Now,aswenotedearlier,topreventsemantics,themainfocus
4. SeealsounderStyleindicatorandGenresynecdoche,pp.524, ff.,523, ff.
5. DefinitionfromTheNewCollinsEnglishDictionary(London,1982).
Bralssmantiqueoriginally(1897)meantstudyingchangeofmeaninginlanguage,
i.e.asortofexpandedetymologyordiachronicstudyofsemiosis.
Tagg: Musics Meanings 5. Meaning and communication 159
of this book, from becoming a perverse discipline (Eco, 1990: 259), it
mustberelatedtopragmatics.Thisimperativehasatleasttwoimpor
tantimplications.
Ecosimperativefirstlyimpliesthatasynchronicsemantics(examining
signsatonegivenpointintimeinonegivenculture)isntenoughonits
own:itneedsadiachronicperspectivethatinvolvesstudyingmeaning
aspartofadynamicsignsystemsubjecttochangeovertime.TheFROM
HAWAIITOCOUNTRYprocess,describedabove,illustratesadiachronic
lineofsemanticreasoningthatcanbecalledETYMOPHONY.Ifetymology
studies the historically verifiable sources of the formation of a word
andthedevelopmentofitsmeanings,etymophonysimplymeansstud
yingtheoriginsofanonverbalsonicstructureandthedevelopmentof
itsmeaningsandfunctionsovertime.
ThesecondimplicationofEcosimperativeisbothsynchronicanddia
chronic.Itentailsrelatingsemantics(relationshipsbetweensignsand
whattheyrepresent)tofactorsinthesocioculturalfieldinwhichthe
musical meanings under examination are generated and used. These
meanings obviously both inform and are informed by value systems,
identities,economicinterests,ideologiesandawholehostofotherfac
tors that constitute the sociocultural biosphere without which music
anditsmeanings,asjustonesemioticsubsystemamongothers,cannot
logicallyexist.Wellsoonreturntooneaspectofthisessentialpartof
musicalsemantics(seeCodalinterference,p. 182, ff.).
Semioticsandsemiology
When denoting the study of sign systems, speakers of French and
Spanish seem to prefer smiologie/semiologia, while anglophones, Ital
ians and others tend to use semiotics/semiotica. This confusion may
eventuallyberesolvedliketheVHSversusBetamaxbattleovervideo
cassette formats in the 1980s but its impossible to predict which con
cept, if indeed either, will oust the other. In the meantime, semiotics
ratherthansemiologywillbeusedherefortworeasons.[1]Abookwrit
teninEnglishoughtlogicallytouseEnglishlanguageterms.[2]Twoof
Peircesnumeroustrichotomies(signobjectinterpretantandiconin
dexsymbol)substantiallyinformtheconceptualbasisofwhatfollows.
Evenso,inordertosavespace,Saussuresbinarynotionofsignifierand
160 Tagg: Musics Meanings 5. Meaning and communication
signified,wheresignifierisroughlyequivalenttoPeircessignandsigni
fiedmeanswhatthesignstandsfor(intermsofbothobjectandinterpre
tant),mayoccasionallybeusedasshorthand,notasareplacement,for
Peirces trichotomy object sign interpretant. Another terminological
problem is that Peirce uses symbol to denote what Saussure calls sign
and vice versa. To avoid this confusion when discussing semiosis, I
shall try to avoid symbol altogether and stick to sign in the Peircean
sense.ThatmeansPEIRCESSYMBOL/SAUSSURESSIGNneedsanotherla
bel.ArbitrarysigniswhatIusetocovertheconcept(p. 163).
TwoPeirceantrichotomies
First,second,third
6
Peirce closely examined and classified all types of signification. Radi
callysimplifyinghisoverallsystem,youcouldsaythattherelationship
betweenanaudiblesoundandthehumanperceptionofthatsound
asthatsoundalonewithoutmediationconstituteshisnotionoffirst
ness: its phenomenologically just one thing, so to speak, even though
the sound and its perception are physically separate entities. Its just
like the oneness of your aunts dog as such and your perception of it
(theobject)whenyoutookthephoto.
Secondnessiseasiertograspsemioticallybecause(surprise!)ithastwo
poles.Themusicalsoundassign(onepole)includes,relatestoandrep
resentsitsfirstness(theotherpole),justasthecelebrateddogshotre
lates to your perception of the dog when you took the photo. For
example, soft,slow, smoothly swaying music, as in a lullaby, isntthe
same thing as soft, slow, smooth, swaying as such: it represents that
movementinsound.Thereisasign(thesound)andanobject(theidea
ofmovementandtouchperceivedasrepresentableinsound).
7
Thethreeelementsofthirdnessare:[1]sign(thesoundofthelullaby);[2]
object (explained under secondness) and [3] interpretant[s] (interpreta
6. MerelytosaythatPeircewasextremelyfondofoftriadicrelations,wouldfail
miserablytodojusticetotheoverwhelmingobtrusivenessinhisphilosophyofthe
numberthree.(PeirceentryintheStanfordEncyclopediaofPhilosophy,July2006;
plato.stanford.edu/entries/peirce/ [2007-12-05]).
7. SeealsothedifferencebetweenemotionandrepresentationofemotioninChapter2,pp.
7172,includingfootnote62.
Tagg: Musics Meanings 5. Meaning and communication 161
tions of the lullaby, including recognising it as a lullaby rather than a
calltoprayer).Finalinterpretantsmightbe:nostalgicfeelingsofcomfort,
imagesofanadoringparentsingingamuchlovedinfanttosleep,the
smellofbabypowder,eveninglightshiningthroughachinkinthebed
roomcurtains,etc.
Icon,index,arbitrarysign
Peirces next three trichotomies are like a ninefold Kyrie in that first
ness,secondnessandthirdnesseachgivesrisetoitsownthreecatego
riesofsign.SinceIshallconcentrateonmusicalsemantics,onenesswill
betakenasread.Secondnessandthirdness,however,areofdirectrele
vance to the topic. Still, to avoid death by conceptual drowning in
Peircestrinitiesof9,27and81categories,eachwithitsownarcanela
bel,andsoastoopenupourmusicalsemanticstosocioculturalconsid
erations through pragmatics, thirdness will be discussed in more
accessibletermsanduseofPeircessigntypeswillberestrictedtothose
ofsecondness.Peircestrichotomyofsecondnessdistinguishesbetween
icon,index(plural:indices)andarbitrarysign(whatPeircecalledsymbol
andSaussurecalledsign).
Icon
Icons are signs bearing physical resemblance to what they signify.
Iconicresemblancecanbestriking,asinphotosorfigurativepainting,
butmapsandcertaintypesofdiagramarealsoiconicbecausethereis
at least some structural resemblance, though less patent, between the
signsandwhatthosesignsstandfor.Eventherepresentationofrising
andfallingpitch,oflegatoslurs(smooth)andstaccatodots(choppy)in
musical notation can to some extent be qualified as iconic. However,
thevisualrepresentationofsoniceventscanonlybeconsideredaresem
blanceifconventionsofsynaesthetichomologyareinoperationallow
ingustoequatecertainsignsencodedinonemodeofperception(e.g.
visually,asstaccatodotsonthepage)withcertainobjects/interpretants
existinginanother(e.g.sonically,asintermittent,choppy,pointillistic,
aurally pixelated, etc.). Since, as explained earlier (pp. 6268), synaes
thesisisintrinsictomusic,wewillhavetorefinethenotionoficonsin
162 Tagg: Musics Meanings 5. Meaning and communication
music to cater for conventions of synaesthetic homology (see Ana
phones,p. 487,ff.).Here,though,weneedtogettothemostobvious
aspectofmusicaliconicity,i.e.tosoundsassignsphysicallyresembling
thesoundstheystandfor.
IfaphotolikeMYAUNTSDOGisaniconofthewhateveritssupposedto
represent,thenamusicalrecordingoughtlogicallytobeconsideredan
icon of the music as it sounded when recorded. However reasonable
thatassumptionmaybeforliverecordings,therearegoodreasonsfor
consideringiconsdifferentlyasamusicalsigntype.Onereasonisthat
thesoundofarecordingdoesnotevenreachsemioticonenessuntilthe
sounds are actually perceived by someone hearing it, even less reach
thesemanticstagesofsecondnessandthirdnesswheresonicsignscan
relatetointerpretants.Itsatthesestagesthatmusicalicons(sonicana
phones, see p. 487, ff.) come into play, such as a lowpitched drum roll
soundingliketherumbleofdistantthunder,oranoverdrivenelectric
guitar sounding like a Harley Davidson, or two consecutive notes a
thirdapartonthepianoimitatingthecallofacuckoo,etc.Noneofthese
SOUNDSLIKEexamplesfunctionsolelyasiconsbecausedistantthunder
canmeandanger,whileaHarleymightconnoteapackofHellsAngels
andcuckoonotesonthepianomightmakeyouthinkofaspringmorn
ingorofyourjuniorschoolmusicteacher.
Index
Distant thunder meaning danger, smoke meaning fire, dark clouds
meaningraintheseareallexamplesofsemiosisusingacausalindex
as sign. Indices are signs connected either by causality, or by spatial,
temporalorculturalproximity,towhattheystandfor.Thissigntypeis
soimportantinmusicthatvirtuallyallmusicalsigntypescanbecon
sideredasatleastpartiallyindexical.
8
Sometypesofindexicalsignare
more common than others in musical semiosis, for example a type of
metonymy
9
called synecdoche |si'nckdoki|. In language, synecdoches
8. Forargumentsabouttheintrinsicindexicalityofallmusicalsigns,seeKarbuicky
(1986).SeealsounderAnaphone(p. 487, ff.)andGenresynecdoche(p. 524, ff.).
9. Anothertypeofmetonymyusesphenomenaconnectedintimeorspacetoreferto
eachother,asinthecaseofChampagnesignifyingacertaintypeofwinebecauseits
producedinaregionofthatname.
Tagg: Musics Meanings 5. Meaning and communication 163
arepartforwholeexpressionslikethecrownmeaningthemonarchand
royalpowerintoto,notjustapieceofbejewelledheadgear;orlikefifty
headofcattlemeaningnotjusttheanimalsheadsbutfiftycompletebo
vine beings. Synecdoches work similarly in music, for example, the
overdrivenguitarconnoting,viatheSOUNDSLIKEAHARLEYicon,anen
tirepackofHellsAngelsandnotjustthebike,orthecuckoonoteson
the piano connoting the entirety of a spring morning rather than just
thecuckoothathappenedtobepartofthesoundscapeatthetime.An
other example would be (at least as nonFrench) seeing old Paris in
yourmindseyeonhearingspecificfigurationsinwaltztimeplayedon
aFrenchaccordion(accordonmusette).Thatsemiosisistypicallysynec
dochalbecauseonlyonetinysetofallthemusicalsoundscirculatingin
ParisbeforeWorldWarIIhascometoconnotethetotalityofthattime,
thatplace,itsculture,itspopularclasses,theirhabitsandactivities,all
morelikelyinblackandwhite,too,ratherthanincolour.
Arbitrary sign
An arbitrary sign (Peirces symbol) is connected only by convention to
whatitrepresents.ExamplesofarbitrarysignsintheEnglishlanguage
are table, because, grass, semiotics, but, think, grateful, pullover and most
otherwordsandphrases.Thissigntypeiscalledconventionalorarbi
trary because it is supposed that nothing but convention prevents a
wordliketheologyfromdenotingacanopener,whereasitshighlyun
likelythatanindexicalsignlikeChampagne(thewine)willevermean
POLISHVODKAorLAWNMOWER,andimpossiblethatsmokefromafire
will mean the fire has gone out or that you have run out of sugar. In
otherwords,asigncanbecalledarbitrarywhenitssemiosisexhibitsno
readilydiscernibleelementsofstructuralsimilarity(icons),orofprox
imityorcausality(indices),betweensignandobject/interpretant.
10

Arbitrary signs are rare in music, except for things like instrumental
versionsofnationalanthemsorinstrumentalpassagesfromEurovision
SongContesttunes.Inthesecasesthereisrarelyanymusicalsignifier,
10. Arbitrary:notabsolute;foundedon(personal/collective)whim,convention,habit
etc.Arbitrarysignscannotoriginateassuchbecausewithoutotherinitialtypesof
semiosis(e.g.iconic,indexical)itwouldbeimpossibletodeveloptheconventionson
whicharbitrarysignsrelyfortheirsubsequentdenotativequalities.
164 Tagg: Musics Meanings 5. Meaning and communication
iconic or indexical, of a particular national identity, the main point of
themusicoftenbeinggeneric,apparently:tosoundlikeanationalan
themorlikeaEurovisionSongContestentry.Itisonlyparamusicalev
idencethelanguageinwhichthemelodiesaresung,or,inthecaseof
a national anthem, which flags are flown behind the Olympic medal
listspodiumthatgiveuninitiatedlistenersaclueastowhichnation
theanthemortheEurovisionsongrepresents.Inotherinstanceswhere
musicalsignsareapparentlystylisedtothepointofconvention,some
vestige of nonarbitrarysemiosis,iconic or indexical,always remains.
Forinstance,fourFrenchhorns,inunison,playingbroad,strong,con
sonant melodies in the upper middle register of the instrument, still
soundheroic,eveninspace(asinStarWars),despitethefactthatthe
etymophonyof thathorn sound isshroudedinthehistorical mistsof
ruralEurope,whenhornswereusedinhuntingortocleartheroadfor
stagecoaches.
11
That specific indexical link in history with quick,
strong, energetic male activity may be lost on modern listeners but it
haspassedintostylisedconvention.Otheraspectsoftheoriginalsem
iosis remain, because those heroic horn melodies move swiftly in
broad, strong, sweeping and energetic gestures and because FAST,
BROAD,andSTRONGarestillsupposedtobeheroiccharacteristics.
Denotationandconnotation
Denotationandconnotationdesignatetwodifferenttypesofsemiosis.By
denotationismeantthelexicaltypeofmeaningassociatedwithdiction
arydefinitionsandwitharbitrarysigns.Thewordtable,forinstance,de
notesaflathorizontalslaborboardsupportedbyoneormorelegs;it
doesntconnoteit.Similarly,theologydoesntconnotetheideaofstudy
ing religious beliefs: it denotes that idea. However, in the statement
smokemeansfire,neitherthephenomenonSMOKEnorthewordsmokede
notesfire:itstheperceptionofsmokethatconnotesthepresenceoffire
throughcausalindexicality.DespitethefactthatSMOKEMEANSFIREex
emplifiesamoretangibletypeofsemiosisthandoestheologyslinkwith
theideaofstudyingreligion,denotationisstilloftenconsideredtobea
11. Mailcoacheswerethefastestvehiclesontheplanet,deliveringthemailposthaste.
Formoreaboutaction,heroismandhorns,seeTagg(2000a: 185210).
Tagg: Musics Meanings 5. Meaning and communication 165
less vague type of semiosis than connotation. Eco (1990: 6) challenges
thisassumption,brandingtheimaginedsolidityofdenotativesignifi
cationthrougharbitrarysignsrigiddesignation,addingthatlanguage
always says something more than its inaccessible literal meaning. If
Ecosobservationistrueforlanguage,itsevenmorerelevanttomusic
which, as just suggested, rarely uses arbitrary signs. Since music is
highlyconnotative,itsworthexaminingtheconceptofindexicalcon
notationinmoredetail.IllapplyEcosideastothesemiosisinvolvedin
thestatementsmokemeansfire.
IveshortenedWHERETHERESSMOKETHERESFIREtoSMOKEMEANSFIRE.In
sodoing,Isubstitutedanindexicalobservationofsimultaneity(smoke
atthesametimeasfire)withoneofcausality.Icandothatbecause,un
less were talking about stage smoke (liquid CO
2
), fire causes smoke.
Nowfityoursmokealarmasinstructed(good)andgotosleepwitha
burningcigarette(bad).Yoursmokealarmwakesyouup.Itspiercing
soundistriggeredbysmokecausedbyfire.Youhearthatloud,sharp
sound (the sign) and you know it means FIRE (interpretant) and other
alarmingthings,likeWAKEUP,GETOUTOFTHEHOUSEandDONTDIE(fi
nalinterpretants).ThealarmsounddoesntdenoteFIRElikethewordfire,
nor does it directly mean FIRE indexically like the smoke you may or
may not see that is caused by fire you are even less likely to see. The
connectionbetweenthesmokealarmsoundandfireisoneofconnota
tion: the alarm connotes a particular sort of fire and everything you
knowgoeswithit,becausetherelationshipbetweenthealarmsoundas
signifierandthefireassignified,withallitsconnotations,presupposes
previously established levels of signification. These distinctions are essen
tialinunderstandinghowconnotation,acentralaspectofmusicalse
mantics,actuallyworks.
The previous levels just mentioned are all indexical and causal,
namely the relationships [1] between the alarm sound and smoke
(smoke triggers the alarm), [2] between smoke and fire (fire causes
smoke), [3] between fire and danger (babies have to learn that fire
hurts).Withthesethreepreviouslevelsofsignificationyouareableto
connotethespecificthreatsofmultipleburns,asphyxiationandpossi
ble death with the sound of a smoke alarm. In Ecos terms (1976: 55),
166 Tagg: Musics Meanings 5. Meaning and communication
connotationariseswhenasignificationisconveyedbyaprevioussig
nification, which gives rise to a superelevation of codes. The form of
thisconnotativesemioticsisshowninTable51.
12
AccordingtoEco(1976: 55),thereisaconnotativesemioticswhenthere
isasemioticswhoseexpressionplaneisanothersemiotics.So,inthe
smoke alarm example, the interpretant (signified) of the three former
significationscombined[1]THEALARMSOUNDISCAUSEDBYSMOKE,[2]
SMOKEISCAUSEDBYFIREand[3]THEGREATPAINOFSKINBURNSISCAUSED
BYFIREbecomesthesignifierofafourthsignified:DONTDIE!GETOUT!
Thus the smoke signifies FIRE indexically, but the sound of the smoke
alarmalsoconnotesbothDANGERandEVACUATIONassociatedwithfire
thankstotheprevioussemioticrelationships.Ecocontinueshiscritique
ofdenotativehegemonyinconventionallinguisticsasfollows.
Thedifferencebetweendenotationandconnotationisnot...thediffer
encebetweenunivocalandvaguesignification,orbetweenrefer
entialandemotionalcommunication,andsoon.Whatconstitutesa
connotation as such is the connotative code which establishes it; the
characteristicofaconnotativecodeisthefactthatthefurthersignifica
tionconventionallyreliesonaprimaryone.
This critique of received wisdom about denotation and connotation
seguesintothenextandequallyproblematicpointthewidelyheld
assumptionthatmusicisintrinsicallypolysemic.
Table 5-1. Smoke alarm: connotation as
superelevation of previous signification
Signifier Signified
Signifier Signified
Danger!Getout!
Signifier Signified
fire
alarmnoise smoke
12. TheoriginalEcomodelusesHjelmslevstermsexpressioncontent,nottheSaussu
reanpairsignifiersignifiedwhichisusedhereforreasonsofbrevityincomparison
withPeircessignobject/interpretant.
Tagg: Musics Meanings 5. Meaning and communication 167
Polysemyandconnotativeprecision
Polysemic from Greek poly (=many) and sma (=sign)
meanssignifyingmanythingsatthesametime,i.e.thatthesamesign
islinkedtomanydifferentobjectsand/orinterpretants.Now, thereis
nodoubtthatmusicispolysemicfromalogocentricviewpointandIof
tenproducethelexicallyincongruentconceptsAUSTRIAandSHAMPOO
toillustratethepoint.AustriaisamiddlesizedCentralEuropeanna
tionfamousforitscapitalcity,Vienna,formountains,Strausswaltzes,
downhillskiing,Mozartandahostofotherthingsthathavenothingto
dowithviscoseliquidthatcomesinsmallplasticbottlesandthatyou
applytoyourscalpwhenwashingyourhairintheprivacyofyourown
bathroom. Despite these patent differences, I claim that AUSTRIA and
SHAMPOObelongtothesame,welldefinedsemanticfield.Thatsounds
ridiculous,soIdbetterexplain.
Aoneminuteextractfromaromanticfilmtheme(TheDreamofOlwen
byCharlesWilliams)wasplayedwithoutvisualaccompanimentto607
listeners.Respondentswereaskedtojotdownnotesforasuitablefilm
scene or anything else that came into their mind when hearing the
piece.ThemostcommonresponseswereLOVE,ROMANCEandeitherA
COUPLE or A SINGLE WOMAN seen STROLLING THROUGH THE GRASS OF A
SUMMERMEADOW.OthercommonresponseswereWAVINGCORN,ROLL
INGHILLS,thelongFLOWINGHAIRandDRESSofthewomantheysaw,the
SWELLoftheSEAinaSUMMERBREEZE,BILLOWINGSAILS,aFLOWINGRIVER,
OLDEN TIMES, etc. Several respondents imagined scenes in either ENG
LAND,FRANCEorAUSTRIA.Now,theAUSTRIAenvisagedbyrespondents
wasnottheDolomitesinbadweather,norskiingatKitzbhel,noreat
ingSachertorteinaKonditorei,northeairportoroilrefineryatSchwe
chat.No,itwastheAustriaofTheSoundofMusic,inparticularaWOMAN
inaLONGDRESSSTROLLINGTHROUGHGREENMEADOWS.Thisclusterofre
sponsesdescribesthescene,shownasFigure51(p. 168),inwhichJulie
Andrews bursts into the films title song (The hills are alive with the
soundofmusic).Now,thatscenefeaturesafineopenlandscapepano
ramaquitedifferenttotheconfinesofashowercabinwhereshampoo
isappliedtothescalp.Thequestionisobvious:howcanshampoobe
likestrollingthroughthegreengrassofanopenmeadow?
168 Tagg: Musics Meanings 5. Meaning and communication
Well, theSHAMPOOthatrespondentsmentionedwas no more shampoo
assuchthantheAUSTRIAtheysawwaslexicallyAustria.Respondents
were in fact alluding to a Timotei shampoo advert featuring a young
woman, with long, flowing hair and a long, flowing, oldstyle white
cottondress,movinginslowmotionthroughthelonggrassofasum
mer meadow and watched longingly by a young man in the back
ground(Fig.52a).ThisscenemaywellderivefromthefamousLOVEIN
THELONGGRASSscenefromElviraMadigan(Fig.52b).
Fig. 5-1. AUSTRIA: Julie Andrews bursts into song in The Sound of Music
Still captured from DVD 20th Century Fox, 1958, 1965, 1993
Obvioussimilaritiesbetweenthesepicturessuggestthatrespondents,
someofwhomsaidAUSTRIAandothersSHAMPOO,werenottheleastbit
confused about what sort of scene, movements, gestures, activities,
emotionsormoodstheygotfromhearingthemusic,eventhoughthere
isnoconnectionbetweendictionarydefinitionsofAustriaandshampoo.
Fig. 5-2. [a] Timotei ad (c. 1980); [b] Elvira Madigan ( Widerberg, 1967): VHS cover
Tagg: Musics Meanings 5. Meaning and communication 169
Itisthereforeonlyfromalogocentricviewpoint,thatAUSTRIAandSHAM
POO,nottomentionHILLS,HAIR,CORNFIELDS,SAILINGSHIPS,DRESSESand
MANORHOUSES,allcommonresponsestothesamemusic,canbecon
sideredcontradictory,incongruousorpolysemic.
Observations similar to those just made about AUSTRIA AND SHAMPOO
applyjustaswelltoverydifferentsetsofmusicalsound,forinstanceto
thoseassociatedwithcitystreetsatnight,withconcrete,rain,crime,de
linquency, flickering lights, urban loneliness, etc. This latter set of
sounds and those of the AUSTRIA AND SHAMPOO piece cover mutually
distinguishablefieldsofconnotation,butthefactthateachofthetwo
setsofassociationscontainslexicallydisparateconceptsdoesnotmean
thateitherofthetwofieldsofconnotationisinitselfmusicallycontra
dictory. On the contrary, play the music connoting either of those
moodstoanyonebelongingtothecultureinandforwhichthemusic
wasproduced,andlistenerswillbeinnodoubtaboutwhichiswhich.
Misconceptions of music as polysemic arise partly because academe
demandsthatwepresentideasaboutmusic,notinmusic,notevenin
termsofmovingpictureorofdance,butinwordslikethese.Theseno
tionsofmusicssupposedpolysemycanbequestionedinatleasttwo
otherways:[1]byconsideringdifferentsymbolicrepresentationsofthe
samephysicalreality;[2]byturningthetablesondenotativelanguage
andbyabsurdlybrandingitaspolysemicinstead.
Fig. 5-3. Castletown (Isle of Man): same geography, different representations
Figure53showsthreerepresentationsofthesamelocation.ImagesA
andBcantbepolysemicjustbecausetheareasgeologicaldetails(im
170 Tagg: Musics Meanings 5. Meaning and communication
ageC)arentincluded.NorcanimageCcanbecalledvaguebecauseit
doesnt show buildings, roads or surface terrain. The point is that a
physicallocationcanbevisuallyrepresentedinavarietyofways,each
symbolising different aspects of the same reality from different per
spectives,usingdifferentrulesofstylisationandabstraction,aswellas
differenttechniquesforencodingdifferenttypesofinformationfordif
ferentpurposes.Ifitsacceptedthatthesamelocationcanbevisually
symbolisedindifferentwaysfordifferentpurposes,howcomemusic,
whosebasicnatureandfunctionsdiffersoobviouslyfromthoseoflan
guageorfromgraphicformsofrepresentation,isexpectedtoliveupto
linguistic or visual rather than musical criteria of semiotic precision?
Thequestionisrhetorical.
Sincedifferentindividualswithinthesameculturetendrepeatedlyto
respondtothesamemusicinquitesimilarways,musiccannotreason
ablybeconsideredpolysemic.Tounderlinetheproblemwithlogocen
tric thinking about musical meaning, you only need to apply
musocentric arguments to language and ask, for example, what the
sound of the spoken word table ['Icibol] really means. True, like bord,
mas, mesa, pyt, , st, stl, tafel, Tisch, tavola, and other
words denoting a flat horizontal slab or board supported by one or
morelegs,tableisprettymonosemic,butitis,as['Icibol],musicallyin
distinguishablefromrhymingwordslikeable,Babel,bagel,cable,cradle,
Davell, fable, gable, Hegel, label, ladle, Mabel, naval, navel or stable, each
spokenwiththesamevoice,intonation,timbre,inflexion,accentuation
andspeedofdelivery.
13
However,whereasnosanemusicologistwould
dreamofcallinglanguagepolysemicjustbecauseallbutthemostono
matopoeicofwordsaremusicallyambiguous,manyotherwiseintelli
gent people still think of music as polysemic, just because musical
categories of signification dont coincide with verbal ones. This logo
centricfallacy,partoftheepistemicinertiadiscussedinChapter3,can
also be refuted with the help of two final examples relating to a very
simple,tangible,concreteandostensiblydenotativenoun:chair.
13. Rhymingcriteriahereare:[1]mustbetwosyllables;[2]firstsyllablemustcontain
accentuateddiphthong}ci};[2]finalsyllablemustbeunstressed/ol}1[3]consonant
between/ci/and}ol}mustbeplosiveandvoiced,i.e.}b}, }d}, }g}or}v}.
Tagg: Musics Meanings 5. Meaning and communication 171
[1]Youcansitononetypeofchairinthekitchen,inanotherinfrontof
theTV;youcantakethechairatameeting,occupyanothersortatauni
versityandbesenttofryonafinaloneinaTexasprison.Chairhastodo
forthelotofthemandonlythenounscontextortheadditionofquali
fierslikekitchen,easy,researchorelectricwillclarifywhichchairisrele
vant.Words,inotherwords,evennounsdenotingconcreteobjects,can
becontextsensitiveandpolysemic.
[2]Thespokenwordchair['I]c:]isasmusicallypolysemicassinging
the TwilightZonejingleis verballypolysemic.
14
Neither utterance car
riesclearmeaningifjudgedaccordingtothenormsofsemiosisappli
cable to the other sign system. A verbal statement is made less
polysemic (not more so) by prosody, i.e. by the musical elements of
speech,justastheprecisionofmusicalmeaningcanbecomemorefo
cusedwhenheardalongwithwords,actionsorpictures.
Inshort,precisionofmusicalmeaningcanneverbethesameaspreci
sion of verbal meaning. Music and language are not interchangeable
signsystems:iftheywere,theywouldnotexistseparately.Itsforthis
tautologousreasonthatconnotationsgiveninresponsetotheAUSTRIA
ANDSHAMPOOandURBANALIENATIONpiecesofmusicmentionedearlier
mustbeunderstoodasbelongingtomusogenic,notlogogenic,categories
ofmeaning.Connotationselicitedbymusicareverballyaccurateinrela
tionnottoverbalbuttomusicaldiscourse.Musicisanalogogenicsign
systemwhosesemanticprecisionrelieslargelyonconnotationandon
iconicorindexicalsigns.Mendelssohnputitthisway:
Thethoughts whichareexpressed tome bya pieceofmusicwhich I
lovearenottooindefinitetobeputintowords,butonthecontrarytoo
definite.
15

14. ForexplanationoftheTwilightZonethemesfournotejingleaspopularindicatorof
SOMETHINGWEIRDSGOINGON,seeTagg&Clarida(2003: 576).
15. Mendelssohn,quotedbyCooke(1959:6).DaveThomas(ofPreUbu),wentfurther:
Ifapictureisworthathousandwordsasoundisworthathousandpictures
(EARMagazine,13/10:27(Feb.1989));seealsoLevelsofsignification,p. 189, ff.
172 Tagg: Musics Meanings 5. Meaning and communication
Conceptsofcommunication
Sofarthischapterhaspresentedsomebackgroundconceptsessential
to an understanding of musical meaning. Now, no semiosis can take
place without communication, be it intimate and smallscale or broad
cast by satellite from a stadium venue. Even singing alone in the
shower is impossible without having first learnt patterns of melodic
construction that pass for song inthe culture[s] you are familiar with
becauseallcommunicationreliesonsomeaspectofsocialorganisation.
Indeed,aswesawinthesectionaboutMUSICASAUNIVERSALLANGUAGE
(p. 47, ff.),musicalcompetence,poeticoraesthesic,istoanoverriding
extent culturally specific. Even the simple wordpainting tricks de
scribed at the end of Chapter 4 (SUNBEAMS SCORCHING, CHILLY DEW
DROPS, etc.) had to be learnt, as did the AUSTRIA and SHAMPOO
connotations provided by respondents hearing separate musical ex
tractswithoutverbalorvisualaccompaniment.
Returning briefly to the wordpainting tricks described at the end of
Chapter4(p. 152, ff.),Iassumed,asanorganisttrainedinaparticular
tradition,thatmytimbralvariationswouldcommunicatetothecongre
gationthebasicsofthekinetic,tactile,emotionalandculturallyconno
tativeeffectsIhadlearnt:SUNBEAMSSCORCHINGassonicallysparkling,
sharp, bright, highpitched and edgy; CHILLY DEWDROPS as rounder,
cooler,slightlyairybutpreciseanddelicate,andsoon.Ascoauthor
ofthemusicIwasplaying,Iwassimplyactinginaccordancewiththe
assumptionpositedbyEco(1979b: 7):
[T]omakehistextcommunicative,theauthorhastoassumethattheen
sembleofcodeshereliesuponisthesameasthatsharedbyhispossible
reader.Theauthorhasthustoforeseeamodelofthepossiblereader
supposedly able to deal interpretatively with the expressions in the
samewayastheauthordealsgenerativelywiththem.
AlthoughIsuspectthatmostmembersofthecongregationwouldhave
heardmywordpaintingmoreorlessasIintended,itwouldhavebeen
rashtoassumethateveryoneofthemregisteredexactlythesameef
fectsinexactlythesameway,becausesocial,physiological,neurologi
calandpsychologicalfactors,includingthemomentarystateofmindof
each individual, inevitably produce variations of response between
Tagg: Musics Meanings 5. Meaning and communication 173
members of the same basic musical community. And it would be ab
surdtoexpectmembersofaverydifferentmusicalculture,withvery
differentconventionsofstructuringandunderstandingtimbre,toreg
ister my timbral effects in the same way as the congregation in the
schoolchapelwhereIplayedorganintheearly1960s.
Hereweenterthetrickyterritoryofcommunicationtheoryand(semi
otic)pragmaticsinwhichmusicalsemantics(therelationbetweenmu
sicalsignsandwhattheymean)needsviewingwithintheframework
of the relevant sociocultural field. A short, explanatory disclaimer is
called for herebecause this sectionof the chapter will not necessarily
conformtothecoursecontentofB.A.programmesincommunication
studies.Thatsaid,whatcomesnextisinfluencedpartlybythePeircean
tripartitesemioticmodelsalreadypresented,partlybyEcos(1976: 32
47)reasoningaboutsignificationandcommunicationandbyamore
musicspecific model presented by Bengtsson (1972).
16
Even so, I
should,intheinterestsoftransparency,makethreeadmissions:[1]that
themainsourceofideaspresentedinthissectionconsistsofobserva
tions and reflections made over sixty years of experience using, as
transmitterorreceiver,differentkindsofmusicfordifferentpurposes,
underdifferenteconomic,social,physicalandculturalcircumstances;
[2] that such experience has more often determined the theoretical
modelsIadopt(perceptuallearning)thanviceversa(conceptuallearn
ing);[3]that38yearsofrunningcoursesintheanalysisofmusicasifit
meant something forced me to abandon some intriguing but educa
tionallylesspracticableconceptualuniverses(e.g.18ofPeirces27sign
types,nottomentionallthespecialisedpoeticdescriptorsofmusical
structure). Instead Ive prioritised concepts that gel more easily with
students perceptions of music and its meanings, even though those
perceptions are sometimes, as I suggest elsewhere,
17
in need of prob
lematisation.WiththatacademicprovisooutintheopenIfeellessinhib
itedaboutpresentingabasiccommunicationmodel.
16. Formoreonthesesources,seeTagg(2000a:6774);seealsoEcoquoteonp.172.
17. See,forexample,p.69,ff;p. 264,ff;p. 319,ff.
174 Tagg: Musics Meanings 5. Meaning and communication
Basiccommunicationmodel
Fig. 5-4. Musical communication model in a socio-cultural framework
Figure54visualisesbasicelementsofmusicalcommunicationwithina
socioculturalframework.Thetwistedarrowsatthetopandbottomof
thediagramindicatethatthemodelshouldbereadasverticallycircu
lar(cylindrical),sothatthestoreofsignsandthesocioculturalnormsare
seenaspartofthesameconstellationofculturallyspecificvaluesand
activities,i.e.aspartofthesamesocioculturalfield.Moreprecisely,the
storeofsignsisreallyjustoneofthesocioculturalnormsshownatthebot
tomofthemodelbecauseitcontainsallthesocialconventionsofwhat
constitutesmusicintherelevantculture,aswellasallthesociallynego
tiatednormsaboutwhichelementsofmusichavewhichconnotations
and are suited to which purposes, etc. I apologise for this problem of
graphicrepresentationbutweneedtodistinguishbetweentwotypes
ofnoncommunication(incompetenceandinterference)andIwasuna
bletographicallyencode,allinonesinglediagram,thatimportantdis
Tagg: Musics Meanings 5. Meaning and communication 175
tinctionwhileatthesametimevisualisingthestoreofsignsasasubset
of sociocultural norms. In fact, the diagram should really be spherical
and(atleast)threedimensional,becauseitsalsohorizontallycircular,as
suggestedbythevariousarrowsattheleftandrightedges.Thesear
rows show that the uses to which we put the music we hear and the
meanings we attribute to it, whether or not those uses and meanings
areintendedbythosewhomadethemusic,influencethesymbolicand
behaviouralconventions(thestoreofsignsandthesocioculturalnorms)
which,intheirturn,formtheculturalstartingpointwithoutwhichmu
sics transmitters cannot meaningfully produce work as composers,
arrangers,musicians,singers,studioengineers,producers,DJs,etc.
Since Figure 54 should really be spherical, you could theoretically
trace any musical communication process starting at any point in the
diagram.Indeed,manyscholarshave,withoutconsideringmusicalse
mantics, instructively examined interactions relating to music in the
sociocultural field, such as those between commercial and aesthetic
usevalue,betweenpatternsofethnic,religious,sexualorsocialidentity
andtheirrepresentationinthemedia,etc.Insuchcases,thecommuni
cationmodelwouldalmostcertainly,likethegeographicalrepresenta
tionsinFigure53(p. 169),lookverydifferent.Bethatasitmay,since
the main focus of this book is semantic, its logical to put the musical
messageprocessatthecentreofthemodel.Thatprocessrunsasfol
lows:theintendedmessage,informedbyspecificsoftransmittersub
jectivityinobjectiverelationtothesocioculturalfield,passesfromidea
or intention, via its concretion in sonic form (channel) to receivers
whorespond towhatthey hear. Letsfirst zoomin onthatcentral se
manticlineinthecommunicationprocess.
Bytransmitterismeantanyindividualorgroupofindividualsproduc
ing music composer, arranger, musician, vocalist (including you
singingintheshower),studioengineer,DJ,etc.Bychannelorcodedmes
sageismeantthemusicasitsounds(anarrayofsigns),whilereceivers
arethosehearingorusingthemusic,betheysimultaneouslythemu
sicstransmittersornot.Theintendedmessage,similarbutnotidentical
to Peirces object, is what transmitters hope to express the right
soundsattherighttimeintherightordercreatingtherightfeel,soto
176 Tagg: Musics Meanings 5. Meaning and communication
speak. Since transmitters rarely use words to conceptualise intended
messagestheydothatinmusic,Iveprovidedafewverbalapprox
imations hinting at a range of feels that a musician working in the
Westernmediamighthavetoconsiderproducing(Table52).
EventhoughmusicianswithintheEuropeanandNorthAmericancul
turalspheremightneveruseanyofthewordsinTable52todescribe
anymusicalidea,professionalsamongthemwouldstillbeabletocome
upwithsoundscorrespondingtomostofthefeelsinthelist.Similarly,
codallycompetentlistenersfromthesameculturalbackgroundwould
be able to distinguish that music according to categories similar to
thoseinTable52,alistthatcouldgoonforeverorincludeatotallydif
ferentselectionofmoodcategories.Thepointhereisjusttogivesome
examples,intheformofpallidverbalapproximationsintheveryver
balmediumthatisthisbook,ofwhatanintendedmusicalmessagemight
Table 5-2: Ethnocentric selection of connotative spheres (feels/moods)
rocknrollkickass etherealsublimity erotictango
ruralloneliness urbanloneliness musojazzcleverness
streetphilosophisingPI gospelecstatic bravenewmachineworld
yuppieyoghurtlifestyle cheerfulchildren sex,aerobicsstyle
headbangingthrash romanticsensuality bittersweetinnocence
noblesuffering slavery,drudgery widescreenWestern
ItalianWestern medievalmeditation hippymeditation
psychedelia evilEastAsians niceEastAsians
savageIndians nobleNativeAmericans slapstickcomedy
pompandcircumstance sixtiessound acidhousebodyimmersion
cyberneticdystopia deathbyfrostbite twinklinghappyChristmas
footballsingalong musichallpubsong Methodisthymn
pastoralidyll thethrobbingtropics inexorableviolence
horror mystery graceandsophistication
Draculasdrooling
organ
depravityand
decadence
scorchingsun,
blisteringheat
wideandopen smokydive Arabicsound
WestAfricandrums distantbagpipe BarryManilowballad
AbbaAphexsound laidbackrockballad seventiesdisco
1930sGermancabaret Aboriginals inconsolablyunjusttragedy
paganritual religiouswonder Celticmists
lullaby themarchofdeath existentialAngst
Tagg: Musics Meanings 5. Meaning and communication 177
be,whethersuchintentionsareverbalisedor,asismoreusual,justmu
sically conceived. Of course, an intended musical message (or object),
however inspired, doesnt drop magically out of the blue. As the ar
rowsontheleftedgeofFigure54indicate,theyareinformedbycon
ventions existing in the sociocultural field, including its store of
symbols,whichintheirturnareinformedbypreviousactsofsemiosis
involvingtransmitters,receiversandthesocioculturalfield.
ThankstoTable52,thereisnowalittlemeatontheboneofintention,
whichwellfollowfromtransmittertoreceiver.Doesthemusicactually
sound as intended? If so, does it physically reach receivers? If it does,
whathappenswhentheyhearit?Isthemessageinterpretedorusedas
intendedorinadifferentway?Wellstartwiththelatter,takingasex
amplesthefirstfeelinTable52.
18
A typically adequate response would probably come into play if, in
thecaseofintendedKICKASS,rockconcertgoersreactedbygesticulat
ingenthusiastically,perhapsalsojoininginbyyellingoutthehookline
of the chorus. Stage diving would be good at a speed metal gig and
brandishingacigarettelighterappropriateforarockballad.Suchactiv
itywould,however,notconstituteadequateresponseatastringquar
tet recital: listening in silence and without visible expression, not
clappingbetweenmovementsbutgivingthemusiciansaroundofap
plauseaftertheperformancewouldbemoreappropriate.Ifpeoplesit
inexpressionlesssilenceduring theintendedKICKASSROCK or ifthey
boparoundloudlytotheEXISTENTIALANGSTorETHEREALSUBLIMITYofa
lateBeethovenquartet,oriftheyhearsomethingintendedasdelicate
andtenderintermsofsentimentaltack,orsomethingintendedasinter
estingintermsofhorror,thentherehasbeenabreakdowninmusical
communication.
19
In these cases, musicians have to ask themselves
18. TheselectioninTable52islabelledethnocentricbecauseWestAfricandrums,
EastAsians,etc.arespecifiedbyethnicqualifiers,whilefeelsapplicabletomany
musiccultures(e.g.violence,innocence)areassumedtobeformulatedinaWest
ernmusicalidiom.Thisethnocentricityisregrettablynecessarybecausemusical
connotativesemioticsistosuchalargeextentculturallyspecific.Besides,manyof
thefeelslistedherecorrespondtomoodcategoriesfoundinlibrarymusiccollec
tionsproducedintheWestforuseintheWesternmedia(seep. 223, ff.).Forrelation
shipsbetweenverbalconnotationandlevelsofsignificationseep. 189,ff.
178 Tagg: Musics Meanings 5. Meaning and communication
whatwentwrong.Itsnotmuchuseforcomposerstomoantheyjust
dont understand my work, because that erroneously implies that a
breakdowninmusicalcommunicationissolelyduetomalfunctionat
thereceptionendoftheprocess.
Ofcourse,withliveperformancetherecanbedifficultiesattheactual
venue. Is there disturbing background noise? Cant careful miking,
mixing,equalisingorspeakerplacementhelp?Didtheviolinshaveto
worktoohardtomaketheirnoteslastinadeadacousticspace?Ifsuch
problemsarentsolved,someoftheintendedmessagewontevenmake
it into the channel: it wont materialise as the signs, the sounds that
you,thetransmitter,wanttoputacrosssothatyouraudience(there
ceivers) can form their interpretants. However, and more likely
maybeyourperformanceorrecordingsoundsfinetoyoubutthemes
sagestilldoesntseemtogetacross.Isitthewrongaudienceforyour
musicordidyoumakethewrongmusicforthem?Perhapstheylaugh
when they should cry, or gape apathetically instead of shouting and
jumping?Theseproblemsofmusicalcommunicationareattributableto
whatIcallcodalincompetenceandcodalinterference.
Now, incompetence and interference both sound quite negative but nei
ther term is intended in any pejorative sense. The two words are just
shorthandfortwotypesofbreakdowninmusicalcommunication.Nei
ther the incompetence nor the interference imply any stupidity or
maliceonthepartoftransmitterorreceiver.Eachconceptsimplyhigh
lightsaparticularsetofmechanismscausingthevaryingdegreesofdif
ference that inevitably arise, in semiotic terms, between object and
interpretant or, in terms of intentional communication, between in
tendedandinterpretedmessage.Codalincompetenceandcodalinter
ference are in fact essential to the renegotiation of musics possible
meaningsandtoitssurvivalasasignsystemcapableofadaptingtodif
ferentfunctionsfordifferentindividualsindifferentpopulationsatdif
ferenttimesandindifferentplaces.
19. MyfavouriteexampleofINTERESTINGheardasHORRORwasprovidedbySerenaFacci
(Rome)whosetwelveyearoldpupils,onhearingSchnbergsPierrotLunaire,pre
tendedtobrandishlargeknivesandtostabimaginaryvictims.
Tagg: Musics Meanings 5. Meaning and communication 179
Codalincompetence
Formusicalcommunicationtowork,transmitterandreceiverneedac
cesstothesamebasicstoreofsigns,bywhichImeanacommonvocab
ularyofmusicalsoundsandnorms(seep. 172).Ifthetwopartiesdont
shareacommonstoreofsigns,codalincompetencewillarise,ateither
thetransmittingorreceivingendofthemessage,oratbothends.
Imagine,asaWesterner,hearingafieldrecordingoftraditionalmusic
from a rural community in East Africa and thinking this sounds fes
tive.Thenyoudiscoveronlinethatthesongisntatallfestive,atleast
notifthenoteswrittenbyareputedethnomusicologistareanythingto
goby.Shedescribesthesingingasstrident,explainingthatthetrack
youre hearing features stylised hyena calls and that packs of hyenas
regularly ravage the villagers cattle. Whoops! Codal incompetence is
atworkhereatseverallevels.Firstly,youheardnohyenasinthemusic
whereas,reportedly,thosemakingordancingtothemusicdidsoatthe
timeoftherecording.Secondly,youmaynotevenknowwhatarealhy
enasoundslike,

letalonewhatculturalconventionsdeterminewhich
aspects of hyena calls are stylised in which way into which types of
song.Furthermore,youareunlikelytoknowhowhyenasareregarded
inthemusicsoriginalculturalcontext.Didyouhearathreattothelive
lihoodofyourcommunityordidthosehyenalaughsmakeyouwantto
laugh,too?Clearly,STRIDENT,ratherthanFESTIVE,wouldbeanappro
priate attitude for the villagers to adopt if, as you learn from reading
moreaboutthecommunityandtheirmusic,qualitieslikecourage,or
ganisationanddeterminationareneededtoeffectivelycombatpacksof
ravaginghyenas.MistakingSTRIDENTforFESTIVEmaybelessinaccurate
thanhearingthemusicasmournfulorgentlebutcodalincompetence
onyourpartaslistenerisinevidencebecauseyoudidnthearthemusic
inthesamewayaswouldamemberofthecommunityproducingand
usingthosesounds.NoneofthismeansthatyourFESTIVEANDNOHYE
NASresponseiswrong.Codalincompetenceatthereceivingendjust
meansinadequateresponseintermsofthemusicsoriginalculturalset
ting,functionsandintentions.Besides,codalincompetenceisinnowaya
traitexclusivetomusicalreception,asthenextexamplesuggests.
180 Tagg: Musics Meanings 5. Meaning and communication
In the early 1990s someone in Liverpool informally asked me to come
up with theme tune ideas for a series of local TV programmes. I under-
stood the series was to include a fair amount of populist nostalgia for
the good old days when ordinary people were supposed to have en-
joyed themselves in simple honest ways. Having just returned to the
UK after living in Sweden for many years, I had learnt to associate that
kind of nostalgia with Swedish gammaldans,
20
a cheery type of old-time,
proletarian FUNANDGAMESDANCEMUSIC featuring the accordion. Now,
if, on that basis, Id mixed some gammaldans into a signature tune to
promote some populist nostalgia for the good old days, I would have
exhibited gross codal incompetence because Liverpool listeners would
not have known what to make of those sounds and of their specifically
Swedish connotations. So, perhaps my local theme tune would be less
codally incompetent if I tried to emulate the sound of the older popular
artists from Merseyside, maybe a Searchers pastiche to take viewers
back to the citys beat era in the early 1960s. The problem with that idea
was that it too was likely to fall on deaf ears because younger Liver-
pudlians might not even recognise a Searchers sound, let alone be fa-
miliar with its connotations. In this latter case, however, there would
also have been some codal incompetence from the receiving end, since
the young audience would be unable to interpret musical signs that
would be quite meaningful to older Liverpudlians. Thankfully, none
these ideas saw the light of day because the TV project never passed the
stage of loose chat in a pub.
Codal incompetence can also occur at more basic levels of musical
structuration. For example, if you listen to recordings of Bulgarian
women singing traditional harvest songs,< youll hear a lot of semi
toneclashessimilartothoseoftenusedtohelpcreatetension,horroror
discomfort in Western film music. The Bulgarian womens semitone
dyadsandclustersmaysoundharshanddiscordanttousWesterners
thefirsttimewehearthem:thatsoundwillatbestcomeacrossexciting
or exotic. But to the Bulgarian harvest singers themselves, pictured
smiling and laughing in Figure 55, theres nothing bizarre or exotic
about their own music, nothing horrific about their semitones.
21
It
20. Gammaldans:shortforgammaldansmusik,meaningoldtimedancemusic.
Tagg: Musics Meanings 5. Meaning and communication 181
wouldinfactbecodallyincompetent,fromthereceivingend,toapply
thesemioticconventionsofsemitonesinHollywoodfilmmusictothe
soundofBulgarianwomensingingtraditionalharvestsongs.
Fig. 5-5. Women singing harvest songs in Madzhare (Shopsko, Bulgaria)
(Musik frn Bulgarien, 1965).
Itwouldalsobecodallyincompetent,fromthetransmittingend,touse
the semitones of traditional Bulgarian harvest songs to celebrate the
ChristmasbreakatanofficepartyinMilanorMilwaukee,thatisunless
21. AccordingtoClaireLevy(musicologyprofessor,BulgarianAcademyofSciences),
[T]hewomenarereallyhavingfuneventhoughthiswayofsinginghasnooblig
atoryexpressivereferencetoaparticularmood[T]hiswayofsinging,character
isedbysemitonedyadsandclusters,isratherastyleindicatorassociatedwith
particularmusicalvocabulary.ItistypicalforShopsko(theregionwherethe
mountainvillageofMadzhareislocated).Inanycase,thisstyleisnotconsidered
dissonantbythosewhobelongtothe[local]cultureForthemitsoundsnat
ural,beautifulAsforthewordssunginlocaldialect,Levyheard
(ayoungbachelorwalkingalongtheforestedge),
(shininglikeaclearsun),(shininglikethefull
moon)andadds:thisrecordingcanberegardedasadocumentofhowwomencom
municatebetweenthemselvesandhavefun(e.g.byteasingsingleyoungmen)at
harvesttime.ShealsonotesthatpeoplefromShopskoarefamousfortheirsenseof
humour(emailtoauthor20111221).Forentiresongandmore,seemTagg(2011e).
182 Tagg: Musics Meanings 5. Meaning and communication
adisproportionatenumberofworldmusicfansareamongtheparty
goers. In that case Bulgarian semitones might work as group identity
marker of sociocultural difference. With these ethno fans and their
radicalrecontextualisationoftheBulgarianwomensvocaltechniques,
wewouldbedealingnotsomuchwithcodalincompetenceaswithco
dalinterference.
Codalinterference
Codalincompetencearises,aswejustsaw,whentransmitterandreceiver
do not share the same store of musical signs, when the same musical
sound, as sign, stands for different things at the transmitting and re
ceiving ends of the communication process. Codal interference, on the
otherhand,ariseswhentransmitterandreceiverdosharethesameba
sicvocabularyofmusicalsignsbutdifferintermsofsocioculturalnorms.
Codalinterferencemeansthattheintendedsoundsgetacrossandareba
sicallyunderstoodbutthatadequateresponseisobstructedbyfactors
relatingtothereceiversworldview,setofsocialormoralvalues,so
cialisationstrategies,etc.Itcanalsoresultfromvisual,verbal,socialor
ideologicalrecontextualisationofthemusic.
For purposes of illustration lets go back to KICKASS ROCK from the
1980s.Thosethathatedthesoundsofheavymetalanddecriedthemu
sics lyrics andlifestyledid not necessarily fail to understandthemu
sicsmessageasyouorIdidwiththeEastAfricanhyenas(p. 179).No,
metalhaterswerecodallycompetentenoughtoregisterthatthemusic
wasloudandpowerful,thatitsleadsingerstendedtoyell,thatitmade
itslistenersheadbang,extendtheirarmsinhugeVsignsandsoon.In
deed, heavy metal protagonists (soloists) had to be loudmouthed and
loudgestured because the backing they set themselves to be heard
above, just like the society they and their audience inhabited, would
otherwise have drowned them. They would, so to speak, have other
wisedisappearedinaudiblyandinvisiblyintoanamorphousmassof
soundandsociety.
22
22. Forfurtherdiscussionofrocksubjectivityseepp.436444.
Tagg: Musics Meanings 5. Meaning and communication 183
Metalhaters,justlikeitsfans,knewthatniceguysandgoodgirls,with
awellmannered,reservedanddemurebehaviouralstrategyforsocial
success,wereincompatiblewithanaestheticdemandingastudiedtype
ofvulgarity,lavishamountsofegoprojectionandhighvolumetomake
the music work. Codal interference would obviously arise if you had
investedtimeandenergyintocultivatinganiceguyorgoodgirliden
tity and little or none into nourishing the selfcelebratory and exhibi
tionistpartsofyourbeing.Metalaestheticswouldbeintolerabletoyou,
not so much because the music seemed to spit on the nice guys and
goodgirlsasbecauseyoudworkedhardatrepressingthatanarchistic
loudmouth and garish slob inside you which, if let loose, might ruin
youreffortstopleasethoseinauthorityandtoacquiresocialpowerand
approval.Youwillhaveunderstoodthemusiconlytoowellbutyour
socioculturalnormsandmotivationswouldhavebeenantagonistically
opposedtotheexpressionofcatharticdisgust,desperationorselfcele
brationthatthemusiccouldhavegivenyouifyoudwanted.
Codal interference can work in the opposite direction if you think of
metal,hardcore,techno,gangstaorindustrialfansincapableofderiv
inganyenjoymentfromaclassicalstringquartet.Thesubtlemeansof
expressionassociatedwithclassicalchambermusiccaneasilybecome
atabooareaofaffectiveandgesturalactivityforthosewhoexperience
alienation at school, those whose peer group enthusiasm and social
restlessness gets them thrown out of class, those who hate having to
buckleunder,learntherecorderorsingintheschoolchoir,orwhojust
resentallthegoodygoodypupilsandteacherswhoseemtoloveclas
sicalmusicsomuch.Itsnowonderifindividualsfeelingsuchaliena
tiondonotembracemusicinvolving,amongotherexpressivefeatures,
qualitieslikedelicacy,controlandcontainment.Still,justlikethegood
guysandgirlswhorepresstheheavymetalexhibitionistpartsofthem
selves,alienatedmetalandrapfanswhohateclassicalstringquartets
alsomissoutonessentialaspectsofmusicssemioticrichness.
23
23. SeealsoLawrenceKramersWhyClassicalMusicStillMatters(2007).
184 Tagg: Musics Meanings 5. Meaning and communication
If psychosocial fear or resentment of certain music, and of what it is
heardtorepresent,interferewiththecommunicationofintendedmu
sicalmessages,deepidentificationwithacertainmusiccandothesame
inreverse.In1973,forexample,theStrawbs,apoliticallyconservative
English band, released a tune called Part Of The Union in which they
parodiedatradeunionmemberinthelyricsandaproletarianpubor
musichallsingalongfeelinthemusic:theyintendedtoridiculepolit
icalviews,peopleandmusictheydidnotlike.<Unfortunatelyforthe
StrawbstheBritishleftlovedPartOfTheUnionandadopteditastheir
ownanthemonpicketlinesin19845. Codalinterferencearoseinthis
instance because of diametrically opposed political views and diver
gence of cultural identity between transmitter and receiver. Its also
clearthatcodalinterferenceisinthisinstancerelatedtocodalincompe
tence because The Strawbs had radically misunderstood the British
recordbuyingpublicsstoreofsigns.
Sometimes the words of a song can interfere with your perception of it
as music. For example, if you had sung the well-known Welsh hymn
tune Cwm Rhondda with its original words Guide me, O thou great Je-
hovah! for twenty years in the local Methodist chapel and then, for the
first time, heard lager louts sing it with lewd lyrics as you walked past
the pub one night, its doubtful whether you would ever sing or feel the
tune in the same way ever again.
24
Similarly, visual narrative can also
interfere with musical message, as so often happens with the use in TV
ads of music you know from before. You only need think of the start of
Richard Strausss Also sprach Zarathustra in ads for fabric softeners, of-
fice machinery and mobile phones, or of Dvoks New World Symphony
for sliced bread, or of Muddy Waters Mannish Boy for jeans worn by
young white US males.
25

24. FormoreaboutCwmRhonddaseeftnt.56,p.453.Thehymnisalsosungatinterna
tionalrugbymatchesbysupportersoftheWelshteam.
25. Theadsare:(1) CopiatriciGevafax onRAI(Italy,1983)andSilanfabricsoftener
(DutchTV,1980s);(2) Hovis breadonITV(UK),late1980s;(3) Levi501jeans,(MTV
Europe,1988).KubrikstartedtheaudiovisualpopularisationofAlsosprachZarathus
tra,usingitthreetimesin2001(1968)tounderscoreaspectsofoverwhelmingimpor
tancerelatingtotheuniverseandhumanexistence.Formoreaboutthisubiquitous
audiovisualtropeofgrandeur,seep. 269.
Tagg: Musics Meanings 5. Meaning and communication 185
Codal interference can work in two ways with the TV ads just men
tioned.First,ifyouknewthemusicbeforeseeingthead,theconnota
tions of those previous hearing[s] will be challenged, interfered with,
justasthelagerloutwordsinterferedwithyourpreviouslyestablished
understandingoftheMethodisthymntune.Ofcourse,theadvertising
ideaisthatpositivevaluesattachedbytargetgrouplistenerslikeyour
selftotheborrowedmusicwillmagicallymigratetotheproductbeing
advertised.However,ifyouknowthemusicwell,orifitmeansalotto
you, its more likely that its commercial use will seem like abuse and
putyouofftheproductadvertised.Incaseslikethis,advertisingzealto
sellbyassociatingproductwithassumedmusicalvaluescanhavethe
opposite effect, while, conversely, your prior knowledge of the music
interfereswithanadequateresponsetotheintendedsalespitch.Sec
ondly, if, on the other hand, you didnt know the music before seeing
theadvertandthenheardthemusicataconcertorontheradio,you
would probably think of the advert you saw earlier. In this case, the
musics paramusical accompaniment (visual, verbal) in the ad wont
necessarily interfere with your perception of the music because you
neverhearditbeforewithoutvisualsorvoiceover.Itwill,however,cer
tainlyconflictwithtypesofsemiosisrelevanttohearingthesamemu
sicwithoutsuchaccompaniment,orinadifferentparamusicalcontext,
becauseyoujustcantgetthepreviouslyestablishedparamusicalcon
notationsoftheadoutofyourhead.Codalinterferenceiscertainlyin
tentionalintheadvertisingexamplesjustgiven,thewholeideabeing
thatconsumersassociatethemusic,previouslyintendedfor,andused
under, other circumstances, with the product being marketed. Its a
formofconnotativehijacking.
26
Sometimestheseintentionalcodalinterferences,includingconnotative
hijacking,servetheirpurpose,asdotheadvertsjustmentioned,orJoe
HillsparodiesofSalvationArmyhymnstounionlyrics,ortheSousa
marchwhichbecametheMontyPythonthemetune.
27
Still,sometimes
intended interference doesnt work, as we just saw with the Strawbs
PartOfTheUnion(p. 184),andsometimesitonlyhalfworks,asinthe
nextandfinalexample,drawnonceagainfrompersonalexperience.
26. See,forexample,theCD25CommercialClassics(1994).
186 Tagg: Musics Meanings 5. Meaning and communication
Representingimmigrants
In 1981, Swedish Radio asked me to provide theme music for a pro
grammeseriesforandaboutimmigrants.Theprogrammestitle,Jagvill
leva, jag vill d i Norden,
28
is the last line of the Swedish national an
thems first verse and provided a useful starting point. Since Sweden
wasthehostnationintowhoseestablishedmajoritycultureimmigrants
hadtoassimilate,Idecidedtostartwithafullblown,grandiose,offi
cialsounding version of the national anthems last line. My budget
couldntpayforasymphonyorchestraoradecentbrassband,soIset
tledforrecordingthelinemyselfonfullorganinalocalchurch.Infact,
thatmayhavebeenabettersolutionbecauseendofyearschoolcere
moniesinSwedenareoftenheldinchurchesandarequiteanationalis
ticaffair.OK,theOFFICIALNATIONALCEREMONYorgansoundtookcare
ofthepowerfulhostnationsideofthestorybuttheserieswasnotsup
posedtobeanationalistPRstunt,soIalsoneededtoreflectsomething
oftheconflictsandproblemsofimmigrantlife.
(Incidentally,whendescribingmyintentionshere,Iamretrospectively
verbalisingmainlymusicalconceptsandfeelsthatconstitutedtheob
jectoftherecordingwhichbecameitssigns.Itwasreallyonlywhenco
dal interference affected the relationship between my object and the
producers final interpretants that I had to start rationalising, in verbal
terms,whatIhaddonemusically.)
IputthefirstaspectofIMMIGRANTPROBLEMSintomusicbyreplacingthe
grandfinalchordofthenationalanthemwithanunresolvedsonority.I
quicklyfadedthatWORRYchordtoamuchlowervolumethatcouldbe
heldthroughouttherestofthesignaturetoallowsoloimmigrantin
strumentstoplaythesamemelodicphrase(thelastlineoftheSwedish
27. ThethemetuneforMontyPythonsFlyingCircus:seeTLTT:397430.JoeHill,(b.
JosephEHggstrm,1879),SwedishimmigranttoUSAandlabourunionactivistin
SanPedro(California),wasframedformurderbycapitalistbossesandwrongfully
executed(SaltLakeCity,1915).HisbestknownSalvationArmyparodiesareproba
bly:[1]ThePreacherandtheSlave,withitshooklineyoullgetpieintheskywhen
youdie,basedonTheSweetByeandBye(music:JosephPWebster);and[2]Tramp,
basedonJesusLovestheLittleChildrenandonapopularUSCivilWartune(music:
GeorgeFRoot).Forfurtherdetails,seeSongsoftheWorkers(1973)andStrm(1981).
28. =IwanttoliveanddieintheNorth,i.e.inaNordicland.
Tagg: Musics Meanings 5. Meaning and communication 187
national anthem) at different points in different keys and at different
pitches.Thefirstoutofkeyindividualimmigranttoplaythenational
anthemwasadirtysoundingelectricguitarwhichIincludedfortwo
reasons:[1]Iwasnottheonlyrockplayinganglophoneimmigrantin
thecountry;[2]rockmusicwasin1981itselffastbecominganintegral
part of the host nations mainstream culture. After the rock guitar I
added accordion (Swedish and immigrant again) in another different
key and then mandolin as a generic ethnic folk lute to suggest Swe
densnumerousGreek(bouzouki),Turkish(saz),EasternEuropean(bala
laika/cimbalon etc.) and Andean (charango) immigrants (instruments).
Thelastoutofkeyethnicinstrumentrepresentationwassopranore
corder as generic folk flute perhaps an Andean quena or a West
Asian ney/ni/gagri. The final flute note was left loud, high, piercing,
alone and long enough, with extra reverb, so it could be easily cross
fadedintotheprogrammespeakersintroductorywords.
29
Thosetwentyoddsecondsofthememusicwerenotwithouthumour
butIalsowantedthemtosoundalittlebitdisconcerting.Why?Well,as
an immigrant in a majority host culture, you try to fit in and to sing
fromthesamehymnsheetasthemajority,butyouoftengetthefeeling
thatyoullalwaysbesomehowoutofstep,outoftuneandoutofplace
because,likeitornot,youthink,feel,act,lookorsounddifferenttothe
hostnationmajority.Sinceitwaspartofthatexperiencethatneededto
beinthosetwentysecondsofmusic,Ithoughtitwouldbegoodtojux
taposemusicalsoundbytesthatdidntnormallybelongtogetherinthe
samepiece:Iwasinotherwordsintentionallyusingcodalinterference.
HencetheofficialsoundingfestivepompoftheorganplustheWORRY
chord,pluseachtimbrallydistinctinstrumentrepresentingadifferent
culture.Allthoseelementsweresupposedtointerfere,likeimmigrants,
withthefirstandmostpowerfulstatementontheorgan.
29
The recordingengineer andI madenumerous versions oftherecord
ing.Apartfromthefullmix,therewasonewithouttheorgan,another
withoutthedistortedguitar,athirdwithneitherorgannorguitar,and
soon.Theonlymixtheproducerlikedwasthedubbedmandolinsolo.
29. Comparetheoriginalversion<tagg.org/bookxtrax/NonMuso/mp3s/
JagVillLevaD2.mp3 withthebroadcastversion(<) JagVillLevaD7.mp3.
188 Tagg: Musics Meanings 5. Meaning and communication
Sheevenmademedumptheflutebecauseitwastooshrill.Itriedto
explainwhyIdgonetothetroubleofrecordingtheorgantrackbutnei
ther organ nor guitar were acceptable, I understood, because they
dontsoundlikeimmigrants.ButIobjected,youcantputoverwhat
itfeelsliketobeanimmigrantiftheresnohostculture.Tocutalong
storyshort,theonlyconcessiongrantedbytheproducerwasthat,after
much insistence from my side, the unresolved WORRY chord could be
heldunderthedubbedmandolinparts.Itsthatversionwhichwasfi
nally used as programme signature. I had to content myself with the
factthattherewasatleastaslightmusicalhintthatbeinganimmigrant
andorhostingimmigrantsmightnotbeentirelyunproblematic.
30

My interpretation of the producers selection of just one element and


her rejection of all the others is not that it was a matter of personal
taste.Sheseemedtometobesayingthatflutescanbecuteorexotic,
notstrident,inthesamewaythathostnationsappreciategratefuland
deferential immigrants who are never angry, alienated or frustrated.
She also seemed to be saying that immigrants could not be English
speakingandnotelectric(somuchforyourstrulyandhundredsofVi
etnamdraftdodgersinSwedenatthetime).Itwasasif,inhermind,we
should all conform to the hostnation immigrant stereotype that as
sumesweallcomefromfaroffandbackwardruralareaswhereweall
playpleasantlyunfamiliarmusiconpleasantlyunfamiliaracousticin
struments.Thestrangestthingwas,however,thatthesignaturetheme
shouldnotalludetotheoverridingpowerofthehostnationasacentral
issueaffectingthelivesofimmigrants.
This little signature theme story illustrates codal interference on a
grand scale. The producer knew as well as I did the values, attitudes
andfeelingsencodedinthechannel.However,althoughweprobably
bothhadaccesstoaverysimilarstoreofsigns,oursocioculturalnorms
andexpectationswereindefiniteconflict.Shedidnotthinkmymusical
view of being an immigrant was suitable and, as an immigrant, I
thoughtherswasbothunrealisticandunsympathetic.
30. Seefootnote29,p.187.
Tagg: Musics Meanings 5. Meaning and communication 189
Ofcourse,theproducerhadthefinalwordand,whoknows,shemay
havebeenright.Maybeshesawmeasacodallyincompetenttransmit
ter, as an unreliable or unprofessional young composer who didnt
come up with the goods. Perhaps I was supposed to produce some
thinghappierandmorecatchy,somethingthatwouldjustacoustically
identify the programme and put potential listeners in a NO PROBLEMS
frameofmind.However,sincetheonlyinformationIwasgivenabout
theprogrammedealtwithitscontent,IassumedthatIwastofocuson
that.If,ontheotherhand,myjobwastoprovideaninnocuousmusical
identifier and to prevent listeners from switching channels, I should
havebeentoldso,orwasIexpectedtoreadthatbetweenthelines?
Whateverthecasemaybe,itsverypossiblethatanothercommunica
tion problem caused the codal interference just described. That prob
lem relates to the task of formulating an adequate brief, i.e. the
instructionsgiventoamusicianorcomposerbysomeonewhoisusu
allynot.Thosedifficultiesare,intheirturn,onereasonforwritingthis
book.Thefactthatmusoandnonmusodiscourseaboutmusicdifferso
radically,forallthereasonsgiveninChapters24,callsforthedevelop
mentofmodelsandofaterminologyallowingmusosandnonmusos
tobetterunderstandeachother.
Somaticandconnotative
Throughoutthisbook,connotativeverbalexpressionsareusedtodes
ignateinterpretantslinkedtomusicalsounds.Thoseexpressionsturn
uprepeatedlyinChapter6asrespondentVVAs(=verbalvisualassoci
ations),buttherehavebeenplentyinthischapter,too.Apartfromall
themoodslistedinTable52(p. 176),wehadtoexplaintheAUSTRIA/
SHAMPOOideaaspartofasemanticfieldthatalsoincludespleasantas
pects of femininity, romance, open countryside, rounded shapes, and
softmaterials,aswellasmovementsqualifiableassmooth,flowingand
wavybutcontainingelementsofrustlingortingling.
31
Onseveralocca
31. SeesectionsWavesandromanceandGesturalcommondenominatorsinTLTT,
pp.231267,especiallyLullabies,childrenandlove(pp.249251);seealsounder
Gesturalinterconversioninthisbook(p. 502ff.).
190 Tagg: Musics Meanings 5. Meaning and communication
sionsIwarnedthattheseconnotativeverbalexpressionsarebutpallid
verbal approximations of musical meaning.
32
Ive also suggested that
theycansometimesactasculturallyspecific,metonymiclabelsorver
balmetaphorsofmusic.Forexample,anadequateaesthesiclabellike
spychord(p. 116)doesnotmeanthatthechordsignifiesspy:itsimply
functionsasacognitivereferencepointallowingustonameaparticular
set of musical interpretants in relation to a particular set of musical
signs.
33
Sowhatstheproblem?
Theproblemisthat,despitetherepeatedcaveatsjustmentioned,many
peoplestillobjecttoanyuseofverbalconnotationinthediscussionof
musicalmeaningbecause,theyargue,suchconnotationsfalsifythein
trinsically alogogenic character of music. Sometimes they argue their
pointbyusingtheadjectivesPRIMARYandSECONDARYtoqualifylevels
ofSIGNIFICATION,suchordinalcategorisationleadingtotheassumption
thatbeingontopofthepile(hierarchicallyprimary)orfirstinline
(sequentially primary) implies greater importance or superior value.
Now,Middleton,whointroducedthetermsprimaryandsecondary
signification (1990: 220227), in no way views the difference between
the two categories in that way. While his valid distinction is that be
tween how meaning might be produced at the introversive or pri
marylevelofsignificationandhowtheassociativesphereofmusical
meaning,thelevelofconnotationandextramusicalreference(second
ary),hestronglywarnsagainstthetemptationtoreducetheformerto
thesortofbodyistessentialismcriticisedinChapter3.
34

[T]thefieldsofgestureandconnotation(primaryandsecondarymean
ingasIvecalledthemelsewhere)areactuallycorrelated,throughthe
action of what some semiologists have termed a semantic gesture: a
unifying,generatingprincipletraversingsemioticlevels(somatic;refer
ential)andtiedtodeepculturalfunctions.(Middleton,2000:116)
32. Pallid:seepp. 68,176,346,346;seealsopp.78.
33. AsFabbri(1999: 4)explains,aprototype,alsocalledcognitivereferencepoint,isa
subcategoryorcategorymemberthathasaspecialcognitivestatusthatofbeinga
bestexample(Lakoff,1987:41).
Tagg: Musics Meanings 5. Meaning and communication 191
The common denominators of gesturality contained in the AUSTRIA/
SHAMPOO trope (rounded, soft, smooth, flowing, wavy, etc.) and dis-
cussed under Gestural interconversion (pp. 502-509) demonstrate
such unifying, generating principles which very clearly traverse so-
matic and referential levels of mediation (summer meadows as well as
undulation, so to speak) and are tied to deep cultural functions (e.g.
romantic and parental love).
35
The point is that if we abstain, for what-
ever reason, from using connotative verbal expression to designate mu-
sical interpretants, well never understand the social, cultural and
corporeal nature of the unifying semantic gesture because we will
have failed to verbally identify its constituent parts. It will moreover be
impossible to democratise the denotation of musical signs because aes-
thesic designation of musical structure relies by definition on their per-
ception and interpretation. If, as Middleton (loc. cit.) suggests and as
argued here, the somatic and connotative aspects of musical meaning
are, despite differences, neither contradictory nor mutually exclusive
then there is no problem with using connotative verbal expressions to
designate musical signs and their interpretants. This does not mean
that connotative aspects of musical mediation are more important than
somatic perception any more than the reverse is true: it simply means
that if humans are more than mere animal automata, then their use of
music will make little sense if somatic response is considered primary,
just as it would be absurd to privilege the patently obvious power of
music to move souls as well as bodies.
34. HeresafullerversionofMiddletonswarning(1990:227).[H]oweverattractivethe
possibilityofauniversalrhythmicbehaviouralcore,workingatanunconscious
level,suchgesturesareculturallymediated:sociallyacquired,conventionalisedin
form,givenmeaninginthecontextofspecificculturalpractices.Thisculturalspecif
icitymakescomparativeinterpretationofrhythmicstylesdangerous.Forinstance,
totalk[about]twentiethcenturypopularmusicofAfricanAmericanextraction
bycomparisonwith,say,Europeanartmusic,oritspretwentiethcenturybour
geoispopularderivativesasmoreinstinctive,morerhythmic,morebodyori
entated,missesthepointPopisntsexierthanBeethoven,anddrawingroom
balladsarentmorespiritualthanArethaFranklinToinsistotherwiseisalmost
inevitablytoendinracistpropositionsaboutthesuperiornaturalqualitiesofblack
music.Inthisbook,theideologicalagendaofbodyistvalueaestheticsisdiscussed
underPopularpostmodernistabsolutism(p.101ff.).
35. Formoredetail,seeTLTT: 249268and217ff.Theculturallyregulatedmusicaldif
ferencebetweenromanticandparentalloveisexplainedinTLTT,pp.249252.
192 Tagg: Musics Meanings 5. Meaning and communication
Summary
Chapters14weresupposedtodemystifynotionsofmusicandtoex
plain why the epistemic divisions between music and other forms of
knowledgearesoentrenchedintheWest.Inthischapterthefocuswas
on basic concepts of meaning and communication. The main argu
mentscanbesummarisedinthefollowingsevenpoints.
[1]Peircesdistinctionbetweenobjectandinterpretantinrelationtothe
sign allows for a dynamic view of musical semiosis. Even though it
saves time in semantics if you use Saussures SIGNIFIER SIGNIFIED,
Peirces triad OBJECT SIGN INTERPRETANT is more compatible with
thinkingaboutmusicintermsofsymbolicinteractionbetweenhumans.
Itsfromthisperspectivethattheobjectcanbeunderstoodasconception
or intended message at the transmitting end of a simple transmitter
channel receiver communication model, and the interpretant as (sur
prise!)itsinterpretationatthereceivingend.
[2]Sincemusicworkstosuchanoverwhelmingextentasaculturally
specificsignsystem,itsabilitytocarrymeaningreliesontheexistence
ofasharedstoreofsignscommontotransmittersandreceiversinthe
relevantculturalcontext.Althoughobject(intendedmessage)andin
terpretant(listenerresponse)canneverbeidentical,musicalcommu
nicationusuallyworks,otherwisetherewouldbenocallformusicon
ceremonialoccasions,norinTVads,computergamesoranywhereelse
for that matter. However, there will be communication failure if the
musicincludessignsunfamiliartoitsaudience,orifinterpretationof
signs from the common store varies radically between transmitter
(composer,musician,etc.)andreceiver(audience).
[3] Musical communication failure can occur for logistic reasons of
acoustics,technology,etc.,buttheirmostcommoncausesarecodalin
competenceorcodalinterference.Codalincompetencearisesiftransmit
ter and receiver do not share the same store of signs (including their
meanings);itcanoccuratboththetransmittingandreceivingendsof
the communication process. Codal interference arises when transmitter
andreceiverdosharethesamestoreofsignsandtheirmeaningsbutdo
nottranslatethosesamemeaningsintothesamefinalinterpretants.Dif
ferencesinsocioculturalvaluesoftencausecodalinterference.
Tagg: Musics Meanings 5. Meaning and communication 193
[4]Codalincompetenceandcodalinterference(intentionalornot)are
prerequisites for shifts in musical meaning. Signs from one culturally
specificstore(orvocabulary)canbeappropriatedintoanotherwhere
theyacquireadifferentmeaningorfunction.
[5]AmongPeircesnumeroustrinitiesofsigntypes,oneisofparticular
usetomusicalsemantics:iconindexarbitrarysign.Arbitrarysignsare
rareinmusic,whereasiconsarenotuncommonandindicesarevirtu
allyomnipresent.
[6]Connotationisntlessconcreteorlessefficientthandenotationand
musicisdefinitelynotmorepolysemicthanlanguage.Musicisacon
notative,alogogenicsignsystem.Verbaldescriptionsofmusicalmean
ingmustthereforebetreatedasveryapproximateverbalconnotations
ofmusicallyprecisemessages.
[7] Since connotation relies on the existence of previously established
meaning[s],andsinceindicesaresignsconnectedbyeithercausalityor
proximitytowhattheysignify,musicalsemiosistendstobebothcon
notativeandindexical.InthenexttwochaptersIlltrytoexplainhow
thatsortofsemiosiscanbesubstantiatedandunderstood.
36

36. AndasimpletypologyofmusicalsignsispresentedinChapter13.
194 Tagg: Musics Meanings 5. Meaning and communication
Tagg: Musics Meanings 195
6.Intersubjectivity
LOGOGENIChasbeenusedseveraltimesinthisbooktoqual
ifythenounmusic.Itbasicallymeansthatmusicisunverbalis
able and thats because its semiotic precision, linked to
gestural,tactile,corporeal,emotionalandprosodicformsofcommuni
cation,reliesmainlyoniconic,indexicalandconnotativetypesofsem
iosis.Itcertainlydoesntneedthedenotativesortofsignsusedinthis
sentence! Talking and writing about music as if it meant something
otherthanitselfisinotherwordsverydifficult,atleastinthetradition
of learning with which Im familiar.
1
Chapters 6 and 7 confront that
problemheadon.Theirbasicrationaleisasfollows.
Givenmusicsobvioustraitsofsocialorganisationandculturalspecifi
city,itoughttobepossible,usingwordsandothersigntypes,toform
some idea of the links between the sounds of music and something
otherthanthemselves,eveniftryingtoputthosesoundsdirectlyinto
wordsisapointlessundertaking.Ifthatrationalemakesanysenseat
all, we ought logically to be able to suggest how anyone capable of
readingthesewordscaninvestigatemusicalmeaninganddiscusssuch
meaninginviableterms.ThatisatleasttheaimofChapters6and7.
As suggested earlier (p. 174 ff.), musical communication works best
whenthoseattheemittingandreceivingendsoftheprocesssharesim
ilarsocioculturalnormsandthesamebasicstoreofsigns.Sincethose
normsandthatstoreofsignsarebothpartofthesocioculturalfieldin
whichmusicalsemiosistakesplace,itmakesobvioussensetolookat
that semiosis in socially verifiable terms. Thats where intersubjectivity
(seenextparagraph)comesin.Thischapterdealswithsharedsubjec
tivityatthereceivingendofthecommunicationprocess,whileChapter
7considersthequestionofinterobjectivereferencesorhypertexts.Both
these fields of investigation can provide valuable information about
musicalmeaning.
1. See,forexample,pp.115,120and171.Formusicsalogogeneity,seep. 62, ff.
N
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6
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.

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196 Tagg: Musics Meanings 6. Intersubjectivity
Intersubjectivity arises when at least two individuals experience the
same thing in a similar way. The same (or a similar) experience is in
otherwordssharedbetween(inter)twoormorehumansubjects.Now,
musicalexperiencesareoftenregardedashighlypersonalandsubjec
tive,butitsjustaseasytounderstandthefactthatwithoutintersubjec
tivitytherewouldbenocommunitiesofmusicaltaste,noformatradio,
no music industry and no other objective social phenomena demon
strably related to different musical configurations. Indeed, music for
film, TV, games, advertising, dancing, weddings, funerals, sports
eventsandsoonwouldallbepointlessifallindividualsinagivenau
dienceunderstoodandreactedtothesamemusicalsoundsinradically
differentways.Thissimpletruthimpliesthatanyonelookingforevi
denceofmusicalmeaningmightdowelltolookforpatternsofinter
subjectivityrelevanttothemusicunderanalysis.Thatmeansturningin
thefirstinstancetothefinalarbitersofmusicalmeaning,tothosewho
hearthemusicinquestion,whouseitandreacttoit,inordertoverify
theexistenceornonexistenceofsharedinterpretants.
2
Aesthesicfocus
Itsoftentempting,especiallyformusos,toinvestigatemattersofmusi
calmeaningatthetransmittingendofthecommunicationprocess,i.e.
bystudyingpoesisratherthanaesthesis.Now,issuesofauthorialin
tent can indeed be important in terms of insights about processes of
musical production why musicians choose to make sound x rather
thansoundyinrelationtophenomenonz,sotospeakbutthatisnot
thefocusofattentioninthisbookforthefollowingsixreasons.
[1]Itsoftendifficulttocontacttheartist,composerormusicianbehind
themusicyoureanalysing.Someareinaccessibletheymaybepro
tectedbymediaindustryguarddogswhileothersmayquitesimply
bedead.
3
[2]Ifyoudomanagetocontactyourtransmitterstheywontnecessar
ilywanttotalkaboutwhattheymeanttomediatethroughtheirmusic.
2. Forexplanationofinterpretant,seepage156,ff.
3. SeeAnoteontheacquisitionofsourcematerial(Tagg,2000a:2224)fordetailsof
aninstructiveaccountofsuchproblems.
Tagg: Musics Meanings 6. Intersubjectivity 197
Manywillsaytheyintendednothinginparticularortellyouthemusic
speaksforitself.Otherswilltalkabouttheirmusicinpoetictermsand
leaveyounonethewiseraboutwhattheymeantbyitall.
4
[3]Whentransmittersverbalisecomprehensiblyabouttheirmusicin
interviewsorinwriting,theyhavetoconsidertheirimageandcredibil
ityinparticularsocioculturalcircumstancesbecausewhattheysayor
writecandeterminewhat,ifany,theirnextgigmightbe.Youneedto
knowmoreaboutwhattheyreallymeanbytheirmusicthanhowthey
currentlyseeitinrelationtotheirpublicpersona.
5
[4] Information from just one individual (composer, arranger, pro
ducer,artist,etc.)canbydefinitionneverbeintersubjective.Greaterre
liabilityofintersubjectiveinformationisgainedbyconsultingagreater
numberofindividuals.Therefore,unlessyourestudyingesotericmu
sical situations where transmitters outnumber receivers,
6
it makes
more sense to investigate patterns of intersubjectivity about musics
meaningsamongitslisteners(aesthesis),lesssotofocusontheproduc
tionpole(poesis)ofthecommunicationprocess.
[5] Focusing on the poetic pole can certainly be useful in providing
technical tips to budding composers and musicians; but the risk with
thatfocusis,aswesawinChapter3,thatitprivilegespoeticattheex
penseofaesthesiccompetence.
7
Thisneglectofaesthesisdoeslittleto
promotethedemocraticsortofmusicologyalludedtointheNONMUSO
partofthisbookstitle,amusicologywhich,aswellsee,seekstouse
aesthesiccompetencetohelpconstructavocabularyofdescriptorsfor
aspects of musical structuration (e.g. vocal timbre) that conventional
poeticterminologydoesnotcoversatisfactorily.
[6]Althoughtransmittersandreceiversbothobviouslyconsistofin
dividuals,theformeraremuchmorelikelytobeidentifiedassuch(the
4. Themusiciansguildmentality:seeTagg(1982: 41;2000a: 123);seefootnote6.
5. SeecommentsonMahler,Stravinsky,Bowie,KorngoldandMorricone,pp.8990.
6. Seefootnote94,p.129.Musomusichastomyknowledgeyettoberesearchedasa
musostructuralandsocialphenomenon.
7. Seep. 115, ff.,esp.underSkills,competences,knowledges(p. 118, ff.).Aesthesic
competenceremainsalargelyvernacularandextracurricularaffair.(p. 119).
198 Tagg: Musics Meanings 6. Intersubjectivity
namedcomposerorartist,thestar)thanthelatterwhousuallyremain
nameless,viewedenmasseintermsofanaudience,thepublic,the
fans, etc. It may be understandable if, from this perspective, conven
tionalstudiesofmusicfavourfocusonreadilyidentifiablemusicalin
dividualsattheexpenseofthefacelessmasses;butoneconsequenceof
such institutionalised auteurcentrism is that, by privileging authorial
intentandskill,itmarginalisesanddisqualifiesthedemonstrablemu
sicalcompetenceofindividualscomprisingthemusicsaudience.
8
Au
thorship is conflated with authority, so to speak: more importance is
attributedtointendedmeaningthantoitsperception,thesignsobject
(inPeircessense)takingprideofplaceoveritsinterpretants.However,
aswesawwiththeStrawbssongPartOfTheUnion(p. 184, ff.<)and
withthetitlethemeIrecordedforSwedishradio(p. 186, ff.),assigning
semioticprivilegetothepoeticpolecanbefatalbecause,whateverau
thorialintentionmayhavebeen,listenersarethefinalarbitersofmusi
cal meaning. It is they, not me, not The Strawbs, nor any other
transmitter,whoformitsfinalinterpretants,theywhousethemusic
inparticularsocioculturalcontexts,theywhonegotiateandadaptthe
musics meanings after it has left authorial hands. Besides, there are
manymoreofthemthanofmeorofTheStrawbs.Puttersely,thefinal
proofofthesemiomusicalpuddingisinitseating.
Noneofthismeanstosaythatdiscussionofauthorialintentionisirrel
evant to the discussion of musical semiosis. However, the six reasons
justpresentedsuggestthatitwouldbeinadvisabletoprioritisepoesis
intheinvestigationofmusicalmeaningineverydaylife,moreprudent
and productive to turn primarily to its final arbiters so that the exist
enceornonexistenceofsharedinterpretantscanbestudiedontheba
sis of some sort of empirical evidence. Shared interpretants, if they
exist,canbeobservedattwogenerallevels,onemoreethnographic,the
othermoreconnotative,moreexplicitlysemiotic.
8. SeealsounderLaw,economy,technology,subjectivity(p. 124, ff.),especiallyabout
romanticisedauteurcentrism(p. 129).Aesthesiccompetenceisprofuselydocu
mentedintheresponsestoTenLittleTitleTunes(Tagg&Clarida,2003: 769794).
Tagg: Musics Meanings 6. Intersubjectivity 199
Ethnographicintersubjectivity
Behaviouralanddemographicintersubjectivitycanbeobservedethno
graphicallyandinvolvessuchfactorsas:
9

listeningmode,e.g.whetherthemusicunderanalysisisplayedin
thebackgroundorifitsmorethefocusofaudienceattention;
listeningvenue,e.g.ifthemusicisheardinacar,athome,inpublic
spaces,inclubsorbars,orataplaceofworship,throughspeakers
orheadphones,liveorprerecorded;
listeneractivity,e.g.whetherthemusicincitestheaudiencetosing
ordance,strollormarch,toriseuporsitdown,tobreakintotears
oroutlaughing,towakeuporgotosleep,etc.
culturallocation(scene),includingdemographic,historical,geo
graphical,ethnic,linguisticandsartorialinformation;e.g.ifthe
musicis/wasmadeand/orheard/usedbymiddleclassSwedesin
theirthirtiesaround1975,byyoungmalegangmembersinSouth
L.A.inthe1980s,byelderlyKosovoAlbaniansinthe1990s,byexile
TamilsinToronto,bygoths,punks,lagerloutsorbankexecutives
wearingbaggyjeans,nationalcostume,pinstripedsuits,flipflops,
denimorclubwear,etc.
10
Observations of the sort just listed can provide useful information
aboutcertainaspectsofmusicalmeaning.Ifwethinkofmusicalstruc
tureintermsofsignsandofresponsesobservedonhearingthatmusic
intermsofinterpretants,itfollowsthataparticularpieceorextractof
musicgivingrisetoobservablesimilaritiesofreasonablyconsistentau
dienceresponseintheformofparticulartypesofactivity,emotionor
connotation implies that the music in question in some sense signifies
the complex of physical, social, cultural and emotional response with
whichitsassociatedorwhichitappearstoelicit.Theonlyproblemis
thatsomeofthepointslistedabove,especiallythoseincludedunderlis
9. SeealsoParametersofparamusicalexpression(p. 268), ff.
10. TheSwedishsceneisthatenvisagedinmyanalysisofAbbasFernando(Tagg,
2000b),theParisianonethatoftheFrenchaccordionandvalsesmusettes.Thebaggy
jeansandSouthL.A.aremorelikelytobeindicativeofgangstarap,denimand
studdedbeltsofvarioustypesofrock,clubwearwithraveculture,etc.Ivenoidea
whatmusicwouldbeassociatedwithelderlyKosovoAlbanians(maybetheiftelia)
norwiththelisteninghabitsofTamilTorontonians.SeealsounderParametersof
paramusicalexpression(p.268ff.)
200 Tagg: Musics Meanings 6. Intersubjectivity
teningmodeanddemographiclocation,willvaryconsiderablyintermsof
semiosisdependingonculturalcontext,especiallyinrelationtowhich
audienceisidentifiedatthereceivingendofthemusicalcommunication
process. Different audiences in different cultural circumstances give
risetodifferentpatternsofsharedsubjectivityinrelationtothesame
music. Since one single set of intersubjectively shared responses can
neverbeappliedtoallaudiencesatalltimesinallsituations,
11
itisvital,
whenusingpatternsofintersubjectivityobservedatthereceivingend
ofthecommunicationprocessasabasisfordiscussingquestionsofmu
sicalmeaning,tobeclearaboutwhichaudienceyouarereferringtoin
whichhistoricalandculturalcircumstances.Suchdemographicpreci
sionisalsoessentialwhenitcomestothemainsourceofuserinforma
tiondiscussedinthischapter:connotativeintersubjectivity.
Receptiontests
Connotative intersubjectivity involves indirect observations about
sharedresponsestomusic.Suchobservationsareoftenmadethrough
themediationofwordsdescribingwhatlistenerssee,feel,imagineor
otherwiseassociatetowhenhearingaparticularpieceorextractofmu
sic.IntheinterestsofbrevityIllcallaparticularpieceorextractofmu
sicthemusicalanalysisobjectAOforshort(Glossary,p.582)andIll
refertotheverbalexpressionofwhatlistenerssee,feel,imagineoroth
erwiseassociatetoasverbalvisualassociationsVVAsforshort.
12

VVAs in response to a particular AO can of course be gathered by


studyingwritingsabouttheAOinreviews,inlayorsleevenotes,blogs,
etc;
13
butitcanoftenbeproductivetoasklistenersdirectlyfortheirre
sponse to music, either in conversation or by means of a reception test.
The immediacy and informality of onetoone conversations more
closely resemble everyday listening situations but their transcription
andsemioticcollocation,inadditiontothetaskofactuallyconducting
11. SeetherefutationofuniversalmusicinChapter2(p. 47, ff.)andthediscussionof
codalincompetenceandinterferenceinChapter5(pp. 179189).
12. Visualverbalmediationofmusicalmessageposesanobviousmethodological
problem.Thatproblemisdiscussedunder7,p. 219, ff.
13. Theconnotativeverbaldescriptionsofmusicfoundinlibrarymusicproductions
areparticularlyusefulinthesemioticanalysisofmusic(seepp.223227).
Tagg: Musics Meanings 6. Intersubjectivity 201
thoseconversations,canbeverytimeconsuming.Receptiontestsalso
demand, as we shall see, their fair share of semiotic collocation work
but they have the distinct advantage of needing no transcription and
canberunonmanyrespondentsatthesametime.Suchtests,itshould
beadded,arenttestsintheusualsenseoftheword:theyinnowaytest
theskilloflistenerstoproviderightanswersintheformofpreviously
determinedVVAsinresponsetotheAO.Theonlythingtheydotestare
hypotheses about what an AO might mean and listener responses to
thattestaresupposedtohelpverifyorfalsifythosehypotheses.
Receptiontestscanbeconductedliveinaclassroomsituationorposted
ontheinternet.Oneadvantagewithlivereceptiontestsisthatyouhave
acaptiveaudiencewhoseresponsesyoucancollectonthespot.Adis
tinct disadvantage is that classrooms are supposed to be sites of ra
tional discourse rather than of the holistic, lateral and synaesthetic
types of cognition associated with music, as discussed in Chapter 2.
Thereareatleasttwowaysofminimisingthatcognitivecontradiction.
You can: [1] present very short music examples that give little or no
timeforrationalreflexionorintellectualreasoningand,ifyouretesting
morethanoneexample, leavelittle or notime fordeductivethinking
betweeneachexample;[2]moreimportantly,youcangiverespondents
clear instructions underlining that youre looking for immediate re
sponsestomusic,notforverballywellreasonedargumentationorhigh
standardsofwriting.
14
Internetreceptiontestsalsohaveprosandcons.Oneobviousdrawback
is that some individuals may listen more times or more attentively
through better sound equipment and spend longer formulating their
responsethanothers.Suchvariationoflisteningattitudeandsituation
cangeneratedatathatmaybeirrelevanttowhatyouwanttotest.They
can produce extraneous variations in response that are less likely to
ariseintheuniformclassroomsituationandthatmayintroducevaria
bles that arent part of the exercise.
14
This risk can be reduced if re
spondentsaregivenclearinstructionsabouthowtheyaresupposedto
listentothemusicexample[s]inquestion.
14. Seepage207foranexampleofreceptiontestinstructions.
202 Tagg: Musics Meanings 6. Intersubjectivity
Theadvantagesofinternettestingare:[1]youavoidproblemsofillegi
blehandwritingbecausesubjectsentertheirresponsesviaacomputer
keyboard;[2]youcancutandpasteresponsesintowhateverdocument
youneedtoproducewhenwritinguptheresults;[3]thetestenviron
ment will probably resemble that of everyday listening more closely
thandoestheclassroomsituation.
15

Atleastfourmainissuesneedtobeaddressedbeforeyouactuallytest
anymusiconanyrespondentsunderanycircumstances.
Whichmusicsmeaningsdoyouwanttotest?
Whodoyouwanttotestthosemeaningson?
Whatsortoflisteningattitudeshouldrespondentsideallyadopt?
Inwhatformdoyouwanttheresponses?
Those four questions give rise to several other important considera
tions of which theres room here to mention just a few. Firstly, youll
need to decide if you want to test responses for several pieces or just
one, or if you want to concentrate on one or two short extracts high
lightingparticularpointsofmusicalstructureandmeaninginsideone
andthesamepiece.Hereitsworthrememberingthatthemorepieces
orextractsyouincludeinabatteryoftestexamples,themorelistener
responsesarelikelytobeinfluencedbywhattheyjustheard.Forexam
ple, a suspensechord stab preceded by a thrash metal riff may not
soundasthreateningasafterawistfulballad.Similarly,thelongerthe
exampleorextractyouplaytoyourlisteners,themorelikelyitistoin
volvesomesortofnarrative,i.e.togoelsewhereortomovethrough
morethanjustonerelativelycoherentmusogenicsemanticfield.That
cancauseproblemsifyouretestinghypothesesofsignificationrelating
toonesuchsinglesetofmusicalstructuresortojustonemusogenicse
manticfield;butifyoureinterestedinVVAselicitedbymusicalnarra
tivealongertestexamplewillbenecessarytodiscoverhowmuchyour
respondentshearprocessesroughlyverbalisableinconceptslikeABOUT
TO, THEN, SUDDENLY, GRADUALLY, CHANGES TO, ALL THE TIME, ONCE
AGAIN,JUSTBEFORE,AFTERWHICH,etc.
16

15. Seepage207foranexampleofreceptiontestinstructions.SeeChapter11(p.383,
ff.)fordiscussionofdiataxis(narrativeform).
Tagg: Musics Meanings 6. Intersubjectivity 203
Secondly,ifyouwanttotesthypothesesofmusicalsignificationwith
out respondents being influenced by verbal or visual message, you
needtoconsider,inthecaseofasong,concentratingoninstrumental
passagesorchoosingasongwithlyricsinalanguagethatrespondents
dontunderstand.Inthecaseofmusicandthemovingimageitsoften
worthselectingrelevantinstrumentalextractsfromthesoundtrackal
bumor,failingthat,playingextractsfromthefullsoundtrackthatcon
tainaslittledialogueandasfewsoundeffectsaspossible.Ontheother
hand,youmightactuallywanttofocusonvocalproductionoronthe
effectsofmusicinconjunctionwithimages.Inthosecasesyoullprob
ably have to construct your own test examples, juxtaposing two or
more different vocalisations of the same lyrics, or, in the case of pic
tures,eithertwoormoredifferentmusicstothesameimagesordiffer
entvisualsequencestothesamemusic.Ofcourse,ifyouwantedtotest
theeffectsoflyricsonmusicalmessageyouwouldhavetoconstructex
ampleswithdifferentlyricstothesamemusicordifferentmusictothe
samelyrics.Suchcrosstestingcanbeveryusefulbutitposesoneprob
lemofmethod.
17
Thedifficultyisthatifrespondentshearinsuccession
identicalmusicwithdifferentverbalorvisualaccompaniment,ordif
ferentmusicsaccompanyingthesamewordsorvisuals,orthesamevo
cal statement treated in different ways at the mixing desk, listener
attentionwillautomaticallybefocusedonthosedifferences.Sincethat
kindoffocusrarelyoccursunderthesortofeverydaylisteningcondi
tionswhichyoumightideallywanttoreplicateinatestsituation,you
16. Thiscategoryofresponse,EpisodicTimePosition(VVAsrelatingtotimewithinthe
imaginednarrative),isnumbered03intheVVAtaxonomyoverviewpresented
below(p. 209, ff.),basedinitsturnonthetaxonomyinTLTT(745768).Thesemiosis
ofepisodictimeisdiscussedatthestartofouranalysisofthethemefromAStreetcar
NamedDesire(TLTT:551562).
17. Lacasse(2000:153166)treatedthesamerecordedvocalstatementineightdifferent
ways:[1]reverb,[2]distortion,[3]flanging,[5]echo,[6]telephonefilter,[7]slap
echoand[8]harmoniser,allinadditionto[0]normal(untreated).Lacassenotes
(p. 161)thatDISTORTIONwasconsideredmalevolent,withlittlepotency,quite
unnatural,withnospecificconnotationregardingtime,veryunstable,quitefar
[away],alittleprofaneandneithersadnorhappy.[N]ORMALVOICEwasperceived
asquitebenevolent,indifferentlypotent,verynatural,quitestable,quiteclose,
withnoreligiousconnotation,neitherhappynorsad.
204 Tagg: Musics Meanings 6. Intersubjectivity
couldtryplayingsomeofthe examplesto one group oflistenersand
the others to different but demographically similar respondents. Of
course,thatprocedureinvolvesmoreworkandraisesotherproblems,
forexamplethetaskofverifyingtowhatextentthedifferentrespond
entgroupsareinfactculturallyanddemographicallysimilar.
Thirdly,thesecondofthefourmainquestionsposedatthestartofthis
subsection (p. 202) asked what sort of audience you have in mind for
your reception test. You might, for example, want to concentrate on
fans,devoteesorexpertsofaparticulartypeofmusic;ormaybeyoud
prefer to use as wide and heterogeneous a population as possible. In
the first instance its a good idea to also test your AO[s] on a control
groupofnonexpertstofindoutwhatVVAsarespecifictofansand
whicharesharedbyawidercommunity.
18
Ineithercase,itsessentialto
gatherstandarddemographicandotherculturallyrelevantdatafrom
eachrespondent.
19

Thefourthquestioninwhatformdoyouwanttheresponses?isbasi
cally an issue of multiple choice versus unguided association. Multiple
choice answers are much easier to deal with because they present no
problemsoflegibilityandbecausetheyconvertconvenientlyintosta
tistics.However,multiplechoicetestswillbemethodologicallyflawed
if you cant convincingly explain which processes led you to exclude
everythinkableresponse possibilityand toinclude onlytheveryfew
alternativesyouallowrespondentstoselectfrom.
Unguidedassociation
Thereareseveralimportantadvantagesinusingunguidedassociation.
Thefirstpointisthatalthoughtherelativeimmediacyofresponsein
volvedinnotingafewwordsonablankscreenorsheetofpaperdoes
18. SeesupplementaryassociationsinCollins(2002: 245;355358)forexplanationof
howbothfansofindustrialandthoselessfamiliarwiththegenreenvisagethesame
sortofdystopianscenariotothesamemusicbuthowsomenonfansreportimages
offascismwhilesuchconnotationsaretotallyabsentinthefansresponses.
19. Age,gender,placeofresidenceareusuallymandatory.Ethnicity,education,degree
offamiliaritywiththemusicinquestion,etc.canalsobeuseful,ifnotessential.Itall
dependsonwhatyoureallywanttofindoutwithyourreceptiontest.
Tagg: Musics Meanings 6. Intersubjectivity 205
notsatisfactorilysimulateeverydaymusiclisteningsituations,itdoes
somuchlessinadequatelythanhavingtoreadapreparedtext,putfig
ures into boxes or tick alternatives on a neatly prepared test form.
Moreover,theMULTIPLEinmultiplechoiceisreallyamisnomerinthat
such tests restrict listener response options much more severely than
doesablanksheetorcomputerscreenanswerboxprecededbyafew
basic instructions.
20
In fact its reasonable to interpret each freely in
ducedresponseasculturallymoresignificantthanmultiplechoicean
swers because each response is actively created by the listener with
musicasmainstimuluswithouttherestrictionsofalimitednumberof
readymadealternatives.Inadditiontotheseadvantages,itshouldbe
rememberedthatonemainaimofthesortofmusicalreceptiontestdis
cussedhereistofindouthowpeoplerelatemusictootherphenomena
thanjustmusic.Likeitornot,usingmultiplechoicetestingimpliesa
largedegreeofcertaintyastowhatalternativesoughtandoughtnotto
beincludedinconnectionwitheachAO.Sinceveryfewscholars,ifany,
can lay claim to such certainty when it comes to musical meanings,
multiplechoicetestingcannotbeconsideredthewisestoption.
Another problem with multiplechoice methods of gathering musical
receptiondataisthattheyhavetendedtofavouradjectivesdescribing
general moods or emotions and to avoid reporting other types of lis
tener response.
21
This kind of affective adjectival bias has meant that
extremely common types of VVA like people (e.g. VILLAIN, PRINCESS,
TEENAGERS, LOVERS, JAMES BOND), objects (e.g. CAR, CRINOLINE, CIGA
RETTES,SHAMPOO,NEONLIGHTS),settings(e.g.SEA,FIELDS,CHURCH,STREET,
SUBURB,PARIS,DISTANTGALAXY;MEDIEVAL,1950S,DISTANTFUTURE;ARISTO
CRATIC, WORKING CLASS) are usually absent from such studies. Of
course,affectiveadjectiveslikeSAD,HAPPY,PLEASANT,UNPLEASANT,RO
MANTIC, CALM, THREATENING are all perfectly viable codescriptors of
musical experience and must also be taken into account but they
20. Tobecometrulymultipleinstudiesofmusicalconnotation,multiplechoiceforms
wouldhavetobevoluminous,requiringrespondentstoreadthroughaplethoraof
alternativesbeforeeachpiece.Anexampleofbasicinstructionsisonpage 207.
21. SeeGeneralAffectiveAttributes,1intheTaxonomyofVVAs(p. 209, ff.).Seepp.
7178andTagg(1987b:2845)forproblemswithemotionwords,and7(p. 219)for
theoreticalissuesaboutverbalisingthevisual.
206 Tagg: Musics Meanings 6. Intersubjectivity
shouldneverbetheexclusive,nornecessarilytheprimary,focusofre
ception tests. If they are, response data can become skewed and mis
leadingly vague, for not only will physical, historical and social
connotationbeabsent:sowillmusicsobviouscapacitytocommunicate
notionsofspace,gestureandmovement.
22

To concretise the issue just raised, imagine two sets of response to a


soundrecordingofaHammerhorrorfilmpasticheofJ.S.Bachspopu
larToccataandFugueinDminor(1705).Onelistenerrespondsmajestic,
ecclesiastical and ominous while the other writes Count Dracula drooling
overtheorganinhisdampanddegeneratecastlebeforehittingthenightairin
searchofyoungblood.
23
Thefirstresponsecertainlycontainsappropriate
adjectivesbutthesecondismoremusogenic,fornotonlydoesitimply
allthreeadjectivesinthefirstresponse(COUNTandCASTLEaremajestic,
the ORGAN is ecclesiastical and the remaining concepts are ominous
enough);italsoconnotesgestural,tactileandkineticdetailmissingin
the first response: DROOLING, DAMP, DEGENERATE, HITTING, NIGHT AIR,
SEARCHing,YOUNGBLOOD.Inshort,thegeneralaffectivityexpressedby
adjectives selected from multiple choice alternatives, themselves by
definitionarestrictedselectionofallavailableaffectiveadjectives,may
seem fine from a verbal semantic viewpoint, but they are musogeni
callyinadequate(seepp.7478).Therefore,ifyouwanttoavoidthepit
fall of affective adjectival restriction, why not tell your respondents,
beforetheyhearanything,somethingalongthefollowinglines?
22. Theempiricalintersubjectivedatacollectedinreceptiontestsforthesemioticdis
cussionofTenTitleTunes(Tagg&Clarida,2003)consistedofatotalof8,552VVAs
collectedofwhich1,700(20%)wereclassedasGENERALAFFECTIVE.PEOPLE,BEINGS
ANDPROPSaccountedfor2082(24%),SCENES1,928(23%),MOVEMENTSPACEAND
TIME1,230(14%)andMEDIAIMMANENTASSOCIATIONS1,053(12%)(others7%).
23. TheBachpiecehasbecomeanunmistakablehorrortrope.Itwasusedinfilmslike
DrJekyllandMrHyde(1931),BlackCat(1934),TheRaven(1935),TheGhostsofBerkeley
Square(1947),20,000LeaguesundertheSea(1954),TheUnearthly(1957),ThePhantom
oftheOpera(1962),Rollerball(1975),EatenAlive(1980),Gremlins2(1990)andThePest
(1997).ItalsofeaturedinTVepisodeslikeAttackoftheCybermen(DrWho,1985),
DayoftheDevil(Morse,1993),HauntedHouse(TheRenandStimpyShow,1994),
MonsterMovie(Supernatural,2008),VampireWeekend(Castle,2009),and
Spooked(TheOffice,2011),nottomentionasemitechnoversionforWCastlevania
(1986).AlthoughmanyYouTubepostingsofthepiecementionDracula,Ididnot
discoverasinglereferencetoitsuseinanyDraculafilm[120701].
Tagg: Musics Meanings 6. Intersubjectivity 207
Duringthenextmminutesyoullhearnshortmusicalextracts.Illsay
thenumberofeachonejustbeforeyouhearit.Pleasenotethatnumber
intheleftmarginofthepageandthenwritedownwhateveryouthink
couldbehappeningonanimaginaryfilmorTVscreenalongwitheach
extractyouhear.Therewontbemuchtimetothink,nortowrite,soyou
dontneedtoformulatecompletesentencesorbotheraboutspellingor
grammar; just jot down the impressions that come into your head for
each piece of music. It might be a mood, or people you see in your
mindseye,whattheyredoing,whatshappening(ifanything),where
andwhenitshappening,whatitfeelslikeandsoon.
24
These were the basic reception test instructions given to the 607 re
spondents whose VVAs provided the empirical intersubjective data
used in the project Ten Little Title Tunes (TLTT).
25
The aim of that test
wastodiscoverwhatkindofconnotationswellknownmusicalstruc
tures in relatively unknown pieces of film and TV music would elicit
fromawiderangeoflisteners.
Obviously,receptiontestinstructionswilldivergefromthosejustcited
depending on which music is being tested on which respondents for
whichpurposes,butonethingisclear:unguidedassociationresponses
willprobablyneedtobewrittenupandthatmeansputtingtheminto
somesortofclassificatorysystem.Indeed,althoughthekindsofrecep
tiontestdiscussedinthischapterallinvolvesomesortofmethodolog
icalproblem,
26
theywillbeneitherunreliablenorpointlessaslongas
their aims, parameters and limitations are made clear. In fact, treated
carefullyandtransparently,receptiontests,evenonjustasingleextract
ofmusicheardbyamerehandfulofpeople,canprovideusefulempir
ical information about degrees of intersubjectivity in response to the
testpieceorextract.Ofcourse,theviabilityofareceptiontestusingun
guidedassociationdependsonhowtheresponsesitproducesareinter
preted,collatedandpresented.
24. Ifrespondentsalsotellyouiftheythinkthemusicbelongstoaparticularstyle,orif
itremindsthemofothermusic,orofmusicbyaparticularbandorcomposer,orif
thevocalsremindthemofaparticularsinger,etc.youwillincreasetheamountof
IOCMyoucanusetomakeyoursemioticanalysismoreconvincing(seep. 238, ff.)
25. SeeTLTT(TenLittleTitleTunes)p.118forafullversionoftheseinstructions.See
pp.1719forashortdescriptionoftheprojectandthebook.
26. Fordiscussionofproblemswithunguidedreceptiontests,seep.215,ff.
208 Tagg: Musics Meanings 6. Intersubjectivity
Classifyingtestresponses
Ivealreadydescribedhow,whentryingtomakesemioticsenseofour
respondentsassociationstothemusicwemadethemhear,BobClarida
andIcametotheconclusionthatthetwolinguisticallydisparateVVAs
AUSTRIA and SHAMPOO had to be understood as musogenically similar
whentakenasresponsestooneandthesameshortextractofmusic.
27
Of course, in order to argue that point we had to know how much
AUSTRIA rather than, say, BRAZIL or JAPAN and how much SHAMPOO
ratherthan,say,GUNSorCIGARETTESourrespondentsimaginedonhear
ing the reception test piece in question. That in turn meant devising
waysofthinkingaboutresponsesincategorieslikegeneralmoodsand
emotions,possibleprotagonistsandbackgroundfigures,animals,ob
jects,scenes(geographical,ethnic,social,architectural,historical,etc.),
action,movement,speed,stasis,spatiality,singularity,multiplicity,nar
rative, causality, and so on, while at the same time considering re
sponses mentioning other pieces of music or other types of symbolic
representation like drama, film or TV, including names of musicians,
composers,actors,artistsanddirectors.Weeventuallycameupwitha
responsegrid,whichweconstructedonanongoingbasistohousethe
responseswereceived,sothatwecouldreport,forexample,howmuch
ofwhichsortofhumans,animalsorinsects(ifany)wereimagineddo
ingwhat(ifanything)inwhichwaywithwhateffectinwhichsortof
settingandatmosphereatwhichtimeofdayornightandatwhattime
inhistory,inwhichtypeofweather,atwhatspeedandwithwhichtype
of movement, calmly or with agitation, or with humour, gently or
threateningly, happily or sadly, robotically or gracefully, quietly and
peacefullyornoisilyandfrenetically,etc.,etc.Ashortversionofthatre
sponse grid, with the overriding singledigit categories (1, 2, etc.) di
videdintodoubledigitsubcategories(11,12,etc.)andagainintothree
digit subtypes(111, 112, etc.),but without the original fourdigit sub
subtypes(1111,1112,etc.),occupiesthenextfewpages.
28
Itsincluded
here as an illustration of how unguided associations to music can be
grouped into semantic categories. Its followed by explanations of its
mostimportantissuesoftheoryandmethod.
27. SeeTheDreamofOlweninTagg&Clarida(2003:155276)and,inthisbook,
Polysemyandconnotativeprecision(p.167,ff.).SeealsoTagg(2005a).
Tagg: Musics Meanings 6. Intersubjectivity 209
TABLE 6-1: VVATAXONOMYOVERVIEW
29
0.Statisticsandrelativetimeposition
00.Teststatistics
001003:blanks,recognitions,illegibleresponses
02.Synoptictimeposition
021. START:curtaincomesup,introduction,maintheme,opening,overture
022. MIDDLE:scene,episode(partofprod.),entracte,break(inaction)
023. END:finalscene,showdown,epilogue
03.Episodictimeposition
031. FUTURE:aboutto,willsoon;imminent,isexpected,[s.g.]willhap
pen[now];leadingto,[willhave]consequences;[will]eventually
032. PRESENT:atthismoment,hasjuststarted,afterawhile,turnsinto,changes
mood,weswitchto,wefollow,now[xhappens],during,meanwhile
033. PAST:goalreached,journeyover,finally,has[donex],afteralongtime(in
past),onceagain,usedto[dox],whatwedid
1.Generalattributiveaffects
10.Culturallyambivalent
101. RELATIVEDYNAMISM:excited;emotions,stimulating;complicated
102. RELATIVESTASIS:usual,familiar,neutral;nodanger,noproblems;simple
103. REFLEXION,SENTIMENTALITY,LYRICISM:bittersweet;nostalgic;introvert
104. DETERMINATION:deliberate,confident,resolute
105. ABANDON:uncontrolled,ecstatic,passionate,noholdsbarred,extravert
106. BALANCE,CONTROL:reserved,coolandcollected,serious
107. HUMOUR:comical,funny,jokes,irony
108. CULTURALDOMINANCE:important,prestigious,grandiose,sophisticated
109. CULTURALEMERGENCE:daredevil,rebellious,cheeky,cool(hip)
28. Thisisashortversion:just6oftheoriginal24pageofappendix4inthefinaltables,
onlineattagg.org/bookxtrax/titles/10TitTables.pdf(pp. 745768).Thefullrationaleof
thetaxonomyisinTagg&Clarida(2003: 121152),downloadablefromtagg.org/
mmmsp/publications.html [100614].Thereisalsoauserfriendlyintroductiononlineto
discretisingunguidedassociationresponsesintoVVAsandforclassifyingthem
intoahierarchicalgridattagg.org/teaching/analys/VVATaxonomyResource.html
[100614].
29. Taxonomyisusedhereinthesenseofaschemeofclassification(OxfordConcise
EnglishDictionary,1995)arrangedhierarchically.Taxonomiesareconstructedon
supertypesubtyperelationships[T]hesubtypehasthesamepropertiesas
thesupertypeplusoneormoreadditionalproperties.Forexample,CAR(category
2652inourVVAtaxonomy)isasubtypeofVEHICLE(category265:anycarisa
vehicle,butnoteveryvehicleisacar).Thewordslistedforeachthreedigitsubtype
merelyexemplifyorsummarisethetypesofVVAincludedinthatcategory.For
example,ROMANCE(cat.1112)isconsideredasasubtypeofLOVE(111)becausenot
allloveisromantic.AtahigherlevelofabstractionLOVE(111)isconsideredas
somethingPOSITIVE(11)butloveisnottheonlypositivehumanexperience.See3,
below(p. 217),forexplanationoffourdigitcategoriesnotshownintheTable61.
210 Tagg: Musics Meanings 6. Intersubjectivity
11.Culturallypositive
110. GENERAL:pleasant,alliswell,goodfeeling,niceatmosphere
111. LOVE,KINDNESS:friendly;romantic;seductive;gentle;kind;wellmeaning
112. TRANQUILLITY,SERENITY:peaceful,quiet,still,harmonious,relaxed
113. JOY,FESTIVITY:happy,carefree,amusing,celebratory
114. BEAUTY,ATTRACTION:goodlooking,elegant,niceproportions
115. LIGHTNESS,OPENNESS,FRESHNESS:clear,fair,frank,fresh,young,pure,
clean,free,luminous,transparent
116. STRENGTH,PRIDE,SUCCESS:brave,heroic,victorious,honourable
117. WISDOM,TRUST:reliable,experienced
118. ORDER:correct,tidy,wellorganised,efficient
12.Culturallynegative
121. GENERIC:bad,nasty,unpleasant,suffering,paindisaster
122.ENMITY,AGGRESSION,IMPLACABILITY:hate,rage,hostile,cruel,violent,de
structive,vengeful,merciless
122. DISTURBANCE,DANGER:unrest,adversity,setbacks,worried,troubled,
threat,ominous,fateful,tense,scary,nervewracking
123. SADNESS,BOREDOM:disappointed,depressed,tragic,sorrow,melancholy,
abandoned(alone),deserted,bored,alienated,monotonous,listless
124. UGLINESS,REPULSION:disgusting,revolting,crude,creepy,gross
125. DARKNESS,ENCUMBRANCE,CLANDESTINITY,MIASMA:gloomy,hidden,
stealth,heavy,confined,ill,decadent,dirty,rotting,dead,drugged,drunk
126. WEAKNESS,FEAR,FAILURE:hesitant,defeated,cowardly,miserly
127. MADNESS,FUTILITY,SUSPICION:absurd,stupid,useless,jealous,guilty
128. DISORDER:messy,chaotic,confused,tangled,incomprehensible
129. ASOCIALITY:crime,delinquency,greed,robbery,prostitution,corruption
14.Culturallyneutral
141.ASPERITY:rough,tough,sharp,jagged,hard,steep,bitter,sour,dry
142.MOLLITY:smooth,mild,soothing,rounded,curved,soft,wet,sweet
143. HEAT:glowing,boiling,hot,warm,lukewarm
144. COLD:cool,freezing,icy
145. LARGENESS:big,huge,great,broad,wide,tall,high,long
146. SMALLNESS:little,tiny,minuscule,narrow,short
147. DENSITY:compact,crowded,full,deep
148 SPARSITY:diluted,spreadout,dissipated,empty,shallow
149. COLOUR:colourful,pastelshades,white,black,blue,green,yellow,etc.
2.Beings,props,gatherings
20.General
201. GENERICGENDER:male,female(nopersonspecified)
21.Onehuman
210. EITHERGENDER:afigure,aperson,achild,bestfriend(unspec.)
211. SINGLEMALE:boy,man,[old]man,cowboy,cop,spy,soldier,hero,gang
ster,villain;+namedmales(e.g.Hitler,BingCrosby,Bond,DrWho)
212.SINGLEFEMALE:girl,woman,heroine,princess,witch;JulieAndrews,Mar
ilynMonroe,MotherTheresa,LisbethSalander,QueenElizabethI
22.Twohumans
220. EITHERGENDER:twopeople,meandyou
Tagg: Musics Meanings 6. Intersubjectivity 211
221. TWOMALES:twomen,twobuddies,Laurel&Hardy,Starsky&Hutch
222. MALEANDFEMALE:couple,lovers,Romeo&Juliet
223. TWOFEMALES:bestfriends(fem.),Thelma&Louise
23.Severalhumans
230. EITHERGENDER:somepeople,[in]company,children,groupofpeople
231. MALES:sons,cowboys,suits,toughguys,goodies,baddies,footballteam
232. FEMALES:girls,ladies,women,ladettes,ballerinas,prostitutes,nurses
24.Manyhumans
240. EITHERGENDER:crowd,manychildren
241. MANYMALES 242.MANYFEMALES
26.Props,objects,couture
261. HUMANBODY:hair,eyes,nose,mouth,arms,legs,hands,feet
262. CLOTHES:dressedup,skirt,uniform,jacket,coat,dress
263. FURNISHINGSetc.window,curtain,chair,fire,bath,swimmingpool
264. COMESTIBLES,PROPS:food,drink,eggs,chewinggum,sugar,beer,ciga
rettes,drugs,balloons(ludic),smoke(cigs.),briefcase,plasticbag
265. VEHICLES:boat,car,bike,train,aeroplane,helicopter,spaceship
266.APPLIANCES:machine,fan,rope,gun,chainsaw,cigarettelighter
267. STONES,METAL:gold,iron,jewels,treasure,bricks,concrete
268. PAPER:book,newspaper,banknote
269. MORTALREMAINS:carcass,corpse,skull,bones
27.Socialactivity
270. GENERAL:society,culture,nightlife
271. RITUAL:wedding,funeral,initiationrite,confirmation(rite)
272. FESTIVE:party,picnic,gala,festival,birthday,publicholiday
273. PRESENTATIONAL:performance,parade,display,spectacle,circus
274. SPORT:OlympicGames,WorldCup,football,horseracing,swimming
275. MILITARY:army,battle,war,navy,airforce
276. RECREATIONAL:entertainment,holidays,excursion,onleave
277. ECONOMIC:business,bank,sale,marketing
278. EDUCATIONAL:school,college,academy
279. RELIGIOUS:prayer,liturgy,SalvationArmy
28.Domesticatedanimals
281284.PETS(dog,cat).LIVESTOCK(cattle,sheep).HORSES.BIRDS(parrot)
29.Wildanimals
291294.PREDATORY(tiger).FLOCK(buffalo).BIRDS(swallows,wildgeese)
3.Location,scene,setting
30.Generalorindoors/outdoors
300. GENERICSETTING:athome(geog.),abroad,heaven,hell,localarea
301. GENERICOUTDOORS:intheopenair,outside
302. INDOORS:athome(dom.),atwork;disco,club,bar
304. SUBTERRANEAN:underground,tunnel,cave
305. GENERICBUILDINGS:house,palace,(railway)station
31.Rural
310. GENERAL:countryside,pastoral,rural,bucolic
311. CAMPESTRAL:fields,meadows,cornfields
212 Tagg: Musics Meanings 6. Intersubjectivity
312. EDIFICIAL:farm,manor,(country)cottage,castle(ruralsetting)
313. UNDULANT:hills,valleys,slopes,
314. SYLVAN:woods,forests,trees
315. HORTICULTURAL:garden,lawn,flowers,fruittrees,spa,cemetery
316. FLUVIAL,LACUSTRINE:rivers,lakes,brooks,creeks,(rural)canals
32.Panoramic
320. GENERAL:bigcountry,broadexpanses,vistas,openspace,horizon
322. FLAT:plain,fen,steppe,prairie,moor,savanna
323. BARREN:wildcountry,desert,polarregions
324. TROPICAL:jungle,palmtrees
33.Aqueous,aerial
330. GENERIC:water(unspecified)
331. PELAGIC:sea,ocean,openwater
332. LITTORAL:bay,inlet,beach,shore,island,archipelago,jetty
334 AERIAL:air,clouds,sky
335. COSMIC:(outer)space,stars,planets,galaxy,universe
34.Miscellaneousoutdoors
341. NATURAL:leaves,cliffs,den(animals),cloudsofdust/sand
342. ARTEFACTUAL:road,track,path,bridge,railway,highway
35.Urban
350. GENERIC:town,city
351. THOROUGHFARES:street,square,marketplace,5thAvenue,Picadilly
352. NEIGHBOURHOODS:slum,downtown,redlightdistrict,suburb
353. EDIFICIALetc.:factory,skyscraper,supermarket,airport,funfair
354. TRAFFIC:(lotsof)cars,trafficjam,rushhour
355. MISCELLANEOUS:streetlights,neonsigns,(outdoor)adverts,asphalt,kerb
36.Sociallocation
361. Upperclass:aristocracy,rich,[haut]bourgeois,royalty
361. Middleclass
362. Lowerclass:workingclass,unemployed,poor,thelittleguy
37.Geographicallocation
371379.NORTHERNEUROPE,SOUTHERNEUROPE,NORTHAFRICAANDMIDDLE
EAST,SUBSAHARANAFRICA,SOUTHASIA,EASTASIA,AUSTRALASIA,OCEAN
IA,NORTHAMERICA,CENTRALAMERICA,SOUTHAMERICAetc.
38.Historicallocation
380. GENERICPAST:bygonedays,oldentimes,inthepast,onceuponatime
381. DISTANTPAST:prehistoric,ancienttimes
382386.MIDDLEDISTANTPAST:medieval,Baroque,19thcentury,etc.
387. RECENTPAST(relativetotimeandaimofreceptiontest)
388.TODAY:modern,contemporary,uptodate(relativetotimeoftest)
389. FUTURE:tomorrowsworld,timestocome,near/distantfuture
39.Weather,season,timeofday
391. WEATHER:sun,rain,fog,haze,mist,wind
392. SEASON:spring,summer,autumn,winter
393. TIMEOFDAY:night,day,morning,evening,sunrise,sunset,dawn
Tagg: Musics Meanings 6. Intersubjectivity 213
5.Explicitspacetimerelations,movements,actionsandinteractions
50.Genericmovement
51.Essiverelations
511. INESSIVE:in,among,inthemiddleof
512. SUPERESSIVE:above,overhead,onhigh,highup,ontopof
513. SUBESSIVE:under[neath] 514.RETROESSIVE:behind
515. PREESSIVE:infrontof,facing,ontheotherside[of],opposite
516. CIRCUMESSIVE:around(static),surrounding(static)
517. CONESSIVE:present(loc.),[is/are]there,alongside
518. NONESSIVE:absent,notthere,missing
52.Velocityandsimultaneity
521. LOWSPEED:slow,gradually,allthetime,foralongtime
522. HIGHSPEED:fast,quick,suddenly,momentary,shorttime
523. SIMULTANEITY:atthesametime,together,synchronised,inphase
524. ASYCHRONICITY:outoftime,outofstep,outofsync,separate,divided
53.Nonspecifiedmovement,specificrelativedirection
531.ADVENTIVE:approach,arrive,enter,return[tohere]
532.EXITIVE:leave,goaway,part,[say]goodbye,walkout,escape
533. TRANSITIONAL:pass,past[thewindow],[move]across[thefield],[move]
over[themeadow],forwards,along,between(mvt.),through
534. ASCENDING:[a]rise,goup,openup/out,reveal,upwards,frombelow
535. DESCENDING:godown,closeup/in/down,downwards,fromabove
546. CIRCULAR:[goinga]round,circling,enveloping
54.Oscillatoryandrepetitiousmovement
541. CURVILINEAR:roll,undulate,wave,sway,whirl,spin,roundandround
542. TREMULOUS:tremble,wobble,quiver,glitter,flicker,flutter,rustle,babble
543. PULSATING:throb,flash,jerk,pump,againandagain
55.Prolapsualandvolitativemovement(directional)
551. FLOWING(ofliquids):flow,stream,run,pour
552. FLOATING,SLIDING(direction):float,sail,slip,slide
553. VOLITATIVE(direction):fly,glide,swoop
56.Specificmovement,unspecifieddirection
561. CONSTANT:shine,gleam,glare
562. ERUPTIVE,TUMESCENT,TORRENTIAL:explode,gush,surge,burst
563. PEDESTRIAN:walk,run,wander,trot,march,footsteps
564. VEHICULAR:travel,journey,ride,cruise,cycling,riding,driving
565. LUDIC:play,perform,dance,swim,skate,hop,skip,jump
57.Stationaryacts
570. WAIT,HANGAROUND 571.QUIESCENT:rest,sleep,relax
573. SEDENTARY:sit 574.UPRIGHT:standing,on[his]feet
58.Suspension
580. INACTIVITY:motionless,donothing 581.AQUATIC:float(nodirection)
582. AERIAL:hover(nodirection) 583.OTHER:hanging,dangling
59.Interaction
591. APPRECIATIVE,AFFECTIONATE,RESPECTFUL:Iloveyou,marry,embrace,
kiss,caress,smile,laugh,celebrate,salute,console
214 Tagg: Musics Meanings 6. Intersubjectivity
592. CONFLICTIVE,COERCIVE,CONTUSIVE:beat,hit,break,pierce,crash,shatter,
smash,fight,struggle,bully,force,wound,shoot,kill,conquer
593. COGITATIVE,INTENTIONAL:think,ponder,plan,tryto,dream,decide,dis
cuss,experience,feel,recognise,remember,understand,misunderstand
594. TRANSFERENTIAL:push,pull,bring,take,drag,drive,carry,fetch,chase,
accompany,follow,fill,empty,disseminate,spread,collect,retrieve
596. SYMBOLICCOMMUNICATION:show,gesticulate,look,see,hear,listen,talk,
whisper,shout,groan,sigh,cry,sing,read
597. CULINARY:eat,drink,cook,fry,boil(tr.)
8.Mediaimmanence
81.Musical
811. GENRESANDSTYLES:classical,opera,jazz,punk,techno
812. INSTRUMENTS:strings,brassband,orchestra,coversband,flute,trumpet,
FenderStratocaster,kickdrum,piano,Hammondorgan,churchorgan
813. MUSICIANS:bassplayer,leadsinger,Beethoven,Zappa,BritneySpears
814. MUSICALSTRUCTURE:singabletune,[nice]rhythms,dissonant,verse,cho
rus,bridge[section],minorkey,diminishedseventh
815. MUSICALWORKS:Apache(Shadows),Bolro(Ravel),LibertyBell(Sousa),
MoonlightSonata(Beethoven),GodSaveTheQueen(SexPistols)
816. DANCE:ballet,samba,shake,waltz;PansPeople(cf.232)
82.Extraandparamusical
821. CINEMA:featurefilm,movies,blackandwhitefilm,cinemascope,silent
film,Hitchcock,Disney,MGM;TheGirlwiththeDragonTattoo,TheGodfa
ther,TheSoundofMusic,TaxiDriver,TheWorldofApu.
822. TELEVISION:TVseries,[TV]documentary,newsprogramme,soapopera,
natureprogramme;Bonanza,EmmerdaleFarm,Maigret,Wallander.
823. VIDEOS,ADVERTS,GAMES:musicvideo,[shampoo]advert,MarioKartWii
824. RADIO:Melodiradion(Sweden),Radio4(BBC);DJ(radio)
825. VERBALMEDIA:books,poems,novels,newspapers,plays;HenningMan
kell,ValMcDermid,WilliamShakespeare
826. OTHERMEDIA:sculpture,painting;TheGardenofEarthlyDelights(Bosch),
KandinskysCompositionX
83.Targetgroups
831839:forthewholefamily,forchildren,youngaudience
84.Nonmusicgenres
841849:filmnoir,Western,sciencefiction
85.Productiontechniques
851859:panningshots,cutins,slowmotion
87.Productionorigin
871879:ascategory37,e.g.Czech[TVseries],Hollywood[blockbuster],Bolly
wood[musical],HongKong[martialartsmovie],Japanimation,Manga
[movie],spaghetti[Western]
88.Productionvintage
881889:prewar[film];1980s[gameshow]
Tagg: Musics Meanings 6. Intersubjectivity 215
9.Evaluativeandjudgemental
91.Positiveevaluation
911919:enjoyable,good[tune],wellproduced
92.Negativeevaluation
921929:bloodyawful,brainless,thirdrate,contrived,trash,kitsch,slushy,
cloying,syrupy,schmaltz,speculative,badlyproduced
VVAtaxonomyissuesandexplanations
The obvious advantage of a taxonomy like the one just shown is that
youcangroup,say,theVVALOVEunderKINDNESSandROMANCE(cate
gory111)ratherthanwithitsalphabeticalneighboursLOUSY(category
92),LOUT(129)andLWENBRU(264).
30
Thetaxonomyis,however,not
withoutproblems.
[1] Demographic inadequacy and cultural specificity. The taxonomy pre
sented above, based on 8,552 VVAs collected in the early 1980s from
over600individuals(mainlySwedesandLatinAmericans)responding
totendifferentfilmandTVtitletunes,cannotrepresentinanyseman
ticallyexhaustivewaythetotalityofthoserespondentsimaginationon
hearingthosepieces.Thatsbecausewhatwepresentinsuchalististhe
resultofnomore(norless)thanourinterpretationandclassification
intheirturnbasedoncriteriadescribedbelow(7pp.219221)ofver
balvisualresponsesthatinthemselvesinadequatelyexpresswhatthe
musicmeanstoeachrespondent.Ofcourse,thatisthenatureofthe
beastbecause,asalready statedseveraltimes,tryingtoputmusicdi
rectlyintowordsisapointlessundertaking.Still,thatismercifullynot
theobjectofthiskindofreceptiontestwhoseVVAsneedtobeconsid
eredmetaphoricallyandmusogenically,notjustintermsofliteralver
bal denotation.
31
However, the most substantial problem with our
taxonomyisitsculturalspecificity:8,552VVAsfrom561Scandinavians
and 46 Latin Americans hearing ten short pieces of stereotypical title
musicinthe1980srepresentsanabsolutelyinfinitesimalpartofallthe
VVAsimaginableinresponsetoanymusicheardbyanypopulationat
anytimeinanyplace.Forthisreasonourtaxonomyshouldbeunder
30. LOUSYmightalso,dependingoncontext,behousedincategory120(generallyneg
ative)or125(withPUTRIDorROTTEN)andLWENBRUincategory3716(GERMANY).
31. SeePolysemyandconnotativeprecision(p. 167,ff.),5(p.218),andthesectionon
metaphorattheendofChapter2,pp.7880.
216 Tagg: Musics Meanings 6. Intersubjectivity
stoodasjustoneexampleofVVAclassificationamongavirtuallyinfi
nitenumberofpossiblevariants.Itsinnowayintendedasauniversally
applicableorscientificallywatertighttaxonomy.
Hereitsworthnotingthataesthesicallybasedstructuraldenotorsalso
run into problems of cultural difference. For example, while its quite
commoninEnglishtocallareverbwetifitssecondarysignalscreate
a constant and fairly loud wash (long decay time), the same expres
sion translated into Italian un eco umido or un eco bagnato means
nothing,Franco Fabbritoldmeonceinanswertothe question How
wouldyoutranslateWETECHOintoItalian?.ToexplainwhatImeantby
wet I had to make a schplAaaaaaaafff! sound lasting about three sec
onds,whileusingoutstretchedarmsandcuppedhandstosymbolisea
very large space. I see, replied Franco,un eco della Madonna, whose
literaltranslationbackintoEnglish, anechoofOurLady,wouldmake
as little sense to Englishspeaking studio engineers as un eco bagnato
wouldtotheirItaliancolleagues.
32

[2]ReturningtoVVAclassificationofthemusicsculturalspecificity,two
otherproblemsneedtobeaddressed.Firstly,historicallocationcatego
ries 387 and 388 (RECENT HISTORY and TODAY/MODERN), updated from
the1980stofittodayshistoricalperspective,areinconstantneedofad
justment.Obviously,the1970swere,atthetimeoftheactualreception
tests,RECENTandthe1980sUPTODATE,TODAYandMODERN,whileto
day,asIrewritethispassageinSeptember2012,willbeHISTORYbythe
timeyoureadit.Secondly,thenationalculturesofourrespondentsand
themainlyEnglishlanguageoriginsofthemusictheyweresubjected
toarereflectedinwhatmayseemlikeethnocentriccategoriesofgeo
graphical location. These responses necessitated a finetuning of EU
ROPE(categories371374,871874)whilelittleornodistinctionsneeded
to be made under ASIA (375, 875) or AFRICA (376, 876) because we re
ceivedvirtuallynoresponsesincludingreferencetoanywhereAsianor
African.Clearly,thisaspectofthetaxonomyhastochangeaccordingto
demographic, musical, cultural and historical factors relevant to each
receptiontestsituation.
32. IthinkthisconversationmayhavetakenplaceinReggioEmiliainSeptember1983.
Tagg: Musics Meanings 6. Intersubjectivity 217
[3]Taxonomicfinetuning.Theoriginaltaxonomyhasfour,notjustthree,
levels of categorisation and most VVAs from the reception tests on
which it is based are arranged accordingly.
33
ROMANCE, for example,
sorts under category 1112 together with ROMANTIC LOVE but not with
justLOVEonitsown(1111),i.e.neitherwithlovethatmightjustaswell
bebrotherly,parentalorpatriotic,norwithTENDERandGENTLE(1117).
Thatssimplybecauseromanceisntalwaystenderandbecauseconfus
ingparentalwithromanticlovewouldbeincestuous:youjustdontfeel
the same sort of love towards your lover, your child and your nation
andthatmeansdifferentmusicforallthreetypesoflove.
34
Still,despite
suchimportanttypesandsubtypesoflove,ofmusicandofhumanbe
haviour,thoserelatedconceptsbelongtothesamemainthreedigitcat
egory 111 (LOVE AND KINDNESS) which is distinct from other positive
threedigitcategorieslikeJOYANDFESTIVITYorLIGHTNESSANDOPENNESS
(115 and 115 respectively, also positive but not necessarily LOVE) and,
muchmoreradicallyattheoppositeendoftheaffectivespectrum,from
121(ENMITYANDAGGRESSION)or125(DARKNESS,ENCUMBRANCE,CLAN
DESTINITYANDMIASMA).Thefourdigitcategoriesareexcludedfromthe
taxonomyshownabovenotbecausetheyareunimportantbutforrea
sons of space and clarity. In other words, the particular type of taxo
nomic finetuning just illustrated down to the fourdigit level in our
classificatorygridmaywellbeirrelevanttoreceptiontestswhoseaim
andscopedifferfromthoseofthelistoccupyingpages209215.Even
so,the1,2and3digitlevelsmaystillbeofsomeuseformanyrecep
tiontestsituations.
[4]PolysemicVVAs.Asalreadyexplained,responsesintheformofun
guidedassociationsneedtobediscretisedintoindividualconceptsso
that, for example, LOVE in an original response like The femme fatale
whispersILOVEyouwhilesippinghercocktailandROMANCEinFilmnoir
33. Theoriginal4digittaxonomyisappendix4inthelistoftablesonlineattagg.org/
bookxtrax/titles/10TitTables.pdf(pp. 745768)andthefullrationaleofthetaxonomyis
describedinTagg&Clarida(2003: 121152).Anupdatedandsimplifiedversionof
the4digittaxonomyisonlineattagg.org/teaching/analys/VVATaxNew.html [100614].
34. Formoreaboutdifferencesbetweenrockingyourbaby(literal)androckingandroll
ingwithyourbaby(=lover),betweenromanticlovemusicandtenderlullabies,see
Tagg&Clarida(2003: 249252).
218 Tagg: Musics Meanings 6. Intersubjectivity
ROMANCE from the 1950s can both be considered indicative of similar
LOVEANDROMANCEconnotationsinresponsetothe samemusic.That
sortofclassificationisrelativelyunproblematicbutsomeconcepts,not
leastpropernames,arenotsosimplethankstothewealthoffurthercon
notationstheycarry.JAMESBONDisaclassicexampleofthatproblem.
TheVVAJAMESBONDcanbecorrectlyclassifiedasasinglenamedmale
person, real or fictional (category 211X), and, indeed, the presence or
absenceofamaleindividualisanappropriateitemofmusogenicinfor
mationtoregister.However,thatsinglemalenamealsoconnotesorim
plies SPY (category 2116), THRILLER (841T), TOUGH (1091), HARD (1412),
ADVENTURE/ACTION(1015),EXCESSIVEBRAVERY(1092),SEX(1055,notro
mantic love), WOMEN (232), most of whom are probably OOHLALA
(1145),nottomentionVILLAINS(2319),MURDER(5928),CRIME(1290),etc.,
etc. Depending on the number of respondents youre dealing with,
there are two ways of dealing with this issue of verbally connotative
polysemy. If you have many respondents, youll almost certainly find
that the music eliciting the BOND VVA from one person gives rise to
VVAsfromotherrespondentsintheotherBONDrelatedcategoriesjust
listed or that the single BOND respondent has him/herself included
VVAsinoneormoreofthosecategories.
35
Otherwise,ifyouonlyhave
afewrespondentsyoucanconsiderincludingcrossreferencestoBOND
asasinglenamedmale(cat.211X)fromwhicheveroftheothercatego
riesyouconsiderrelevant.
36

[5] Verbal context. Unguided associations demand that VVA classifica


tion take verbal context into consideration. For example, ABANDON
meansbothleaveinthelurch(e.g.anabandonedchild,cat.1236)and
lettingyourselfgointhesenseofnoholdsbarred(cat.105).Thosetwo
emotionalstatessuggestverydifferentmusic,asdoOVER(asinOverthe
Rainbow),OVER(ridingovertheprairie),OVER(thepartysover)andOVER(a
darkcloudoverthecity).
37
Insuchcasesitsnotjustamatterofinterpret
35. HerearethreeoftheBONDresponsesfromourtests:[1]JamesBond,underworld;[2]
JamesBondswimsthroughtunnelwithsharksafterhim;[3]JamesBond,harddetective
story,toughyoungpeople;[4]JamesBond,cars,women,bars,neonsigns.
36. e.g.categories1015,1091,1092,1145,1290,1412,2116,2319,232,5928,841T(see
basictaxonomy,p.209,ff.).
Tagg: Musics Meanings 6. Intersubjectivity 219
ingVVAsaccordingtotheverbalcontextoftheresponseinquestion:
itsalsonecessarytothink,asinthecaseofallthoseOVERs,musogeni
callyintermsofkinetic,spatial,gesturalandtactiledifference.Afterall,
theresponsewordswereelicitedbymusicandnotviceversa.Putsim
ply,themusogenicdifferencebetweenadarkcloudovertheprairieand
ridingovertheprairieisquitesignificant.
[6]DistancedVVAs.Atleasttwotypesofdistancedresponsedemand
special consideration: [i] those in quotes, for example, nice, heroic,
love, freedom and [ii] negative or diminutive VVAs, for example not
military,ornottoomuchviolence,orslightlyscary.Thosewhoofferthese
sortsofresponseclearlythinkthatthemusicinquestionissupposedto
connote something specific (a nice, happy or scary feeling, notions of
freedom,heroicdeedsorofmiseryandsoon);butthesamerespond
ents just as clearly question the credibility of that supposed connota
tion.Ifthesetypesofresponse,howeverdistancedorcritical,identify
specificconnotativecategories(NICE,HAPPY,SCARY,etc.)itisappropri
atetoregisterthatrecognitionbecausetherespondentsinquestiondid
so. At the same time, respondent distancing from that recognition
needsalsotoberegistered.Thatswhyitcanbeusefultoincludeaspe
cialdistancedVVAsubtypeundertherelevantmaincategory,forex
ample 110~ for nice under 110 (POSITIVE in general), 121~ for not too
much violence under 121 (EMNITY, etc.). That classification device lets
youaccountforbothrecognitionandcriticaldistancewhendiscussing
theeffectsofthemusicyoureanalysing.
[7]Visualbias.TheVVAsatthebaseofthetaxonomyonpages209215
areexactlythatverbalvisualassociationsandthevisualcharacter
ofmanyresponsestoourreceptiontestpiecesisexactlywhatwehad
encouragedourrespondentstocomeupwith.
38
Now,itwouldbeper
fectlyreasonabletoobjectthatourinterestinthevisualmisrepresentsmu
37. Itsalsoamatteroflinguisticcommonsense.OVERinoverthetop,forexample,isa
singleconcept,unlesstheresponseissomethinglikeOverthetopofthemountain.
Overthetopinthesenseofexcesswould,dependingoninterpretationofcontext,
probablysortundercategory105(abandon,unbridled),or108(incl.pompous),or
92(negativeevaluation).
38. Seetestinstructionsonpage207.
220 Tagg: Musics Meanings 6. Intersubjectivity
sicalperceptionwhichundernormalcircumstancesseemstocausefew,
if indeed any, images to appear in listeners minds. From this valid
standpointitislogicaltoarguethattactile,gestural,sonic,spatialand
kinetic, not visual, connotations should have been the focus of our
study.Iwishthathadbeenpossible.Thetroublewiththislaudableline
of reasoning is that it is impracticable because it assumes nonvisual
modesofcognitiontohaveanequalstatustothatofvisioninoursco
pocentrictraditionofknowledge.
39
Theproblemisthatwordsdescrip
tiveoftouch,ofgesture,ofsound,ofparaorextramusicalspaceand
movementaresomuchlesscommonthanthosedenotingwhatwesee.
AsJohnson(20035)notes:
Englishisverystronginvisualmodes.ReadapageofEnglishandtry
to delete all visual metaphors. Even harder: replace them with aural
ones.Itbecomesinstructivelyfrustratingtodiscoverhowmanyterms
wetakeforgrantedindiscussingwaysofknowing,forwhichwehave
onlyvisuallyorientedvocabulary.
Space and movement are more often than not popularly verbalised,
concretised and, yes, visualised in termsof beings, objectsand places
thatare,howevertautologicalitmaysound,visible,eitherinrealityor
inthemindseyeratherthaninthemindsearoratthemindsfinger
tips.Thesadconclusionhereisthatifwewanttounderstandmusics
meaningsthroughtheearsandmindsofitsfinalarbitersofsignifica
tion(thewholepointofthereceptiontestsdiscussedhere)wemust,at
least in our scopocentric tradition of knowledge, rely to a large extent on
verbalisation of the visual as an unavoidable symbolic intermediary.
40
Of
course, those verbalisations can in themselves never be much more
than metaphorical hints of whatever the music really seems to be ex-
pressing. Or, to use two visual metaphors, we shall at best see through
a glass darkly or be the one-eyed man in the land of the blind.
41
But
that doesnt mean the responses discretised and classified in our VVA
taxonomy let us see nothing at all. The common denominator of the
39. Forexplanationofscopocentric,seeGlossaryandfootnote40.
40. IamgratefultoBruceJohnsonforthewordscopocentric.
41. Theglassdarklyquoteisfrom1Corinthians13:12andtheoneeyedmanrefer
enceisfromErasmus(Adagesiii.iv.):inregioneccorumrexestluscus.
Tagg: Musics Meanings 6. Intersubjectivity 221
AUSTRIA of Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music and of the SHAMPOO in
the Timotei commercial (pp. 167-169) certainly suggests otherwise, as
does the fact that our respondents unequivocally agreed in considera-
ble detail about what the different test pieces connoted. For example:
[1] no CHILDREN (category 2301) were imagined in connection with the
test batterys only ROMANTIC LOVE (cat. 1112) tune; [2] ARMED FORCES
(275) and a total absence of REFLECTIVETHOUGHT (103) were exclusive as
combined characteristics for the only march; and [3] NERVOUSTENSION
(1223), SWEAT (2619) and no RURAL scenario (31-32) constituted a combi-
nation of VVAs exclusive to another of the ten tunes.
42

[8] Generic annexing. One problem imposed by the necessity of visual
imaging as an intermediary mode of perception is that respondents
sometimes come up with VVAs whose semiotic link to the music
theyrehearingmayseeminexplicable.Forexample,thesecondofthe
TenLittleTitleTunes(TLTT)wasaWesternthemeelicitingseveralCLINT
EASTWOODandITALIANWESTERNresponseseventhoughthetestpiece
containedverylittleresemblingMorriconesiconicsoundsforthedol
larmovies.
43
Insuchinstancestheprocessofgenericannexingworks
something like this: [1] this is obviously a Western theme; [2] the
Westerns I remember best were Italian and starred Clint Eastwood.
ThoseVVAsderivedinotherwordsmuchlessfrominterobjectivesim
ilarity between the test piece and Morricones music for the Sergio
LeoneWesterns,muchmoreonthevisualannexingofnarrativetropes
typicalfortheWesternasamuchbroadergenre.Thesamegoesforthe
fewrespondentswhomentionedINDIANS:nothinginthetestpiecere
sembledallthosefamiliarHollywoodcuesofInjunsavageryinpro
ductions like Stagecoach (Steiner & Hageman 1939), Valley of the Sun
(Sawtell1942)orHowtheWestWasWon(Broughton1976).Thoselisten
erssimplyannexedINDIANSasanautomaticingredientofvisualnarra
42. Formoreexamplesofsuchagreement,seeExclusivescoresandZeroscoresin
theSpecialProfileStatisticssectionatthestartoftheanalysisofeachtuneinTagg
&Clarida(2003).Forfurtherdetails,seeAppendix5(op.cit.,pp.769794).
43. NodirtytwangingoftheJewsharp,nolonewhistling,nomalechorusgrunting,
nostrangebirdocarinasorpanpipes,noraucousyelling,nogroaningharmonica,
etc.BythedollarmoviesImeanMorricone(1964,1965,1966,1968,1971).
222 Tagg: Musics Meanings 6. Intersubjectivity
tiveinrelationtomusicthatclearlyspeltWESTERNasanarrativefilm
genrebutwhichgavenosonichintofanyINDIANS.
44

Aslongasyoureawarethatthevisual,nonmusogenicextensionofan
overallnarrativegenresuggestedbythemusiccanoccurinreception
testsituationsthereneedbenomajorproblem.Thatsmainlybecause
generic annexing is the exception rather than the rule in responses to
testpiecesandbecauseitisusuallymorethanadequatelycounterbal
ancedbyamajorityofpatentlymusogenicVVAs.
[9]Taxonomiccriteria.Aquickglancethroughpages209215mightgive
the impression that the taxonomy was based on subjective intuition.
ThatobjectionispartlyvalidbecauseBobClaridaandIdidfromtime
totimeaskeachotherwhatsortofmusicapreviouslyunclassifiedVVA
demandedsothatwecouldcomparethemusicweimaginedsuitable
forthatVVAwithwhatweknewtobetypicalforaparticularsubcate
goryorsubtypealreadyincludedinourtaxonomy.
45
Ifsuchacategory
already existed we could classify the new VVA accordingly or, if un
classifiableinthegridasitexistedatthatpointintime,wecouldcreate
anewsubtypeforitandoften,asitturnedout,welcomeothersintoits
company.Thatprocedurewas,however,secondaryandnormallyused
only if ouroverridingclassificationcriteriaprovedinadequate.Those
overridingcriteriaderivedfromtwosources:PolishmusicologistZofia
Lissaslistoffilmmusicsfunctionsandthedescriptivetagsandtitles
giventopiecesinlibrarymusiccollections.Bothareworthconsidering
herebecausetheyrepresentwidespreadeverydaypracticesinthever
balcharacterisationofmusicalmeaning.
Lissaandlibrarymusic
Authors treating the subject of music and the moving image in any
depth usually propose some kind of system organising the different
waysinwhichmusicrelatestotheimages,sounds,dialogueandnarra
tiveitaccompanies.
46
Suchclassificationsoffilmmusicsfunctionsare
44. ThemusicalportrayalofNativeAmericansinthesefilmis,Ithink,quiteracist.That
certainlyrhymeswiththevoiceoverinthetrailertoValleyoftheSunwhichexplicitly
mentionsIndiandisregardforhumanlifeaspartoftheexcitement.
45. BobClaridaandIbothhaveexperienceasmusicians,composersandarrangers.
Tagg: Musics Meanings 6. Intersubjectivity 223
clearlyrelevanttoanyonewritingaboutmusicasifitmeantsomething
otherthanitselfandhaveinfluencedtheconstructionofourVVAtax
onomy (p. 209 ff.). Ive always found Zofia Lissas systematisation of
filmmusicfunctionsparticularlyusefulitisexplainedinChapter14,
(p.546ff.)becausesheconstructs,discussesandexemplifiesherclas
sificationthroughmusicologicalargumentationthatallowsforverbali
sation of a musical understanding of musical functions. For example,
referringbacktoourclassificationgrid,Lissasfunctionnumber1(un
derliningmovement)iscloselyrelatedtoourcategory5, herfunction3
(location)toourcategories3037andherfunction4(representingtime)to
ourcategories02,03,38and39.However,althoughinfluentialatthis
general level in the development of our VVA taxonomy, film music
functionclassifications,includingLissas,wereoflessusewhenitcame
tothefinerdistinctionsofmusicallyconstructedsemanticfieldsatthe
threeandfourdigitlevels.Herewehadtoturntoourownmusicalex
perience and, more importantly, to library music characterisations of
musicalmessage.
Librarymusicisalsoknownasproductionmusicand,asthosenamesim
ply,denotesacollectionofrecordingsofalmostexclusivelyinstrumen
talmusic,eachofwhichcanbetakenoutofthatcollection(thelibrary)
foruseasjingles,titlethemes,underscoreetc.,typicallyinTVandradio
programming, in adverts and in lowbudget films. Library music dif
fers from music specifically commissioned for particular audiovisual
productionstheusualprocedurewithfilmmusicinthatitiscre
ated and recorded in advance, in isolation from and without prior
knowledge of any particular production in which it might later be
used.
47
Since library music is rarely conceived for use in a particular
mediaproductionitcannotguaranteetheuniquelycustomisedfeelor
46. Accompanyisusedhereinthesenseofcooccur,i.e.possiblybutnotnecessarilyina
subordinateaccompanyingrole.Amongauthorsincludingclassificationsoffilm
musicsfunctionsintheirworkareEisler(1947),Manvelletal.(1975),Prendergast
(1977),Schmidt(1982),Julien(1987:2841),Gorbman(1987),Karlin&Wright(1990)
andChion(1995).
47. Forexample,in2006myPRSstatementdeclaredthatoneofmylibrarymusic
trackshadbeenusedbyLithuanianTVbutgavenoclueastowhichpartofthe
recordinghadbeenusedforwhichpurpose.IdoubtIshalleverknow.
224 Tagg: Musics Meanings 6. Intersubjectivity
exactsynchronisationwhichagoodworkingrelationshipbetweenthe
composerandthefilmdirectororTVproducercancreate.Librarymu
sicisinthissenseacontradictoryphenomenon:ithastobespecificby
providingparticularmoods,scenariosanddramaticfunctions,butitis
atthesametimegenericbecausethoseparticularmoodsandfunctions
must have the potential to be used at any suitable point in any media
production.Sincethespecificmusicaldemandsofspecificsituationsin
specificmediaproductionscanbemostsatisfactorilymetthroughdi
rect contact beween director/producer and composer, library music
companieshavetocompensatefortheirdisadvantageinthisrespectby
beingasspecificaspossibleaboutthecharacterofeachtrackinitsrep
ertoire. These verbal specifications appear on vinyl sleeves, in CD in
lays or in the catalogues, indexes and databases issued by the larger
librarymusiccompanies.Table62(p. 225)presents,inalphabeticalor
der, a wide but by no means exhaustive selection of descriptive tags
culledfromvariouslibrarymusiccollections.
48
ThecategorieslistedinTable62are,fromthestandpointofverbaltax
onomy,prettydisparate.Theyreferto:[1]musicalgenres,instruments
orstructuraltraits(e.g.JAZZ,POP,SOUL,CLASSICAL,STRINGS,GUITAR,PER
CUSSION); [2] states of mind (HAPPY, SAD, SENTIMENTAL, SOLITUDE, LOVE,
STRESS,etc.);[3]synopticorepisodicfunctions(OPENINGS,LINKS,BRIDGES,
TITLES);narrativegenres(ADVENTURE,THRILLER,DETECTIVE,WESTERN);[4]
historicalperiods(MEDIEVAL,CONTEMPORARY);[5]genericscenarios(SEA,
NATURE, RURAL, WATER, FOREIGN); [6] named locations, regions or cul
tures (AFRICAN, CELTIC, ORIENTAL); [7] animals (BIRDS); [8] social func
tions,ritualsandactivity(SPORT,FUNERAL,SCIENCE,INDUSTRY);[9]speed
andmovement(FAST,SLOW);[10]affectivedescriptionsofpeople,loca
tions,actionsandenvironments(BIG,CLUMSY,DAINTY,GLAMOROUS,IM
PRESSIVE,EERY,INTIMATE,URGENT)andsoon.
49

48. Sources:BooseyandHawkesRecordedMusicforFilm,RadioandTelevision(London),
BrutonMusic(London),CAM(Rome),KPMMusicRecordLibrary(London),ditions
Montparnasse(Paris),SelectedSoundsRecordedMusicLibrary(Hamburg),TheMajor
MoodMusicLibrary(NewYork)andReliableSourceMusic(London).Alsoused:
RapesMotionPictureMoodsforPianistsandOrganists(1924).Formoreaboutlibrary
musicproduction,seeTagg(1980).
Tagg: Musics Meanings 6. Intersubjectivity 225
Table 6-2: Selection of library music descriptive tags
action adventure African amusement ancient
animal archaic Asian atmospheric austere
ballad bands battle big birds
bridges bright bucolic Celtic children
classical closes(ends) clumsy comedy contemporary
corporate dances danger dark detective
disaster drama(tic) dreaming ecological eerie
electronic endings enterprising ethereal exotic
fashion fast festival folklore foreign
funeral futuristic glamour grandiose Gregorian
grotesque gruesome guitar[s] happiness heavyindustry
horror humour hurry impressive industrial
industry intimate introspective jazz jingles
joyfulness laboratory LatinAmerican lightindustry links
love luxurious majestic marches medieval
melancholy melodic melodrama military monotony
musette mystery national nature neutral
nightclub nostalgia obsessive oldentimes openair
openings organ Oriental panoramic parody
passion pastoral pathtique percussion period
playful pop prestigious purity relaxing
religious rhythmical ritual rock romance
royal rural sad scenic science
sciencefiction sea sentimenal. serious 17thcentury
slow solitude soloinstrum. soul S.American
space spectacular sport storm stress
strings suspense swing symphonic synthesiser
tails(ends) tender tense/tension themes thriller
titles traditional tragic transitions travel
underwater urgent violent vocal water
wedding Western
Table62andthecommentsprecedingitdealwithverbalcluesabout
music conceived to facilitate the musical production of audiovisual
presentationsbyindividuals,mostofwhom,likethemajorityofourre
spondents,lackformalmusicaltraining.Themaindifferencebetween
our respondents and the average user of library music is that the
formerareatthereceivingend,thelatteratthetransmittingendofthe
49. Itshouldberememberedthatlibrarymusiccollectionsareproducedasanaudio
visualresourceofferingproducersquickaccesstomusictofulfilanalmostinfinite
rangeofdifferentfunctions.Librarymusiccatalogueeditorstendtoflagnewly
commissionedpiecesinasmanycategoriesaspossibleinthehopesofgainingmore
airplayandofincreasingsaleoftheirproduct.
226 Tagg: Musics Meanings 6. Intersubjectivity
musicalcommunicationprocess.Inotherwords, respondents haveto
come up with words descriptive of music rather than with music al
readyhintedatinwords.Theimportanceofthisdialecticisthatinboth
casesthewordsreferringtomusicarenotsomuchstructurallydescriptive
ofmusic(poetic)asfunctionallyorsynaestheticallygrounded(aesthesic)in
the established everyday practices of musical perception in an audio
visualmassmediacontext.
50
Thissemiomusicalrealitymakesthede
scriptive terms used by library music catalogue editors a logical
startingpointintheestablishmentofataxonomyofvisualverbalasso
ciations(VVAs)tomusic.Ofcourse,thetaxonomicallydisparatenature
of the sorts of concept listed in Table 62 needed arranging more sys
tematicallyforthepurposesofresponseclassificationbuttheydocon
stitutetherawmaterialsofourtaxonomy.
With library music we are back to the start of this chapter and to the
idea that VVAs in response to a particular AO can be gathered by
studying writings about the AO in reviews, album inlay notes, blogs
and so on (p. 200). That so on is important because it includes the
workingvocabularyoflibrarymusiccompanystaffdescribingindivid
ual recordings in their collections so that potential users will have at
leastsomeideaastowhetherthemusicsodescribedwillcommunicate
whatever it is they want their audience to experience. And yet this
working tradition of everyday music semiotics in practice, which in
cludes choosing a suitable title for each piece, this tradition of using
words on a daily basis in media production to characterise musical
messages,seemstobeeitherunknownoroflittleinteresttoscholarsof
musicsemiotics,atleasttotheextentthatImunawareofanyreception
research into whether the characterisations offered by library music
companystaffactuallytallywithwhatrespondentsimagineorfeelon
hearingthemusicinquestion.Ifthatissowellbeunabletomakeuse
of library musics working repertoire of aesthesic musical descriptors
whendiscussingthemeaningofothermusic.Butthereisawayoutof
theepistemicimpassejustdescribed.
50. SeesectionStructuraldenotation,p. 115, ff.inChapter3.
Tagg: Musics Meanings 6. Intersubjectivity 227
If we could establish verifiable links of structural similarity between
our musical analysis object (AO) and certain pieces of library music,
thenwecouldtestthehypothesisthatsomeofthestructurallysimilar
librarymusicsverbalcharacterisationsmightalsoapplytoourAO,i.e.
that similar musical signs relate to similar musical interpretants. We
could also look for structural similarity between our AO and other
pieces of music, perhaps a song with lyrics, or a particular type of
dance, or music for particular types of scene in theatre, film, TV or
gamesproductions.Wecouldthentesthypothesesaboutsemioticlinks
betweenourAOandthoselyrics,dancesandscenes.Theseprocedures
arethemainsubjectofthenextchapter.
51

Summaryofmainpoints
[1]Intersubjectivityariseswhenatleasttwoindividualsexperiencethe
samethinginasimilarway.Intersubjectivityisimportantwhentrying
tounderstandhowmusicisreceived,usedandinterpreted.
[2]Thereareatleastsixgoodreasonswhyfocushastobeontheaes
thesic pole when applying intersubjective approaches to understand
ingmusicandwhatitcommunicates.
[3] Ethnographic observations can be useful in intersubjective studies
ofmusicbutthemostcommonanddirectwayoffindingoutwhatsort
ofintersubjectivityexistsinrelationtoapieceofmusicistocarryout
somekindofreceptiontest.
[4]Manydifferentfactorsdeterminehowareceptiontestwillbecon
ducted. How many respondents? Using interviews, handwriting on
paperoronlinequestionnaires?Thesechoicesareinfluencedbyfactors
likemethodologicalanddemographicfocusintermsofaudiencetype,
socialscene,stylespecificissues,etc.
[5]Unguidedresponsesaremorereliableandinformativethanresults
gatheredthroughmultiplechoicetests.
51. Recommendedfurtherreadingaboutintersubjectivityinrelationtomusic:Sommer
(2002)andHuron(2006).
228 Tagg: Musics Meanings 6. Intersubjectivity
[6]Fullanswersfromeachrespondenthavetobediscretisedintoindi
vidualVVAs(verbalvisualassociations)andsortedintocategoriesso
that it becomes clear how much of what respondents associated to
whenhearingeachpieceinthetest.
[7]AfourtiertaxonomyispresentedasstartingpointforVVAcatego
risationwork.SpecialcareneedstobetakenwithpolysemicVVAs,dis
tancedVVAs,andquestionsofculturalspecificity.
[8]Systematisationsoffilmmusicfunctionsand,inparticular,library
music categories and descriptions provide interesting models for
grouping VVAs into useful categories. Library music is also an excel
lentsourcewhentrackingdownIOCM(seeChapter7).
Tagg: Musics Meanings 229
7.Interobjectivity
Intro
IN CHAPTER 6 we started trying to unpack the
blackboxofmusicalmeaning(Figure71).Ethno
graphic observation, reception tests and a taxon
omy of VVAs led to the establishment of shared
subjectivity of response, as evidence of other
thingsthanjustmusicthatdemonstratetheexist
enceofsemanticfieldslinkedtomusicalstructure
inananalysisobject(AO).Thoseotherthingsare
called paramusical fields of connotation, or PMFCs
forshort.Thelinksarenotextrabutparamusical
because they exist alongside or in connection with
themusic,asanintrinsicpartofmusicalsemiosis
inarealculturalcontext,notasexternalappend
ages to the music.
1
The VVAs in Chapter 6 all
verbalisedintermsofmovement,location,mood,
feeling and people, all those library music titles
anddescriptionsetc.areintrinsicallyparamusical.Theyareessential
to the establishment of PMFCs, i.e. of particular semantic fields con
nected to particular sets of musical sound in particular cultural con
texts.Now,thePMFCsinChapter6derivedmainlyfromintersubjective
observationsofresponseinrelationtoparticularstructuralconfigura
tionsinparticularpiecesofmusic.Thischapterfocusesonaninterobjec
tiveapproachtomusicalsemiosis(Figure72,p. 238).
Interobjectivityclearlyhassomethingtodowithrelationshipsbetween
objects.Itpresupposesthatobjectsconsistofstructuralelements,and
thatoneobjectcanbemoreorlesslikeanotherdependingontheele
1. (para)=beside,alongside,issuingfrom,etc;extra(Latin)=outside.
Fig. 7-1. Black box:
escape route 1
N
M
0
7
-
I
O
b
j
.
f
m
.

2
0
1
3
-
0
5
-
2
6
,

1
2
:
0
8
230 Tagg: Musics Meanings 7. Interobjectivity
ments,ifany,theyshareincommon.Now,ifanyofmusicsstructural
elementsare,asweveargued,capableofcarryingmeaningwellneed
firsttohavesomeideaofwhatismeantbythreeconcepts:[1]amusical
object;[2]amusicalstructure;[3]amusicalstructurethatcarriesmean
ingormuseme.Withthoseworkingdefinitionsbehinduswellbeable
tofocusmoreclearlyoninterobjectiveprocedures.
Basicterminology
Objectandstructure
Intheexpressionanalysisobject(AO),objectisnotusedinthePeircean
sense(p.156).Hereitjustmeansanidentifiablepieceofmusicinaudible
form,theobjectofanalysis.
2
Itcanbeapopsong,aclassicalsymphony
movement,ajingle,afilmmusiccue,aTVthemeetc.,anditusuallyhas
anameortitleofsomesort.Whenusedinthissense,amusicalobject,if
storedasrecordedsound,willtypicallyoccupyoneCDtrackorconsti
tute a single audio file. Therefore, the interobjective procedures ex
plained later in this chapter involve the establishment of sonic
relationshipsbetweenananalysisobject(AO)andatleastoneothermu
sicalobject(piece,song,movement,track,etc.).Therecurringproposi
tion in interobjective analysis is that something in musical object A (the
AO)soundslikesomethinginmusicalobjectB(orCorDorZ).
Now,thatSOMETHINGTHATSOUNDSLIKEcouldbealmostanything.It
mightbeaturnofmelodicphrase,ariff,asonority,arhythmicpattern,
aharmonicsequenceortypeofchord,aparticularuseofparticularin
struments, of vocal timbre, of acoustic space, any of which could be
presented at a particular speed in a particular register at a particular
level of intensity and so on. Any such something, can be poetically
identifiedasaparticularconfigurationofdifferentparametersofmusical
expressionofthesortjustmentioned(rhythm,pitch,timbre,etc.).Itwill
alsousuallybeacombinationofseveralsuchsomethings.Itcouldbe
aparticularharmonicsequenceplayedbyparticularinstrumentsusing
aparticularrhythmicpattern,oraparticularmelodicturnofphrasede
liveredwithaparticularvocaltimbreataparticularpitchandvolume
inaparticulartypeofacousticspacetowardsthefront,back,left,right
2. Pieceofmusicisdefinedonpage272.
Tagg: Musics Meanings 7. Interobjectivity 231
orcentreofthemix.Mostofthesesomethingswillbeshortenoughto
fitintotheextendedpresentbuttheycanalsobeprocessual,compris
ingtheorderandmannerinwhichdifferentsections(episodes)inthe
AOarepresented,varied,extended,shortenedorrepeated.
3

Whatever the exact structural characteristics of the possible types of


somethingmaybe,Ijustusedpoeticratherthanaesthesictermstoex
emplifythoseconstituentaspectsofamusicalobject,i.e.Iusedterms
derived from the process of constructing the sounds rather from how
theyre perceived as communicating anything else than themselves.
4
Thesomethingsofthepreviousparagraphareinthatsensequalifiable
asstructuralbecauseanyonethemcanbeconceptualisedasamusical
structure regardless of semiotic potential. Just like these words typed
into my computer, written to disk and useless until they are read or
heard, musical ideas also have a semiotically dormant mode of exist
ence,whetherstoredasanaudiorecording,orasascore,orinthebrain
cells of individuals constituting a musical community: they are also
useless until they are reproduced and heard inside the head or out
loud.
5
Inotherwords,amusicalstructure,asapoeticallydeterminable
entity and set of sounds in physical form, always has the potential to
becomeasigninPeircesprimarytrinityofsemiosis.
6
Inthatcaseitssta
tusassignpresupposesthatthestructuralentitymaterialisesaninitial
ideaorintention,and,moreimportantly,thatitslinkedtoaninterpre
tant.Ifsuchastructureisnotconsideredsemioticallyitremainsjustthat
amerestructurebutifitsconsideredalongwithintendedorper
ceivedmeaningitalsobecomesasign,astructuralitemofmusicalsigni
fication.Astructuralitemwithsemioticpropertiesinmusicwillbecalleda
MUSEME.Ifonlythingswerethatsimple
3. SeeGlossaryandpp.272273forexplanationoftheextendedpresent.Parametersof
musicalexpressionarediscussedinChapters812.
4. Forexplanationofpoeticandaesthesic,seeGlossaryandp. 115, ff.
5. Thisdormantstatecanbecomparedtoaparkedcar.Tobeofanyuseasavehicle,it
hastobedesigned,itspartsproducedandassembled.Youhavetoknowhowto
driveit,butunlessyoureamechanic,youwontthinkofthecarinthesamewayas
thosewhomadeit.Parkedmotionlessitstillexistsandcanbethoughtofasaphys
icalobjectaswellasofintermsofitspotentialuses.
6. Peircesprimarytrinity:object,sign,interpretant(pp.156158).PleasenotethatIm
notusingobjecthereinthePeirceansense.
232 Tagg: Musics Meanings 7. Interobjectivity
Museme
ThetermmusemewascoinedbyCharlesSeeger(1960: 76).
7

[Itisa]unitofthreecomponentsthreetonebeats[which]cancon
stitutetwoprogressionsandmeettherequirementsforacomplete,in
dependent unit of musiclogical form or mood in both direction and
extension.Itcanberegardedasamusicalmorphemeormuseme.
The last part of this statement is clear enough: if a morpheme is the
smallestlinguisticunitthathasmeaninginandofitselfthenamuseme
isthesmallestunitembodyingmeaninginmusic.
8
Ifthatisso,Seegers
explanationofthetermisproblematicforseveralreasons.
Tone, as in tone beat, is the first problem with Seegers definition of
museme. If tone means a note of discernible fundamental pitch, then a
musical structure consisting of three notes without discernible funda
mentalpitch,asinadrumpattern,wouldhavenomusiclogicalform
or mood and would carry no meaning. Since that conclusion is both
falseandaninsulttodrummersletsassumethatSeegermeantthree
notes, using note in the MIDI sense of the word, i.e. a single, discrete
soundoffinitedurationinapieceofmusic,whetherornotthesoundis
tonal.
9
At least that definition caters for the connotative distinction
most Western listeners are capable of making between, say, a sym
phonictimpanirollandaFUNKYDRUMMERloop.Itwouldalsoletususe
thetermmusemetohorizontallyidentifymeaningfulunitsofrhyth
micandmelodicstructuration,i.e.intermsofatleastthreeconsecutive
notes and to think about such unlayered musemes as constituent ele
mentsinsinglestrandunitsofmusicalmeaningmusemestrings,as
evidencedinmusicalmotifs,phrases,ostinatopatternsorriffs,etc.
10
So
far,sogood.Thetroubleisthatmusicalmeaningisnotsolelydepend
entonnotesequences(thediachronic,horizontalaspect).Itis,aswell
7. Seeger(18861979),UScomposer/musicologist,andfatherofPeteandPeggy,took
pioneeringstepstobridgethegapbetweenmusicologyandotherdisciplines.
8. SeeGlossaryforexplanationsofmorphemeandphoneme.
9. Seepp.273276andGlossaryforexplanationofnote,pitch,toneandtonal.
10. SeegersATLEASTTHREENOTESrule,questionedonpage235,isperhapsbetter
understoodasanATLEASTTWOCHANGESrulebecause:[1]thechangefrommusical
silencetonoteatthestartofapieceorafterapauseisalso(quellesurprise!)amusical
change;[2]thefinalnoteofasinglestrandmusemeisoftenelidedintothefirstnote
ofthesubsequentsinglestrandmuseme(Tagg,1982: 5458).
Tagg: Musics Meanings 7. Interobjectivity 233
see,atleastasmuchamatterofsimultaneouslayering(thesynchronic,
verticalaspect)ofnotes.
11
Thisisneitherthetimenorplacetodiscusstheepistemologicalback
groundtoSeegerspioneeringideasaboutmusicalmeaning,exceptto
saythatitsproblemsmayderivepartlyfromthetypeoflinguisticthe
orycirculatinginhisday,partlyfromconventionalmusicologysfixa
tionwithnarrativeform(diataxis)anditsapparentreluctancetodeal
withsemanticsorpragmatics.
12
ManylinguistshavesinceSeegersday
argued that prosodic aspects of speech timbre, diction, intonation,
volume,facialexpression,gesture,etc.aresemioticallyatleastasim
portantasthewordstheyaccompany.
13
Ifsuchlayeringofsonicstruc
turation is important to the mediation of meaning in speech, its
absolutely essential and intrinsic to music because notes cannot exist
withoutthesoundcarryingthem,bethatsoundanditsnote[s]imag
inedinsideyourheadorheardoutloud.Toputitinsimpletermsfrom
themusiciansstandpoint,thesoundyouputwiththenoteshowyou
play or sing them is semiotically at least as important as the notes
youputwithyoursound.Neithercanexistasmusicwithouttheother
and,whenitcomestomusicalsigns,thehow(notesorsound)isinevi
tably an intrinsic and inseparable part of the what (sound or notes).
Theseideasmaybecomeclearerwithabitofconcretisation.
The two statements DONT WORRY ABOUT ME said nonchalantly and
DONTWORRY ABOUTME spokenwithbitterresentment
14
quiteclearly
sendnomorethesamemessagethandothefirstlineofyournational
anthemplayedbyaprofessionalsymphonyorchestraaccompanyinga
11. Forfurtherdiscussionofmuseme,seeTagg(1982: 45, ff.,2000a: 106, ff.,2005b: 10379).
Forexplanationsofnote,seefootnote9,p.273,andTagg(2009: 17, ff.).
12. Seepp. 145148underSemioinChapter4;seealsoChapter11(p.383,ff.).
13. Likeotherscholarsofhistimewhosoughttoexplainhowmusicrelatestoother
symbolicsystems(e.g.Nettl(1958),Bright(1963)),Seegerreferredtolinguisticmod
elsthatstillaccordedsemioticprimacytothewrittenword,todenotationandtothe
arbitrarysign.Suchattemptstoalignmeaningfulelementsinmusicwiththoseof
languageweresubsequentlycriticisedbymusicologists(e.g.Nattiez(1975,1987),
Imberty(1976,1979),Lerdahl&Jackendoff(1977)andKeiler(1978)).Amongrepre
sentativesofmorerecentlinguistictheoryareBolinger(1989),Cruse(1988),Eco
(1990)andKress(1993).
14. Seep.345ff.formoreonprosodicmeaningsofDontworryaboutme.
234 Tagg: Musics Meanings 7. Interobjectivity
largechorusoftrainedvoicesandthesamepassagesungoutoftune,
withthewrongwords,bysomeonewithaforeignaccentaccompanied
bytwodrunksmistreatingaconcertinaandabatteredoldacousticgui
tar.Ofcourse,thedifferencebetweenthefirstthreesungnotesofone
nationalanthemandanotherissemioticallysignificant,howeverthey
areperformed,becausethatdifferenceallowslistenerstomusicallydis
tinguishonenationfromtheotherduring,say,TVcoverageoftheOl
ympics. That said, the way those notes are sounded is at least as
important,forwhilethesymphonyorchestraversionofyournational
anthemmaywellbeheardintermsofnationalprideanddignity,the
foreigndrunksaremorelikelytocomeacrossasdisrespectful,asper
formingamusicalequivalenttoburningtheflag.Thatcardinaldiffer
ence between pride and ridicule is just as much a matter of musical
structure (volume, timbre, instrumentation, intonation, accentuation,
phrasing,etc.)asthenotes(pitchandrhythmprofile)tellinguswhich
nationspatriotismisbeingextolledordraggedthroughadungheap.
All such structures and their connotations are in other words deter
minedbydifferentuseofmusicsvariousparametersofexpressionas
wellas,ofcourse,byculturallyspecificconventionsofmusicalpercep
tionandinterpretation.
Now,assuming,atleastforthetimebeing,thatmusememeansamini
malunitofmusicalmeaning,itcouldbearguedthatthefirstnotesinthe
tuneoftheStarSpangledBannerandoftheMarseillaiseeachconstitutea
musemeifneitherofthemcan,asasequenceofnotesproducingapar
ticularprofileofrhythmandpitch,bebrokendownintosmallerunits
that carry any meaning in themselves.
15
But it would also imply that
the OFFICIAL SYMPHONY and RAUCOUS DRUNKS renderings of those two
nationalanthemsmeanthesamething.Thatwouldbeabsurdbecause
15. Forexample,thefirstthreenotesofthetuneinthechorusofGranada(Lara,1932)
areidenticaltothoseatthestartoftheMarseillaise(threesprightlynotes,allonthe
fifth).BothhaveastirringABOUTTOGETUPANDGO/ALLONS,ENFANTS!characterfol
lowedbyarisingmelodicline.Ifthisparticularsetofthreenotescanoccurwiththe
samesortofeffectinatleasttwodifferentpiecesofmusicconceivedwithinthe
samegeneralmusicalidiom(TheMarseillaiseandGranada),andifitcannotbebro
kendownintosmallermeaningfulunits,i.e.ifthelinkbetweenthemusicalstruc
tureanditsinterpretantisconsistentandrepeatableinsidethesamebroadmusical
culturaltradition,thenitsclearlyqualifiableasaminimalunitofmusicalmeaning.
Tagg: Musics Meanings 7. Interobjectivity 235
both versions of the two national anthems clearly contain other struc
turalelementsthatsemioticallylinknottoFRANCEorTHEUSAbuttoin
terpretantswhichcanbereferredtointermslikePATRIOTICPRIDEand
NATIONALRIDICULErespectively,regardlessofwhichnationistheobject
of eulogy or derision. Moreover, both those types of other musical
sign can be broken down into smaller meaningful units, for example
whatthesymphonyorchestrasstringsectionplaysonitsown,orthe
soundofthedrunksconcertinawithouttheraspyforeignvocals.And
eventhosesmallerbutmusicallymeaningfulunitsmayintheirturnbe
reducibletoyetsmallermeaningfulentitiesuntilthepointwhereonly
onemeaningfulnoteisleft,likethesinglenotemusemestruckontubu
larbellat0:04inthetitlemusicforMontyPythonsFlyingCircus.
16

If a museme can consist of as little as one single note, Seegers three


note criterion for qualification as a museme doesnt work. Indeed, a
onenote museme can exist because its semiotic charge relies just as
muchonitssyncritic(vertical)formbythewayitsstruckonwhich
instrumentatwhichvolumeoverwhichchordplayedbywhichother
instrument[s]inwhichregisterinwhichtonalidiomandsoonason
itsimmediatehorizontalcontext(byitsrelationtowhateverprecedes
and follows it).
17
This means that explanations of musical semiosis
needtoconsiderseveralindividuallymeaningfullayersthatsoundsi
multaneouslybutwhichdonotnecessarilyoccupythesameduration
as each other. These composite layers of simultaneously sounding
musemesarecalledMUSEMESTACKSandconstitutenowsoundformor
SYNCRISIS (Chapter 12). Theyre particularly useful when forming hy
potheses about which structural elements in an AO may be linked to
whichsortofinterpretants.
Returningtotheinitialmelodicmotifofyournationalanthemassym
phonicgrandeur(versionA)andnationalinsult(versionB),Table71
(p. 236)identifiesthefirstmuseme(1a)asthefirstpartofitsfirstme
lodic line (e.g. the ALLONS, ENFANTS part of ALLONS, ENFANTS DE LA
PATRIEintheMarseillaise,andjusttheOH,SAYbitofOH,SAY,CANYOU
HEAR?atthestartofTheStarSpangledBanner).
18
Assuggestedabove,
16. SeeTLTT:413414forfurtherdiscussionofthatsinglenotemuseme.
17. SeethenoteparametersofMIDIcodeinfootnote9,p. 232.
236 Tagg: Musics Meanings 7. Interobjectivity
themostobviousinterpretantformuseme1inbothversionsistheoffi
cialidentityofthenationinquestion.Museme2,ontheotherhand,is
actually a museme stack (or syncrisis) consisting of three constituent
musemesforversion A(2a2c)andfivefor version B (2a2e),someof
which can in their turn also be understood as subsidiary museme
stacksbrokendownintoyetmoreconstituentmusematicentities.That
sortofmusematichierarchyisillustratedbymuseme2intheBsection
ofTable71andcanbeexplainedasfollows.
Table 7-1: National anthem musemes: symphony orchestra and foreign drunks
18. Museme1bwouldhavebeenthedelapatrieand[say,]canyouhear?partsofthe
firstmelodiclineintheMarseillaiseandtheUSnationalanthemrespectively.The
SAYnoteinTheStarSpangledBanneriselidedandpartofbothmusemes1aand1b.
Foranexplanationofelisioninmusemestrings,seeTagg(2000a: 107).
museme musemesigndesignation feasibleinterpretants
A.Symphonyorchestraandchorus
1a firstpartoffirstmelodicline mynationalidentity
2a professionalsymphony
orchestrainclassicalvein.
official,organised,classical,quality,
polished,dignified,impressive,etc.
2b professionalchorus as2a+largecollective,synchronised
individuals,commongoal
2c bigconcerthallwith
longreverbtime
largeofficialvenue,spaceforlotsof
peopleandabigsound
1+2
TOTAL=THENATION,ITSVALUESANDINSTITUTIONSAREBIG,STRONG,
HONOURABLE,ETC.IMAYBESMALLBUTIAMPROUDTOBEONEOFITS
CITIZENS.UNITEDWESTAND.IBELONG.TOGETHERWEAREJUSTGREAT.
B.Foreigndrunksinginginapub
1a firstpartoffirstmelodicline mynationalidentity
2a singleforeignvocalist notoneofus,alien,inappropriate;
justoneperson
2b raspyvoice unpolished,crude,unsophisticated
2c
(stack)
[2c1]outoftuneguitar
[2c2]simpleirregularstrum
[2c3]simplifiedchords
unpolished,unofficial,careless,messy,
disrespectful;popularportablesoundfor
partiesorcampfires
2d concertina(diatonic) simple,portable,oldtime,proletarian
2e backgroundnoise:glasses,
chatter,raucouslaughter
disrespectful,inappropriate
1+2
TOTAL=EitherTHENATION,ITSCITIZENS,ITSVALUESANDINSTITUTIONS
AREBEINGVILELYRIDICULEDANDDEMEANED;orTHEBLOATEDPOMPAND
ARROGANCEOFTHOSERUNNINGMYCOUNTRYISBEINGRIGHTLYDEBUNKED.
Tagg: Musics Meanings 7. Interobjectivity 237
The single foreign vocalist (museme 2a) does not represent the same
thingashisraspyvoice(2b)becausearaspyforeignvoice,araspyna
tivevoice,awelltrainednativevoiceandawelltrainedforeignvoice
allsounddifferentandembodyfourdifferentinterpretants.Nordoei
ther museme 2a or 2b mean the same thing as the outoftune guitar
strummed irregularly with simplified chords (2c) which, in its turn
doesnothavethesameeffectonitsownastheconcertinawithoutthe
guitar(2d).Thetotaleffectoftheseconstituentmusemeswouldalsobe
slightly but significantly different without the background noise of
museme 2e. Moreover, museme 2c (guitar) contains three subsidiary
structuralelements,eachofwhichcontributestoitsoverallmeaning:it
isntproperlytuned(2c1); its strummedsimplyand irregularly(2c2);
andthechordsplayedonitaremuchmorerudimentarythaninanof
ficialversionofthesamepiece(2c3).Alterorremoveanyofthosethree
structuralelementsandboththeoverallstructureandprobableinter
pretantsofmuseme2cchangetoo.Finally,addmuseme1totheequa
tionandyouhavequiteacomplexmusemestackcapableofgenerating,
insideameresecondorso,thetworadicallydifferentsetsofinterpre
tants (PMFCs) shown at the bottom of each section in Table 71. To
quoteMendelssohnagain:
Thethoughtswhichareexpressedtomebyapieceofmusicarenot
tooindefinitetobeputintowords,butonthecontrarytoodefinite.
19

Althoughthisdiscussionofthetermmusemewillhavehopefullypro
videdafewinsightsintohowmusicalsignsmaybeconstructed,iden
tifiedanddeconstructed,Ivegiventhetermnoconclusivedefinition,
simplybecauseIcant.Itwouldafterallbefoolhardytotryanddistil
thetheoreticalessenceofmusemewithoutprovidingmuchmoreexten
siveevidenceofhowtheconstruction(poesis)andreception(aesthe
sis) of individual musical structures are demonstrably and
systematicallylinkedtothingsotherthanthemselveswithinthesame
broad music culture. Initial steps in the investigation of those links
19. FelixMendelssohn(180947),quotedbyCooke(1959:6).Iveintentionallymis
quotedMendelssohnthistimebecausethewordswhichIlovehavebeenreplaced
byanellipsis().Thewordsappearcorrectlyonpage171.
238 Tagg: Musics Meanings 7. Interobjectivity
weresuggestedinChapter6Intersubjectivity.Still,wearenow,af
terdiscussingthetermsobject,structureandmuseme,inabetterposition
toexpandanalyticalmethodintotherealmofinterobjectivityasweseek
toidentifyandinterpretstructuralelementsthatcarrymusicalmean
ing,betheymusemes,musemestacksormusemestrings.
Interobjectivecomparison
Fig. 7-2. The alogogenic black box: two escape routes
Ifproceduresestablishingsharedsimilarityofresponsetomusicbetween
several human subjects are called intersubjective (vertical arrow on the
left in Figure 72), then those establishing shared similarity of structure
betweentwoormoremusicalobjectscanbecalledinterobjective.Inter
objective procedure is intertextual. It first entails finding structural ele
ments in other music that sound like structural elements in the AO. That
process of establishing musical intertextuality is called interobjective
comparison.Theothermusiccontainingstructuralresemblancetothe
AO is called interobjective comparison material or IOCM for short. That
typeofSOUNDSLIKElinkisrepresentedinFigure72bythehorizontal
arrow(structuralsimilarity)betweentheAOandtheIOCM.
Now,itmayseemoddtosuggestthatreferringtoothermusiccanhelp
usescapefromtheblackboxofMUSICISMUSIC:itslikeadvocatingre
gression into musical absolutism and to the notion that music refers
Tagg: Musics Meanings 7. Interobjectivity 239
onlytoitself.Thatswhyitsessentialtounderstandthatinterobjective
comparisonisonlythefirstoftwostepsinaprocedurerelatingtheAO
tothePMFCsappearingbottomrightinFigure72.Interobjectivecom
parison simply exploits the nonantagonistic contradiction between
musicsintraandextragenericcharacteristics,combiningthepotential
of both. Considering first the intrageneric aspect, its worth recalling
partofthesecondtenetinChapter2sdefinitionsection.
[M]usical structures often seem to be objectively related to either: [a]
their occurrence in similar guise in other music; or [b] their own context
within the piece of music in which they (already) occur.
AsshowninFigure72,interobjectivecomparisonexploitsthisintrage
neric side of the contradiction as a first step (horizontal arrow AO
IOCM)inopeningupasecondstoreofparamusicalinformation(verti
calarrowbetweenIOCMandPMFCtotherightinthediagram).Afic
tionalexamplemayhelpconcretisethislineofthinking.
Lets say your AO is a short extract of film music containing sounds
reminiscent of a library music piece called Mysteries of the Lake. Since
that piece sounds, in part or whole, like your AO, you can assume it
sharessonicstructuraltraitsincommonwithyourAO.Ifthatisso,the
librarymusicpiecequalifiesaspotentialinterobjectivecomparisonmate
rialIOCMlinkedtotheAObythestructuralsimilarityarrowin
Figure72.Atthesametime,thelibrarymusicpiecessuggestivetitle,
MysteriesoftheLake,isanobvioushintataparamusicalfieldofconno
tation(PMFC)belongingtothatpieceofIOCM(step2,verticalarrow
on right in Figure 72). Noting also that library music company staff
characterisethesamepieceasEERIEandICY(alsostep2),itspossibleto
summarise the pieces PMFCs so far as MYSTERY, LAKE, EERIE, ICY. The
point of this simple twostep process is that if, as in this fictional in
stance, the concepts MYSTERY, LAKE, EERIE and ICY are linked to music
sounding like something in your AO, then its conceivable that those
paramusicalconceptsmayalsoapplytotheAO,inshortthatyourex
tractoffilmmusicmaybelinkedtoaPMFCembodyingnotionsofMYS
TERY,LAKE,EERIEandICY.Thatisatleastbynomeansunreasonableasa
hypothesis.Theonlytroubleisthatoneswallowdoesntmakeasum
mer,or,lesspoetically,thatonesinglepieceofIOCManditsconnota
240 Tagg: Musics Meanings 7. Interobjectivity
tionsdonotprovethattherelevantsoundsintheoriginalAOactually
connotewhateverMYSTERY,LAKE,EERIEandICYtogethercreatebyway
ofaPMFC.
Thereareseveralwaysofverifyingorfalsifyingindividualoccurrences
of paramusical connotation deduced through interobjective compari
son.OnewayistousethesortofreceptiontestsdiscussedinChapter6
tocheckiftheVVAstheyproduce(theverticalarrowofintersubjectiv
ity in Figure 72) show any consistency with those deduced using
IOCM.Put simply, dothetwo setsofPMFCatthebottomofthedia
grammatchup?If,forinstance,stayingwiththeMYSTERYLAKEexam
ple,receptiontestrespondentsassociatetonotjustMYSTERY,LAKE,EERIE
andICYbutalsotothingslikeSWIRLINGMIST,DARKFORESTandMEDIEVAL
MYTH,allwellandgood;butifresponsesincludesignificantamounts
of, say, SUNSHINE, AIRPORTS, FASHION SHOWS, HAPPINESS and COWBOYS
youllneedtothinkagain.
20
Butthereareotherwaysoftestinginitial
hypothesesofparamusicalconnotation.
Themoreinstancesofinterobjectivesimilarityyoufind,thebetteryour
chanceswillbeoffindingPMFCsrelevanttoyourAOandofexamin
ing degrees of consistency between the PMFCs to all those different
piecesofIOCM.Forexample,stillusingthefictionalMYSTERYLAKEAO,
themoreIOCMyoufindconnectedtoPMFCslikeMYSTERY,LAKE,EERIE,
ICY,SWIRLINGMIST,DARKFORESTandMEDIEVALMYTH,themoreplausible
yourinitialhypothesiswillbe.Ontheotherhand,perhapsLAKEonly
occursinconjunctionwithyourinitialpieceofIOCMandwithnoneof
theotherswhosePMFCsveermoretowards,say,MIST,MYTH,MEDIEVAL,
LORDOFTHERINGSorHARRYPOTTER.Ifso,youmighthavetotweakyour
initialhypothesis,thatisunlessyourrespondentsmention,oryoufind
IOCMlinkedto,particularmedievalmythelementslikeMERLIN,KING
ARTHURorEXCALIBUR,inwhichcaseLAKE(asintheladyofthelake)
would still be significant. Of course, in the unlikely event of other
IOCMbeingconnectedtoPMFCsverbalisableintermslikeSUNSHINE,
AIRPORTS,FASHIONSHOWS,HAPPINESSandCOWBOYS,youdeitherhaveto
abandontheinitialhypothesisortocheckhowmuchthoseHAPPYSUN
SHINEAIRPORTpiecesofIOCMactuallyresembleyourAOinmusical
20. SeealsoReverseengineering1and2(p. 249,p. 251).
Tagg: Musics Meanings 7. Interobjectivity 241
structural terms.
21
You might also need to ask if the HAPPY SUNSHINE
AIRPORTpiecesareconceivedinthesamebroadsetofmusicalidiomsas
thefilmmusiccuewhosemessageyouretryingtoexplaininwords.
The collection of IOCM necessary for the sort of procedure just
sketchedcanseemlikeadauntingtask,especiallyifyouarentamusi
cologist or practising musician. There are three practical ways, ex
plained next, of overcoming this difficulty: ASK A MUSICIAN (with
caveat),DIGITALRECOMMENDERSandREVERSEENGINEERING.
CollectingIOCM
1.Askamusician
One of the distinct advantages of interobjective comparison is that it
treatsmusicasmusic.Puttingnottoofineapointonit,youcouldsay
thatituses(other)musicasasortofdirectmetalanguageformusic.The
onlytroubleisthat(verbal)languagetrumpsallothersignsystemsin
ourtraditionofknowledgeandthatIOCMcanonlybeusedasafirst
stepinthesemioticanalysisofmusic.Thatsaid,thedirectstructuralin
tertextualityofinterobjectivecomparisoncan,asweshallsee,produce
valid insights about the meaning of an AO. Musicians (instrumental
ists,composers,singers,studioengineers,etc.)areveryusefulwhenit
comestotrackingdownIOCMbecauseoftheiraudiomuscularmemory.
Onewayofconceptualisingmuscularmem
ory(withouttheaudio)istoimagineyoureat
acashmachineandtotapyourPINcodeon
thenearestflatsurface.Youprobablyhavea
spatialkinetictactile memory of your code
reinforcedeachtimeyouwithdrawcashand
you would, if your PIN includes other num
bers than 4, 5, 6 and 0, be confused if num
bers19werearrangedasshownontheleft(A)ofFigure73because
muscularmemoryofyourPINisbasedonlayoutB.Youmayevenre
memberthegesturalpatternofthephonenumbersyoumostoftencall
and I bet, if youre not French and youre confronted with a French
21. Youmightalso,aswellshortlysee,havetocheckiftheHAPPYSUNNYAIRPORT
piecesofIOCMareconceivedinthesamebroadmusicalidiomasyourAO.
Fig. 7-3. Numerical keypads
242 Tagg: Musics Meanings 7. Interobjectivity
computerkeyboard,thatyoullcurseeverytimeyouneedtotypeA,M,
Q,WorZbecauseyourhandsandfingersareusedtomakingpatterns
onaQWERTY,notAZERTY,keyboard.Andwhatismoreannoyingthana
newDVDplayerorTVwhoseremotecontrolbuttonsareplaceddiffer
entlytothoseonyouroldremotesothatthesetupmenuappearswhen
yourfingerspresswherethemutebuttonusedtobeortheTVchanges
channelinsteadofturningdownthevolume?Inthesecasesyousimply
recall and unconsciously repeat hand and finger movements that are
reinforced by the rewards they regularly produce money from the
cashmachine,phonecontactwithyournearestanddearest,yourown
wordsonthecomputermonitor,TVadvertswithnosound,etc.
Its very similar with musicians and their physical relation to the
soundstheyvelearnttoproduce.Toillustratethispointinteachingsit
uationsIoftenaskkeyboardplayersintheclasstogivemeanoctave
onthenearestavailableflatsurface.Regardlessofhandsize,theyinfal
liblypresentahandshapespanningjustover16cmbetweenthepoints
atwhichthumbandsmallfingertouchtheflatsurface.
22
Theaudioas
pectofmuscularmemoryisevenclearerinthecaseofcoverbandmu
sicians who start work on a song they dont know by playing along
witharecordingoftheoriginalversion(directaudiogesturalmimick
ingoftherelevantparts).Anotherexampleofthephenomenoniswhen
musicianstryingtotranscribewhattheyhearusegesturalpatternspe
culiar to their instrument to check that theyre hearing the music cor
rectly. Even if they produce no audible sound, they hope that their
gestureswillcorrespondtowhattheyhearintheirhead.
23

Airguitarprovidesanotherillustrationofaudiomuscularmemoryat
work in music. As the Virtual Air Guitar project website puts it, you
dontreallyneedtoknowanythingaboutguitarsolos,exceptforhow
rock guitarists perform on stage. The project team, like conventional
airguitarists,haveobservedandmimickedparticulargesturalpatterns
22. Theoctavespanofmostpianokeyboardsis164165mm.
23. AsastudentattendingauraltrainingsessionsatCambridgeinthe1960sInoticeda
cellistslidingherhandupanddowntheneckofherimaginaryinstrumentanda
hornplayerpursinghislipsindifferentwaystofindtherightnotestoputdownon
paper.Asakeyboardplayer,Ifoundmyselfdoodlingwithhandsandfingersto
maketheshapesandpatternsIthoughtmightproducethesoundsIwashearing.
Tagg: Musics Meanings 7. Interobjectivity 243
inconjunction with particularrockguitar sounds;but they havethen
reversedtheprocesssothatparticulargesturestriggerparticularsorts
ofsoundwithouttheperformerhavingtoplayanyinstrumentatall.
24

These examples of audiomuscular memory, not to mention the prac


ticeofspeechshadowinganditsimplicationsformusicmaking,
25
illus
tratethathearingmusicalstructuresisintimatelylinkedwithgesture
producingthosesoundsandthatthisconnectionalmostneverinvolves
verbalreasoningforittowork.Exploitingthisphenomenonmakesthe
collectionofIOCMmoredirectandmoreefficient.
LetssayyouveidentifiedasnippetofmusicinyourAOwhoseconno
tationsyouwanttoinvestigate.Allyouneeddoistoaskmusiciansif
theyveeverbeforeplayed(orsung,orcomposed,etc.
26
)anythinglike
thatsnippetand,ifso,inwhatotherpieceofmusicitoccurs.Themusi
ciansyouaskwillusuallybeabletorecallandcreateorimagineages
ture that produces something resembling the musical structure in
question.Iftheyareabletoisolateandidentifythatstructure,theymay
evenbeabletoimagineitinotherpiecesofmusic,perhapsabithigher
or lower, or a bit faster or slower, with a different before or after,
maybeinadifferentkeyoronadifferentinstrument,or,ifsung,with
differentwords,etc.,etc.Inanycase,thatshowIworktofindmyown
IOCMandifImunabletocomeupwithanythingbecauseImunfamil
iarwithrepertoirerelevanttothesnippetorsoundinquestion,Illnot
hesitate to contact those who know it better and to ask them instead.
Forexample,IveneverbeenabrassplayerandIneededtotestmygut
feelingthatthehornwhoopsinthethemeforthe1970sTVseriesKojak
wereheroic.ThatswhyIaskedafriendwhoplayedFrenchhorninthe
local symphony orchestra to tell me if, and if so where, hed played
suchwhoopsbefore.HeimmediatelycameupwithlicksfromRichard
StrausssEinHeldenlebenandtheHaupttemadesMannesfromDonJuan,
aswellaswiththemainStarWarsthemeallhighlyheroic.
27
24. Seeairguitar.tml.hut.fi/formore.
25. Speechshadowing:repeatingspeechimmediately(c.200ms)afterhearingit(aver
agedelaydurationofaspeechsyllable);seeWikipediaquotingMarslenWilson
(1973)LinguisticstructureandspeechshadowingatveryshortlatenciesinNature,
(5417): 5223;seealsoWORKINGMEMORYandPHONOLOGICALLOOP(pp.272273).
26. Youcouldaddorconducted,orrecordedtothelistbecausebothconductorsand
recordingengineersuseparticulargesturestoproduceparticularmusicaleffects.
244 Tagg: Musics Meanings 7. Interobjectivity
Thegreatadvantageofinterobjectivecomparisonisthatitbypassesthe
frustratingexerciseoftryingtodescribemusicinwords.Itarrivesatits
approximateverbalhintsofmusicalmeaning(thePMFCslowerright
inFigure72,p. 238)interobjectively,i.e.primarilythroughdemonstra
blemusicalstructuralconnection.ThesecondsteplinkingtheIOCMto
its verbally denotable PMFCs is merely a matter of registering previ
ously established connections between particular musical structures
and particular words (e.g. titles, lyrics), or particular types of people,
action,space,energy,location,mood,movementandsoon(PMFCson
rightinFigure72).Suchpatternsareofcourseculturallyspecificand
warrantanimportantcaveat.
Caveat
Sincethenotionofmusicasauniversallanguageissodubious(pp. 47
50),SOUNDSLIKEconnectionsofthesortjustdescribedshouldasarule
bemadeusingonlyIOCMthatispartofthesamebroadmusicculture
asthatoftheAO.Justas,say,themorpheme[wi]can,dependingon
variousculturalfactors,beunderstoodaswe,oui,wee,Wiiorweee!,the
samemelodicfigureorinstrumentalsoundortexturalsonorityisun
likelytohavethesameconnotativechargein,forinstance,bebopjazz,
rap, Italian opera and Balinese gamelan music.
28
Therefore, if the
sound,whoseconnotationsyouguesstobe,say,weird,isfromare
centcomputergame,thentheEERIE,ICYMYSTERIESOFTHELAKElibrary
musicpiececouldwellberelevant;butiftheAOisapieceoftraditional
courtmusicfromCambodiaitwouldalmostcertainlynot.
29
27. ThankstoMalcolmPage(Tagg,2000a:186200).Heldenleben=HerosLife;Haupttema
desMannes=mainmaletheme.
28. Formoreonthisissue,seeTagg(2000a:112114).SeealsounderCodalincompetence
inthisbook(pp. 179182),especiallyaboutdissonanceinfilmmusicandBulgarian
harvestsongs.Eventhesimplepronounwecanonitsowncarryarangeofmean
ings,forexample:[1]wellarriveonTuesday(normal);[2]inChapter6wesaw
(authorsimaginedcollusionwithreaders);[3]howarewethismorning?(medical
staffpatronisingapatient);[4]wearenotamused(QueenVictoriasroyalwe),etc.
Asfor[wi]:[1]ouiisFrenchforyes;[2]weeisScottishEnglishforsmall;[3]theverb
toweeisoftenusedinEnglishmothereseinsteadofpissorpee(urinate);[4]Wiiis
Nintendosgamingconsole;[5]weee!isachildlikeinterjectionofgiddydelight.
29. Try,forexample,RoeungTippSangvar(SamAngSam,1999).
Tagg: Musics Meanings 7. Interobjectivity 245
The sort of cultural incompatibility just alluded to can occur when a
musicianyouveaskedto provideIOCM,havingfirstmanagedtore
producethemusicalstructurewhoseconnotativechargeyoureinves
tigating,thenplacesthatstructureinamusicalcontextirrelevanttothe
broadmusicculturetowhichyourAOanditslistenersbelong.Forex
ample,Irememberhearingsomethingresemblingthehooklineofan
AbbasonginanorchestralworkbyBartk.Althoughthehandshape
andmovementrequiredtoproduce(poesis)boththeAbbaandtheBar
tksnippetsarequitesimilartheyjustdontsoundthesame.Thisaes
thesicimpression(notsoundingthesame)isduepartlyto differences
betweenthetonal,orchestralandrhythmiccontextsoftheAO(Abba)
andthepotentialIOCM(Bartk),partlytothefactthatAbbaandBar
tk audiences tend more often than not to inhabit different sociocul
turalspaces.AlthoughthismeantIhadtodiscardtheBartkreference
inmydiscussionoftheAbbahookline,itdidseemrighttouseIOCM
fromtheclassicalandRomanticperiodsintheeuroclassicaltradition,
aswellastwentiethcenturypopularsongfromEurope,NorthAmerica
and Latin America because: [1] the AO itself belonged to the same
broad musical culture as those repertoires; [2] those musical idioms
werenotunfamiliartoAbbalistenersinSwedeninthemid1970s.
30

ThisissueoflocatingIOCMinrelevantmusicalcontextsis,aswellsee
later,amatterofprecisionaboutparametersofmusicalexpression
thesametuneplayedfirstoncathedralorgan,thenonkazoowillnot
soundthesameanddoesnotproducethesameeffect,sotospeak.This
meansthatthesamestructurewithadifferentbeforeandafter,ina
differentmetre,withdifferentinstrumentation,etc.,etc.cannotbeex
30. ImreferringtothetritonemotifinAbbasFernando(1975;Tagg,2000b: 50, ff.)and
thetritonefigureinthelastmovementofBartksConcertoforOrchestra(1943).
AmongthepiecesofIOCMculturallyrelevanttotheAbbamotifwereSwedishRhap
sody(Alfvn,1903),Osolemio(Capua,1898),anariafromBachsMatthewPassion
(1727),YouveLostThatLovinFeelin(RighteousBrothers,1964),andQuizsQuizs
Quizs(Farrs,1947).Allthosepiecesarefromabroadrangeofrepertoiresfamiliar
enoughtoAbbalistenersinthelatetwentiethcentury.Ishouldaddthatmanyindi
viduals,includingmyself,inhabitboththeAbbaandBartkspheresbutthatweare
inthisrespectmorelikelytheexceptionthantherule.
246 Tagg: Musics Meanings 7. Interobjectivity
pected to sound the same, let alone produce the same effect. As the
AbbaBartk incident suggests, a poetically determined musical ele
ment in one piece, isolated and repeated with slight variations in the
hopes of discovering IOCM, is by definition decontextualised: it as
sumes the quasiautonomous status of poetic structure in a dormant
stateandnothingelse.
31
Thatisclearlyunsatisfactoryiftheaimofsem
iotic music analysis is, however tautological it may sound, to explain
musical semiosis because that in its turn demands the existence of a
musematiclinkbetweensign(thesonicallyconcreteencodedpartofthe
process)andmusicalorparamusicalinterpretant(whateverisdecoded
from the sign). This implies that a meaningful musical structure a
museme,amusemestackormusemestringshouldideallybedeno
tableinaesthesicaswellaspoeticterms.Thetroubleis,aswesawin
Chapter 3,
32
that structural descriptors are, in Western institutions of
musicallearning,overwhelminglypoetic,aesthesicdescriptorsmuch
rarerandmorevernacular.Itsforthisreasonessential,especiallyifus
ingmusicianstotrackdownIOCM,tobeawareofthepoeticrisksin
volvedintheprocess,eventhoughinstancesofmusicallyorculturally
incompatiblereferencesarethankfullyrare.Butthereothersolutionsto
theproblemsofidentifyingmusicalsignsinyourAOandofcollecting
piecesofIOCMthatcontainsuchsigns.
Recommendersystems
DigitalmusicrecommendersystemslikeiTunes,Last.fmandPandora
havebeenunderdevelopmentsince2000andcanbeausefulstarting
point whenhunting for IOCM, aslong as their limitations areunder
stood.Thesesystemsarecurrentlydesignedtomakemoneyinvarious
waysbyusingmusicyoualreadylistentoasabasisforsuggestingsim
ilarmusictheymightbeabletosellyou.iTunes,forexample,takesrat
ings from your playlists and compares those with ratings given by
otheriTunesusers.Byidentifyingandcrossreferencingyourtastesin
31. Forexplanationanddiscussionofpoeticandaesthesic,seeChapter3underStruc
turaldenotation(pp. 115120),
32. Seediscussionofminormajorninechordv.spychord(p. 116)andofVanEycks
Arnolfinimarriageportrait(p. 117).
Tagg: Musics Meanings 7. Interobjectivity 247
thisway,iTunestriestopredictwhatelseyoumightliketohearorbuy.
Last.fmworksinasimilarway.However,insteadofusingratings,the
softwareinstalledbyLast.fmonyourcomputerlogseverypieceofmu
sic you listen to and builds up a detailed profile of your preferences.
YoursonglogdataissenttoLast.fmscentraldatabaseandcrossrefer
encedwithlogdatafromotheruserslisteningtosimilarsortsofmusic.
Itsonthatbasisthatthesystemtellsyouwhatelseyoumightenjoy.
Unlike iTunes and Last.fm, the Pandora system determines its recom
mendationsonthebasisofmusicalstructuraltraitsinthemusicyoulis
tento,aslongasthemusichasalreadybeenanalysedbyamemberof
Pandorasteamofmusicianscrutineers.
33
SincethePandorasystemre
lies on interobjective comparison (on similarities of musical structure
observed by musicians) rather than on metamusical information (rat
ings,playlistlogs,etc.),itshardlysurprisingthatitcurrentlyreceives
so many positive online reviews as a reliable SOUNDS LIKE recom
mender system. However, whatever the relative merits of these sys
tems,itshouldberememberedthattheirfunctionisnottoidentifyand
compareindividualitemsofmusicalstructurewithinapieceofmusic
buttoidentifythecharacteristicsofanentirepiecewithaviewtosell
ing you more pieces of music exhibiting similar characteristics. That
said, these systems, particularly Pandora,ought to beable toprovide
youwithenoughtitlesofenoughmusicinrelevantstylesthatyoucan
thentestforstructuralsimilaritiesusingyourownears.
34

33. Theanalysisofonesong/piece/tracktakesbetween20and30minutesandinvolves
locatingwhichofbetween150and500structuraltraitsapplytothepieceandto
whatextent(onascaleof05)(seehelp.pandora.com/ [2010-10-16]).Thisanalysissys
temseems,judgingfrominformationavailableonline(e.g.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
List_of_Music_Genome_ Project_attributes [2010-10-16]),tobequiteexhaustiveforrock,
pop,jazz,rap,CountryandotherEnglishlanguagetypesofpopularmusic,lessso
forothers.PandorawillprobablybecomelessUSAnglocentricandothermusic
structurebasedsystemswilldoubtlessprovidemoresophisticatedtoolsofanalysis
inthenearfuture:seeMacDormanetal.(2007),Meyers(2007),Williamson(2007).
34. Pandoraisforreasonsofcopyrightlegislationcurrently(October2010)onlyavaila
bletoUSresidents.NoraretunerecognitionappslikeShazamcurrentlyconnected
toanypublicSOUNDSLIKEtypeofIOCMdatabase(seeendoffootnote33).
248 Tagg: Musics Meanings 7. Interobjectivity
Themorethemerrier
Before continuing with other possible procedures of interobjective
comparison,itsworthemphasisingthefollowingfourpoints.
1. ThemoreinformantsyouasktoprovideIOCM,themorepiecesof
relevantIOCMyouarelikelytofind.
2. ThemorepiecesofrelevantIOCMyoufind,thegreateryour
chanceswillbeoffindingPMFCsrelevanttoyourAO.
3. ThemoreyourIOCMstructurallyresemblesyourAO,themore
reliableyourargumentationwillbeaboutconnectionsbetweenthe
AOandthePMFCslinkedtotheIOCM.
4. ThegreaterconsistencythereisbetweenPMFCslinkedtoyour
IOCM,theclearerwillbeyourpresentationofmusicalmeaning.
Thesefourpointsareonlyguidelines.Youjustcantexpecteverymusic
analysistoinvolveastatisticallyreliablesampleofinformants,noran
exhaustivebankofaccurateIOCMforeveryrelevantmusicalstructure,
noran unequivocalsetofPMFCsforeverypieceof IOCMrelatingto
every musical structure in your AO. But there are a few simple steps
thatcanbetakentoimproveanalyticalreliability:oneisexplainedin
the next paragraph, two more under Reverse engineering 1 and 2
(pp. 249253)andanotherinthesectiononCommutation(p. 253, ff.).
Ifareceptiontestispartofyouranalysis(Chapter6),youcanalways
ask your respondents to provide not only the sort of connotations al
luded to in the instructions on page 207: you can also askthem to jot
downthenameofanyothermusic,artist,composer,styleorgenrethe
test piece reminds them of. That extra information may increase the
sizeofyourIOCMand,consequently,thenumberofPMFCsassociated
with it. As mentioned earlier, a crosscheck between the two sets of
PMFCatthebottomofFigure72(p. 238)canhelpverifyorfalsifyyour
hypothesesaboutthemusicalmeaningofyourtestpiece(AO).
YoucanalsoswitchthedirectionofthearrowsinFigure72.Thatgives
two more useful ways of testing hypotheses about the meaning of
soundsinyourAO.Bothproceduresconstituteasortofreverseengi
neeringbywhichyoutheoreticallyreconstructsoundsinyourAOon
thebasisofPMFCsyouthinkmayberelatedtoit.Thefirstofthesetwo
procedures even lets you collect IOCM relevant to your AO without
havingtoaskamusician.
Tagg: Musics Meanings 7. Interobjectivity 249
Reverseengineering1:fromIOCMtoAO
IfyourehavingtroublecollectingIOCMforanAOyouthinkcommu
nicates a certain mood or gives rise to certain connotations, you can
startwiththatmoodorwiththoseconnotationsashypothesesandtry
findingpiecesofothermusicwithtitles,lyrics,onscreenaction,moods
andsoon,thatcorrespondtoyourhypotheses.Forexample,ifyourAO
isapopsongwhoselyricsrecurrentlyincludethewordsteenandangel,
you can start by entering those words in the YouTube search box.
AmongcountlessversionsoftheactualsongTeenAngelandinnumera
bleepisodesofthehomonymousTVseries,youllalsofindrecordings
ofsongslikeTeenagerinLove,AngelBaby,TellLauraILoveHer,andDevil
Or Angel, some of which may well contain passages sounding like
something in your AO with all its TEENS and ANGELS. If that exercise
failstoturnupanythingofrelevance,youcansearchthewebforsong
lyricscontainingteenandangel.Ifyoufindany(youwill!
35
),youcan
thengoto,say,iTunesorYouTubeandsearchbynamefortherelevant
songswhosetitlesyoujustfound.Ifanyofthesongssoundmusically
likeyourAO,youcancountthemasIOCM.
YoucanofcoursealsousethesortsofsearchjustexplainedifyourAO
remindsyouofmusicbyanotherartistorcomposer.Listeningtoshort
extractsfromtheirmusicwillsoontellyouhowviableanySOUNDSLIKE
hunchmightbe.Youcanthencheckifanyofthemusicyoursearches
produceislinkedtoparticularlyrics,moods,situationsoraudiences.If
aparticularextractfromthemusicofanotherartistorcomposerbears
structuralresemblancetosomethinginyourAO(rememberingthecul
turalcaveat,ofcourse),thenthoseparticularlyrics,moods,situations
oraudiencesbecomePMFCsofpotentialrelevancetothediscussionof
meaninginyourAO.
Hunting for IOCM does not necessarily entail online work. You can
alsoscouryourownoryourfriendsmusiccollections.Inmyownanal
ysisworkIoftenformulatehypothesesaboutmusicalmeaningaskey
wordswhichIthenshamelesslyusetolookforlikelytitlesofCDand
LP tracks of film music and pop songs, or, if appropriate, of classical
35. Asearchfor|song lyrics teen teenager angel|produced1,200,000hits[100902].
250 Tagg: Musics Meanings 7. Interobjectivity
Lieder,ofBaroquearias,Romanticprogrammemusicandsoon.Ialso
searchforthesamekeywordsinthefilenameandtitlemetadataofme
diafilesonmycomputer.Ifthosesearchesproduceresults(theyusu
allydo)Ithencheck,eitheraurallyorinthescore(ifIhaveit),whether
theresanythinginanyofthepiecesImanagetolocatethatsoundslike
anythinginmyAO.Ifthereis,Inotethelocationoftherelevantmusi
cal structure within each of those pieces, along with the name of the
pieceand,ifany,thepiecespublishingdetails.Ithenaddthepieceto
mybankofIOCM.
ButwhatifyourehavingdifficultiesfindingIOCMforanAOwithno
obvious verbal, visual or dramatic connections of its own? Perhaps it
doesntevenhaveadescriptivetitle.Noproblem,aslongasyouhavea
viablehypothesisaboutitsPMFCs.
LetssaythatourfictitiousMYSTERYLAKEAOhasnotitle,thatitsjust
listedasanumberedcueonalimitededitionCDforfilmmusicbuffs.
AslongasIhaveahypothesisaboutitsmood(itstheMYSTERIOUSLAKE)
Im not lost. In fact, having googled the search string |+"library music"
+mystery lake|Iwasable,inacoupleofminutesandgoingnofurther
thanthefirstfewofthe16,500hitssupposedlyansweringtomysearch
string, to hear sample demos from three library music pieces corre
spondingwellwithsonicparticularitiesintheAO.
36
TheIOCMIwas
able to locate so quickly consisted of two atmospheric synthesiser
tracks called Secrets and Unseen, and a symphonic piece entitled Ap
proaching Unknown. This third piece was described by library music
staff as CAUTIOUS, INTENSE, SURREAL MOVING, OMINOUS, EMOTIONAL,
SOARINGATMOSPHERIC,HAUNTINGMYSTERIOUS,SUSPENSEFUL,APPRE
HENSIVEEERIE,[giving]asenseoftheUNKNOWN,APPROACHINGTROU
36. Thesearchstring|+"library music" +mystery lake|meansthattheexactwordpair
librarymusicandthesinglewordmysterymustbothappearinthesearchresultsand
thatthosealsoincludingthewordlakeshouldbepresentedbeforethosethatdont.
SecretsandUnseenarebyStephanSechi,fromthealbumDronesVol.2Mysteriousin
theRoyaltyFreeMusicLibrary(RadicalA.Publishing)royaltyfreemusiclibrary.com/
cds/view/id/106.ApproachingUnknownisintheMYSTERYsectionontheStockMusicsite
andisbySteveE.Williamsstockmusicsite.com/stockmusic/summary/play.cfm/
sound_iid.367165 [both sites 2010-08-26].Ishouldmaybehavedelvedfurtherinthe
Googlelistingandinvestigated,say,musicforDisneysMysteryLake(Prod.8201
049)orforSuperMarioatthemysteriouslake.Ididnot!
Tagg: Musics Meanings 7. Interobjectivity 251
BLE,MYSTERY[andcontaining]hypnoticflute,celeste,pianoandharp
ostinato. No actual LAKE, admittedly, but I still thought the descrip
tionssoundedaboutright,asindeeddidtheactualdemorecordingan
sweringtothosedescriptions.
Thepointofthesebriefsortiesintocyberspaceistoshowhowsimpleit
can be to find and hear music whose lyrics, title or descriptions tally
withyourhypothesisaboutwhatparticularstructuraltraitsinyourAO
may be connoting. If something in the music of the piece[s] you dis
coverthroughthissortofreverseengineeringsoundslikesomethingin
yourAO,allwellandgood:yourhypothesisissubstantiated,atleastin
part. If not, your hypothesis might be faulty, or your IOCM might be
conceivedinadifferentmusicalidiomtothatofyourAO.
Whetheryouveaskedamusician,useddigitalrecommendersystems
orappliedthesortofreverseengineeringjustdescribedtohuntdown
piecesofIOCMandtheirPMFCsforyouranalysis,yourfindingscan
be crosschecked with results from the reception test you may have
conducted (see Chapter 6). They can also be crosschecked using an
othersortofreverseengineering.
Reverseengineering2:recomposition
Another control mechanism for checking the validity of the PMFCs
youvecollectedintersubjectivelyorinterobjectively,orthatyouresim
ply putting forward as a hypothesis, is to provide musicians with a
summaryofyourPMFCsandaskthethemtocomeupwithideasfor
music they think would fit those fields of connotation. Of course, the
musiciansshouldnotknowtheidentityofyourAO.Thereversearrow
in this recomposition procedure goes from either of the two PMFC
boxesinFigure72(p. 238)uptotheAObecauseyoureaskingmusi
cianstoreconstructtheAOonthebasisofitssupposedconnotations.
The obvious point here is that if your musicians suggest structural
traitssimilartothoseoftheAO,yourPMFCswillhavegreatervalidity
thaniftheirsuggestionsdontsoundlikeit.Thereis,however,onema
jorproblemwiththisprocedure.Ifyourmusicianscantverbalisetheir
suggestionsintermsyouunderstand,ifyoureunabletodecipherjar
gonlikeasawtoothclusterat110dBwithmaximumdistortionat3k
(ouch!),andifyoucantpersuadethemtoplayorrecordtheirsugges
252 Tagg: Musics Meanings 7. Interobjectivity
tions,thenthistypeofreverseengineeringwontwork.However,ifyou
dont stumble on this sort of problem, composing back towards the
AO from a set of PMFCs can be a very useful and convincing tool of
semioticanalysis.
Forexample, duringapostgraduate musicology seminarin Gteborg
(Sweden)intheearly1980s,apsychologistfromLundtoldparticipants
what a patient had said when listening to a particular piece of music
under hypnosis. The instructions to the patient had been to say what
the music made him/her see, like in a daydream. The seminar knew
neithertheidentityofnoranythingelseaboutthepieceofmusicthat
evoked the hypnotised patients associations which were recounted
roughlyasfollowsbythevisitingpsychologist.
Alone,outinthecountrysideonagentlyslopingfieldormeadownear
sometreesatthetopoftherisewheretherewasaviewofalakeandthe
forestontheotherside.
Using this statement as a starting point, seminar participants were
askedtomakearoughsketchofthesortofmusictheythoughtmight
haveevokedsuchassociations.Theseminarscollectivesketchsugges
tion, which took about thirty minutes to produce, consisted of very
quiethighnotessustainedintheviolinsandaveryquietlownotesus
tained in the cellos and basses. These two ongoing, extremely calm
pitchpolaritieswereinconsonantrelationtoeachother.Aratherunde
cided, quiet but slightly uneasy melodic figure appeared now and
againinthemiddlebetweenthetwopitchpolarities.Asolowoodwind
instrument (either flute, oboe or clarinet) played smoothly, in a folk
vein, a wistful but not unpleasant tune that wandered quietly, slowly
andabitaimlesslyovertherestofthebarelyaudiblestaticsounds.
Theseminarsquicksketchprovedtocorrespondonmanycountswith
the original musical stimulus the last post section at c. 4:20 in the
slow movement from Vaughan Williams Pastoral Symphony (1922).
Thisbriefexperimentsuggeststhatpeoplewithsomemusicaltraining
are able to conceive generalities of musical structure linked to given
paramusical spheres of association, not merely to perceive them. The
recomposition exercise also suggested that the seminar participants
andthepatientfromLundmadeverysimilarconnections,albeitinop
Tagg: Musics Meanings 7. Interobjectivity 253
posite directions, between specific musical structures and a specific
paramusical field of connotation. The patients connotations and the
seminarparticipantsmusicalideasreinforcedeachother.
Whichever methods of IOCM collection and PMFC verification you
use,onethingiscertain:themorepreciselyyouindicatewhichmusical
structuralelement[s]intheAOsoundlikewhichstructuralelement[s]
intheIOCMthemoreconvincingyouranalysiswillbe.Besides,amu
sicalstructurecantbetreatedasasign(museme)ifitisntalsoidenti
fied as a structure. This structural imperative is usually enough to
makenonmusosnervous,unnecessarilyso,asIllexplainunderStruc
tural designation (p. 256, ff.). First, though, Ill present the last of the
procedures(Commutation)allowingyoutocheckthevalidityofcon
clusionsyoumayhavedrawnaboutwhichstructuralelementsinyour
AOrelatetowhichPMFCs.
Commutation
Inlinguistics,commutationmeanssubstitutingoneelementamongsev
eralinagroupwithsomethingelsetocheckifthemeaningofthewhole
groupofelementschanges.Forexample,replacingtheUsound/Y/in
southern UK English [lYk] (luck) with the oo sound /U/ in [lUk] (look)
changes the meaning of the word, but making the same change from
[bYs]to[bUs]doesntbecause[bs](southern)and[bUs](northernUK
English)areacceptedregionalvariantsofthesamewordmeaningthe
same thing: bus.
37
Commutation is useful in the analysis of musical
meaning for determining which structural elements are semiotically
moreorlessoperativethanothers.
Returningoncemoretotheofficialanddrunkversionsofyourna
tionalanthem,itsclearfromthediscussionoftheirmusemesandfea
sible interpretants (Table 71, p. 229) that some structural elements
makeformoreradicaldifferencesofattitudetowardsyournationand
itsflagthandoothers.Forexample,replacingtheraucousforeignvoice
withkazooorexchangingtheconcertinaforaukelelewouldprobably
notmakeasmuchdifferencetothedrunkversionaswouldreplacing
37. NorthernEnglishluck[lUk]andlook[lu:k]soundlikelookandLuketoLondoners.
254 Tagg: Musics Meanings 7. Interobjectivity
theraucousforeignsingerwithanequallyforeignclassicalbaritoneor
theconcertinaplayerwithaproficientpianistonawelltunedconcert
grand. Similarly, it would change the character of the official version
quitenoticeablyifevenonememberofthechoirororchestrawereto
perform their part out of time or tune, while considerably less differ
ence of attitude toward your nation and its flag would result from a
complete change of personnel from professional symphony orchestra
toaproficientandwellrehearsedmilitaryband.
This sort of commutation is also called hypothetical substitution and
moreoftenthannotitstaysattheWHATIF?stage.Butthesubstitution
can sometimes make you think of other music that sounds similar to
the new variant you just imagined or created. That newIOCM may or
maynotbesimilartothatofyourAO.IfthenewIOCMisdifferentandif
thePMFCslinkedtoitdontalignwiththoseofyouranalysisobject,then
thestructuralelementsubjectedtocommutationinyourAOcanbecon
sideredoperativeinproducingthePMFCsyoufoundtobelinkedwith
yourAObecausechangingthatstructuralelementtosomethingelseled
todifferentmusic(thenewIOCM)andtodifferentPMFCs.Conversely,if
yourcommutationleadstothesamesortofIOCMandPMFCsasthoseof
yourAOyoullknowthattheelementyoureplacedwithsomethingelse
wasnotsoimportantinproducingthePMFCsinquestion.Anepisode
fromananalysisclassclearlyillustratesthisprinciple.
At a pop music analysis session devoted to finding IOCM for a 1990s
electrodancetrackIwassureIwashearingachordshuttleresembling
thatunderthehooklinesofwellknownpoptuneslikeMySweetLord,
HesSoFineandOhHappyDay.
38
ButwhenIstartedplayingalongwith
thetrackIdiscovereditwaspitchedinanunusualkeyandthatIhadto
force my hands and fingers into unfamiliar shapes. Luckily my stu
dentsdidntnoticehowmucheffortIhadtoputintomakingitsound
likeoneofthemostfamiliarchordshuttlesinthepoprepertoire.The
38. MySweetLord(Harrison,1971),HesSoFine(Chiffons,1963),OhHappyDay(Edwin
HawkinsSingers,1969).Formoreonthehappytechnotrack,seeCSource(1997).
Chordshuttlemeanschangingrepeatedlytoandfrobetweentwochords.
Tagg: Musics Meanings 7. Interobjectivity 255
pointisthatIdhadtodosomethingthatwaspoetically,frommypoint
ofviewasakeyboardplayer,quitedifferent:itwashardtomakethe
music sound like the same thing. The conclusion my students and I
drew from that episode was that significant changes from the musi
cians poetic standpoint dont necessarily lead to changes of musical
messagebecausethefactthatIdhadtostruggleatthepianomadenot
ablindbitofsemioticdifference.Furtherdiscussionensuedand,asked
what structural features would have made a difference to the musical
message,thestudentsmentioneddifferentrhythmicandaccentualpat
terning,adistinctlyslowerorfastertempo,playingthechordsatano
ticeably different pitch, or on an detuned piano or some other
instrument. We all agreed that making simple changes to rhythm,
tempo, articulation and instrumentation definitely made a difference
whiletransposingthemusicupordownasemitonemadevirtuallyno
differenceatall.Bytheendofthelessonwehadlearntthatwhatmusi
cians produce usually does make a difference to the message but that
thedegreeofsemioticdifferenceatthereceivingenddoesntnecessar
ilycorrespondtothedegreeofstructuraldifferenceperceivedbymusi
ciansatthetransmittingend.
Thelastexampleofcommutationprocedurecomesfromthefictitious
MYSTERYLAKEpiece.Letssayweveidentifiedsoundsinitthatwethink
maysomehowconnotewater,thatnoneoftheIOCMwefoundhasany
thingaqueousamongitsPMFCs,andthattheIOCMcontainsnoneofthe
structuralelementsweveidentifiedaspotentiallywateryintheAO.We
can first imagine the AO without the sounds we think may be watery
(i.e.takethemoutandreplacethemwithnothing).IfourAOwiththat
omission sounds more like all the IOCM whose PMFCs did not include
water,thenourhypothesisaboutthewaterysoundsintheAOmayhave
somemileage.Butitslesslikelytobeaquestionofwhetherthestruc
turalelementisitselfincludedoromittedasawholebecauseitswater
iness could depend on any number or combination of factors on
volume/intensity,register,timbre,articulation,phrasing,tempo,metre,
periodicity, tonal vocabulary, acoustic staging, etc. In fact its in con
junctionwiththoseparametersofmusicalexpressionthatcommutationis
256 Tagg: Musics Meanings 7. Interobjectivity
mostusefulbecausewecantest,atleasthypothetically,howdifferent
themusicwouldsoundifthevaluesofany(combinationof)thosepa
rametersweretobechanged.Inshort,youhavetoaskWHATIFstruc
tural element x is played faster, slower, higher, lower, smoother,
choppier, using different notes, in waltz time, with a bossa nova
groove, by strings or brass, with lots of reverb or dry, with the tune
moreupfrontorfurtherback,withoutthebassline,etc.,etc.?
Structuraldesignation
The structural imperative in interobjective comparison, I wrote a few
pages ago, is usually enough to make nonmusos quite nervous. In
deed,how,youmaywellask,cansomeonewithlittleornoformalmu
sicaltraining,someonewhocanttelladiminishedseventhfromahole
inthewall,beexpectedtoaccuratelyidentifymusicalstructures,espe
cially given the predilection in conventional music studies for poetic
descriptorsofstructure?
39
Well,thatobjectionmayoncehavehadsome
validitybutithasinmyview,atleastsincethemid1990s,becomemore
ofanexcusefornotconfrontingmusicassoundinthestudyofmusic.In
factIthinkthereistodayverylittleapartfromepistemicslothandin
stitutionalinertiathatpreventsnonmusosfromaccuratelyidentifying
musicalstructures.Istatethatopinioncategoricallybecausethereare
atleasttwocomplementarywaysofconfrontingtheissueofstructural
designation, neither of which involves any muso skill or jargon: time
codeplacementandparamusicalsynchrony.
Unequivocaltimecodeplacement
CD tracks, films on DVD, audio files, video files, etc. all include time
codeaspartofthedigitalrecording.Thattimecodeiseitherdisplayed
or displayable on standalone CD and DVD players; its also present in
media playback software for computers, tablets and smartphones. As
long as the piece is digitally recorded or rerecorded, the real time
elapsedsincethestartofthepieceyoureanalysingiscontinuallyup
datedandshownasitisplayed.Thismeansthatyoucanhitthepause
39. SeeunderStructuraldenotation,p. 115, ff,
Tagg: Musics Meanings 7. Interobjectivity 257
buttonwhenyouhearanymusicaleventofinterestandnotethetiming
atthatpoint.Standaloneplayers(CD,DVD,MiniDisc)andnormalplay
backsoftwareoncomputersandsmartphonesletyoupinpointevents
tothenearestsecond,standardaudiovisualrecordingandeditingap
plicationstothenearestfractionofasecond.
40
Currently(2012)thebest
solutionistomakesureyouhaveyourAOasasoundfileonthecom
puterandtoopenitusingaudioeditingsoftware.Thatwayyoucansee
pointsofrelativequietandloudness,changesinsoundwaveshape,etc.
thatmakeiteasiertofindyourwayaroundthepiece,asshowninthe
toppartofFigure74onpage 258.
ThetoplineofFigure74isascreencaptureofthewholeoftheoriginal
1962versionoftheJamesBondThemeasdisplayedbytheaudiorecord
ingandeditingsoftwareIuse.<
41
Usingthelinetoolinanimageedit
ingapplication,Ivemarkedupthestartpointsofthetunessectionsas
Ihearthem.Icanlabelthemwithvernaculartermsliketwangyguitar
tuneandspychordbecauseIcandesignatethesoundImreferringtoby
indicatingtheexactpoint,tothenearestsecond,inthetunestimecode
wherethatsoundfirstoccurs,forexamplethetwangyguitarat0:07(for
the entrance of 007 himself), the danger stabs at 1:33 and the final spy
chordat1:40.
42
Thosestructuraldesignationsareallaccurateandune
quivocal. No reader with access to the same recording can be in any
doubtaboutthesoundsImreferringto.
43

40. Resolutionisinmillisecondsforaudiosoftware,inframespersecondforvideo.
41. SteinbergWaveLabStudio.Forsoftwarecredits,seeinsidefrontcover.Thescreen
dumpisconvertedtogreyscaleandmadelessblacktosaveonprintingcosts.Its
alsoreducedsoitfitsonthepage.Ifyoudontownorcantaffordaudioediting
software,dontworry:themusicdepartmentatyourschool,college,universityor
locallibrarymaywellhaveasitelicenseforthatsortofapplication.
42. Imnotsuggestingthatthetiming0:07isintentionalfortheentranceof007!For
moreaboutthefamousSPY,CRIME,DANGERorDETECTIVECHORD,seep. 116, ff.
43. ThedurationoftheJamesBondThemeatYouTube/iTunesis1:48,not1:45asinFigure
74(myversion).Thisdiscrepancyisduetothefactthattheaudiofileonwhich
myversionisbasedisananaloguetodigitaltransferofanLPtrackandthatI
trimmeditsinitialandfinalsilencesto0.6and1respectively,whereastheiTunes
filestartswith1.3andendswithalmost3ofsilence.Thismeansthattimingsin
Figure74are0.7(1)earlierthanintheiTunesfile.
258 Tagg: Musics Meanings 7. Interobjectivity
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Tagg: Musics Meanings 7. Interobjectivity 259
ThefoursmallscreenshotsinFigure74showdisplaysatfourpoints
inthesameMP3fileoftheJamesBondTheme,thistimeusingafreelyand
widelyavailablemediaplayer.
44
Pleasenotethatthetotaldurationof
the piece is1:45and thatthe screenshotshave beentaken at (a)0:07,
when,appropriately,the007tuneisfirstheard;(b)0:33,whentheintro
returns,notlongbeforethebrassfirstenterswithitsangulardanger
tuneat0:40;(c)1:17,apointunmarkedinthetoplineofFigure74;(d)
1:39forthefamousfinalspychord.Thetiming1:17(c)marksthestart
ofthelastreturnoftheintro,exceptthatitsupanddownpatternonly
occursoncebeforethetwangyguitarkicksinforthelasttime.
45

Simplemediaplaybacksoftwareisusuallyenoughforsimpleanalysis
tasksbutithasseveraldrawbacks.[1]Thepausebuttoncanbeslowto
react and you may find yourself noting timings that are a second too
late.[2]Timeresolutionisntperfectanditcanbedifficulttostartplay
ingthemusicfromexactpointsinsidetherecording.[3]Youcannotex
tract individual minifiles or construct loops of particular sounds or
passagesyouneedtolistentorepeatedly,orwhichyouneedtodrawto
the attention of those providing you with PMFCs or IOCM without
them hearing what comes just before or after. [4] You cannot display
enough of your AO on screen at one time to use as visual basis for a
graphicscoreorfordiscussionofoverallformandnarrativeprocess.
46
BycreatinganoverviewofyourAOwithprecisetimingsofimportant
eventsanditsdivisionintosections(seetopoffigure74,p. 258,andthe
tableofmusematicoccurrenceforAbbasFernando,p. 387),youcanalso
start referring to musical structures relatively, for example the danger
loopsjustbeforethefinalchord,orthelastfivenotesofthetwangyguitartune
justbeforeitrepeats.Itis,however,bestwhenindoubttoprovideanac
curatetimingsoastoavoidanyconfusionaboutwhichsoundyoure
referringto.
44. VLCMediaPlayer,seesoftwarecreditsinsidefrontcover.
45. ItsunmarkedinthetoplineofFigure74toavoidcluttering,asistheeventat1:13,
thepointatwhichdramaticbrassstabsfirstpunctuatethemusicsotherwise
unstoppableflow.Observationslikethisareimportantbecausehalvingthedura
tionofpassagespresentingdifferentmaterialoneaftertheotherdoublestherateof
changeandcancreateanimpressionofstressandurgency.
46. Feedbacksessionsandgraphicscore,seeChapter14(pp. 562564,568572).
260 Tagg: Musics Meanings 7. Interobjectivity
Paramusicalsynchrony
Paramusical synchrony sounds much fancier than what it actually
means,butitsalsomuchshorterthanitsexplanationwhich,however
brief, runs as follows. If, unlike the solely audio version of the James
Bond Theme, your AO features lyrics, moving images, stage action or
dance, its musical structures can also be designated by referring to
paramusicaleventsoccurringsimultaneouslywithorincloseproxim
itytothosestructures.Threefictitiousexampleswillsufficetoillustrate
thissimpletechnique:[1]thesingerscontentedgrowlonthelastoh,baby!
inverse1(at0:31inapopsong);[2]thedistantscreechingsoundjustbefore
shepourspoisonintohiswhiskey(at1:02:15inafeaturefilmonDVD);[3]
thedrumpatternthatsynchroniseswiththequickzoominontotheleadvo
calists lips (at 2:20 in a music video). Its usually advisable to supple
ment this type of structural indication with timecode designation to
ensurethatwhoeverreadsyouranalysiscanfindtherelevantmusical
structure in the recording without wasting time waiting for the mo
menttoarrive.
Summaryofmainpoints
[1]Structuralelementsinmusiccanbeconsideredaseither:[i]dormant
structuresregardlessofsemioticpotential;[ii]structuralelementsthat
canbeshowntocarrysomesortofmeaningmusematicstructures.
[2]Amusemeisaminimalunitofmusicalmeaningbutitsoftenmore
usefultoconsidermeaningfulmusicalunitsintermsofmusemestacks,
musemestrings,orassyncrisis(Chapter12).
[3]InadditiontotheintersubjectiveproceduresdescribedinChapter6,
a musical analysis object (AO: an identifiable and usually nameable
pieceofmusic)canbesubjectedtointerobjectiveinvestigation.
[4]Interobjectivecomparisonmaterial(IOCM)ismusicotherthantheAO
thatsoundslike(bearsstructuralresemblanceto)theAO.
[5]ThecollectionofIOCMisthefirstoftwostepsintheprocedureofin
terobjectivecomparison.ThesecondstepinvolvesrelatingtheIOCMto
itsownparamusicalfieldsofconnotation(PMFCs).
Tagg: Musics Meanings 7. Interobjectivity 261
[6]PMFCsrelatedtotheIOCMcanbepositedasPMFCsrelatingtotheAO.
[7]IOCMcanbecollectedbyexploitingtheaudiomuscularmemoryof
musicians.Thismethodisdirectandreliablesinceitisintrinsicallymu
sical,avoidingthemediationofwordsandusingothermusicasasort
ofinitialmetalanguageforthemusicunderanalysis.
[8]IOCMcanalsobegatheredbysearchingformusicwhosetitle,lyrics,
accompanying images, connotations, including hypotheses you may
haveyourself,arerelevanttotheAO.Onlinesearchesusuallyresultin
quickaccesstorelevantpiecesofIOCM(Reverseengineering1).
[9]Conclusionsaboutmusicalmeaningdrawnfrominterobjectivepro
cedurescan,ifapplicable,becrosscheckedforviabilitywithreception
testresults(seeChapter6).Theycanalsobeverified/falsifiedusingthe
techniques of recomposition (Reverse engineering 2) and commuta
tion(hypotheticalsubstitution).
[10]Accuratestructuraldesignationisessentialininterobjectiveanaly
sis. Digital timecode placement and paramusical synchrony are two
simplewaysinwhichanyonecanunequivocallydenotemusicalstruc
tureswithouthavingtouseanymusojargon.
262 Tagg: Musics Meanings 7. Interobjectivity
Tagg:MusicsMeanings 263
s
8.Terms,time&space
AboutChapters812
Digitaltimecodeplacementandparamusicalsynchronyaretwosimple
ways in which anyone can unequivocally denote musical structures
withouthavingtouseanymusojargon.
Ifthat,thelastsentenceinChapter7,istrue,why,youmaywellask,are
the next five chapters all about musical structure? One reason is that
understandingbasicstructuralphenomenaliketempo,timbreandto
nality provides additional insights into what might be hidden in the
blackboxofmusicalsemiosis.Anotheristhatitsimpossibletoentirely
avoidpoetictermswhenreferringtomusicalsigns.Ivealreadyused
manysuchwordswithoutanysortofexplanation.Page255,forexam
ple,includedthefollowingsentence.
Thewateriness[ofthemusic]coulddependonanynumberoffac
torsonloudness,register,timbre,articulation,phrasing,tempo,metre,pe
riodicity,tonalvocabulary,auralstaging,etc.
Thosefactors,initalics,arecategoriesofstructurationIcallPARAME
TERSOFMUSICALEXPRESSION.Theyaresetsofpropertiesconstitutingthe
vastvarietyofsoundswehearasmusical.Justthinkofthefollowingsix
sortsofmusicalchange:[1]ofinstrumentationfromelectronicdubmix
tostringquartet;[2]ofvolumefromloudtosoft;[3]ofpitchfromhighto
low;[4]oftempofromfasttoslow;[5]oftonalvocabularyfrommajorto
minor; [6] of timbre from smooth to rough. Such changes are likely to
produce different effects on the listener and need to be named. The
problemisthatthoseparameters(andmanymore)arealreadysubjects
ofentirebooks:Ijustcantdealwiththemallindetail.Itsalsowhy,de
spitevalianteffortstobebrief,theyoccupythenextfivechapters.
TheaimofChapters812istwofold.Oneistocomplementintersubjec
tiveandinterobjectiveproceduresbyprovidingaperspectivebasedon
categoriesofmusicalstructuration:wasthatWATERYeffectcausedby
timbreorphrasing,tempoorvolume,surfacerateorpitch,orbyacom
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264 Tagg:MusicsMeanings8.Terms,time&space
binationofallofthose,orbynone?Theothermainaimofthesechap
tersistoprovideaconceptualbasisforidentifyingthesonicproperties
operativeincreatingmusicalmeaning.Twoconcreteexamplesofmis
takenstructuralidentityshouldclarifythepoint.
Askedtoexplainwhytheythinkafilmmusiccuesoundsromantic,stu
dentsoftensaythingslikeitsthestrings.Thatscertainlytrueifstring
instrumentsareinvolvedbutitsalsoquitemisleadingbecauseanother
trope of music for strings suggests the opposite. Im referring to the
screeching, stabbing soundmotion of extraordinary viciousness in
Herrmanns music for the shower scene in Hitchcocks Psycho (1960).
1
TodistinguishbetweenROMANTICandPSYCHOPATHICstrings,youhave
to consider parameters like attack (smooth and soft, not sharp and
hard),melodicandrhythmicprofile(continuous,regular,graduallyvaried
and overarching, not detached, jerky, sudden and repetitive), phrase
length (long, not short), timbre (round, smooth and full, not harsh,
roughandpiercing)andharmony(consonant,notdissonant).Inshort,
the effect of romance or horror isnt down to the instruments as such
buttohowtheyareusedtoplaywhat.
Another common case of mistaken connotative identity is caused by
thepopularequationsMAJOR=HAPPYandMINOR=SAD.Evenifthisdu
alismoftonalvocabularyhassomevalidityintheeuroclassicalreper
toire,itsinapplicabletoanylivelyminormodechalga,cueca,hornpipe,
jenka,jig,klezmer,lambada,malaguea,polska,reel,syrtos,tarantellaorver
bunkos.Ifyoubelieveintheminormodesintrinsicmorosity,tryacting
depressed as you sing along to merry minor tunes like Kalinka, Hava
Nagila or God Rest You Merry Gentlemen.
2
Or else try joyous abandon
1. Psychoisscoredentirelyforstringorchestra(seeauthoritativeentryforPsychoin
Wikipedia[110822]).TheviciousnesscitationisfromPalmer(1990:277).Fordiscus
sionofmusicfortheshowersceneinPsycho,seep. 511, ff.
2.Examplesofthemerryminor:REEL:BothyBand(1976);SLIPJIG:Dubliners(1971);
HORNPIPE:WhatShallWeDoWithTheDrunkenSailor?TARANTELLA:seeTarantellain
Referenceappendix;MALAGUEA:Sabicas(n.d.);CUECA:Trukeros(2007);VERBUNK:
RomafestGypsyEnsemble(2009);POLSKA:Polskaigmoll(Sahlstrm,1969;Lindgren
&sterholm,2008);JENKA:Lehtinen(1963);CHALGA:Elvira(2000);SYRTOS:Tsour
dolakis(2010);KLEZMER:Zohar(2007);LAMBADA:Kaoma(1989).Formerryminor
euroclassicalpiecestryWeelkes(1615),BereitedichZioninBach(1734),ortheever
popularBminorBadinerie(=jest/joke)fromBWV1067(Bach,1730).Formoreon
minor/major,seeTLTT: 308330.
Tagg:MusicsMeanings8.Terms,time&space 265
whilehearingmournfulmajorkeypieceslikeHandelsLargo.
3
No,in
dicatorsofHAPPYorSADarelesslikelytobeamatteroftonality(p.325
ff.),morelikelyduetoparticularusageofparametersliketempo,sur
facerate,loudness,phraselength,melodicpitchrangeandcontour,ac
companimentalregisterandrhythmicconfiguration.
As already mentioned, theres no room here to go into much detail
aboutthesortofparametersofmusicalexpressionjustlisted.Iwillat
bestbeabletogivearoughideaofsomeoftheessentialnutsandbolts
involvedinmakingandreactingtomusic.Readersrequiringmorede
tailmustregrettablylookelsewhere.
4
AnothercaveatisthatIhaveto
paymoreattentiontoconceptsthatconventionalmusictheorytreatsei
therconfusinglyorcursorily(ifatall).Theseprioritiesarenecessarybe
cause many institutions of musical learning in the West still
conceptualise parameters of expression hierarchically, as either pri
marysyntaxbaseddiscreterelationalcategories(pitch,duration)
orsecondarytempo,dynamics,timbre.Suchconceptualhierarchies
areinapplicabletomostofthemusicwehearonadailybasis.
5

Afterabriefdiscussionofconceptsessentialtotherestofthebook,this
chapterisdevotedtoparametersoftime,speed,spaceandmovement
(duration, phrase, episode, tempo, beat, metre, groove, aural staging
etc.).Chapter9dealswithissuesoftimbreandtonality,includingsec
tionsoneffectsunits,loudness,tuning,octave,interval,mode,melody,
chords,harmony,etc.Chapter10isdevotedentirelytovocalpersona,
andChapters1112totheaggregatedmacroparametersofnarrative
formorDIATAXIS(extensional)andofSYNCRISIS(intensionalform).
Still,beforetakingonallthosestructuralissues,itswisetofirstclarify
afewfundamentalandrecurrentconceptslikeGENRE,STYLE,PARAMUSI
CALFACTORS,theEXTENDEDPRESENT,NOTE,PITCH,TONEandTIMBRE.
3. HandelsLargo(1738)isverypopularatfunerals.Fourotherexamples:[1]TheSilver
SwanGibbons(1612):Farewell,alljoys;[2]Drop,DropSlowTears(Gibbons);[3]He
wasdespisedfromTheMessiah(Handel,1741);[5]ChefarsenzaEuridicefrom
OrfeoedEuridice(Gluck,1744):Nohopeinthisworldetc.
4. Forfullertreatmentofnote,pitch,tone,tonality,timbre,tuning,octave,interval,mode,
scale,pentatonic,heptatonic,melody,accompaniment,antiphony,melisma,polyphony,har
mony,chord,triad,tertial,quartal,voiceleading,circleoffifths,shuttle,loop,turnaround,
vamp,drone,heterophony,homophonyandcounterpoint,see(Tagg,2009: 17240).
266 Tagg:MusicsMeanings8.Terms,time&space
Basicconcepts(1)
Genreandstyle
AccordingtoFabbri(1999: 89;2008:121136),musicalGENRESevolveas
namedcategoriestodefinesimilaritiesandrecurrencesrulesthat
membersofagivencommunityfindusefulinidentifyingagivensetof
musicalandmusicrelatedpractices.Suchrules,writesFabbri,
canbeexplicit,asinanaestheticmanifestooramarketingcampaign,
[but they are just as likely to be] implicit or never declared Rules
thatdefineagenrecanrelatetoanyofthecodesinvolvedinamusical
event including rules of behaviour, proxemic and kinesic codes,
businesspractices,etc.
I interpret Fabbri to mean that particular types of language (lyrics,
paralinguistics, metadiscourse, etc.), gesture, location, clothing, per
sonalappearance,socialattitudesandvalues,aswellasmodesofcon
gregation,interaction,presentationanddistribution,areallsetsofrules
that,togetherwithmusicalstructuralrules, buildalargersetofrules
identifying aparticular GENRE.Thefactthatmusic, asa crossdomain
symbolic system, is central to genre identity should come as no sur
prise.Afterall,thebusinessrationaleofformatradioassumesmusical
5. ThequotesarefromcoursenotesinmusicalstylisticsatOhioStateUniversity(Hol
landn.d.)andrefertotheworkoffamedmusicologistLeonardBMeyer(1989).Hall
(1992:209)explainstheissueasfollows.BasictoMeyersargumentarethediffer
encesbetweenprimaryandsecondaryparametersTheprimaryparametersmel
ody,rhythm,harmonyaresyntacticbecausetheycandefineclosureThe
secondaryparameterstempo,dynamics,texture,timbrearestatisticalratherthan
syntacticbecausetheychangeonlyinquantityandthereforecannotcreateclosure
Acentraltheme[ofMeyer(1989)]isthatsecondaryparametersgainincreasing
dominanceoverprimaryparametersandsyntacticprocessesthroughthenineteenth
centuryandintothetwentieth.Thistrendleadstotheincreasingstructuralimpor
tanceofstatisticalplansasopposedtosyntacticscripts,andtotheoverwhelming
statisticalclimaxesbywhichunrealisedimplications[and]unresolvedtensions
areabsorbedandabsolved(p.268).SinceMeyerhimselfseemswellawareofthe
incongruity(theincreasingdominanceofsecondaryoverprimaryparameters,
etc.),itisnothishistoricalobservationsthataretheproblembuttheactualterms
primaryandsecondary.Ifwhatseemedoncetobeprimaryandsecondarycan,in
thelightofmusicalevidence,nolongerbeusefullyconceptualisedinsuchclearly
hierarchicalterms,moreaccurate,nonhierarchicalconceptsbecomeanecessity.We
shouldreallybetalkingaboutscribalandnonscribal,ornotatable(transcriptible
inFrench)andnonnotatable(nontranscriptible)parameters.
Tagg:MusicsMeanings8.Terms,time&space 267
tastetobeakeyindicatorofdemographicfactors(age,income,ethnic
ity, education, etc.) defining a target audience.
6
Each subset of genre
rulesreinforcestheothersandmusicisatthecentrebecause,asFabbri
adds, [k]nowing what kind of music youre listening to, or talking
about,oractuallymaking,willactasacompass,helpingyouchoose
thepropercodesandtoolsforthegenreasawhole.
Fabbri(1999:89)definesSTYLEas:
arecurringarrangementoffeaturesinmusicaleventswhichistypical
foranindividual(composer,performer),agroupofmusicians,agenre,
aplace,aperiodoftime.Asacodifiedwayofmakingmusic,whichmay
(ormust)conformtospecificsocialfunctions,STYLEisrelatedtoGENRE,
andissometimesusedasitssynonymHowever,STYLEimpliesanem
phasisonthemusicalcode,whileGENREcoversallkindsofcoderelevantto
amusicalevent.
7
STYLEcaninotherwordsbeseenasasetofmusicalstructuralrulesor
norms,GENREasalargersetofculturalcodesthatalsoincludemusicalrules.
Thisdoesnotmeanthatstylesaremeresubsetsofgenre.Forexample,
Morricones musical style his personal idiolect is unmistakable
whichever genre hes working in: sounds typical of his concert pieces
turnupinhisfilmscores,someofhisfilmthemescloselyresemblehis
workwithpopularsong,andhisuniquestyleoforchestrationcanbe
heardinallthreegenres.
8

6. Targetgroupsarethensoldtoadvertisers.ConcernedbytheNaziandStalinistuse
ofradioandmoviesforstatepropagandainthe1930s,scholarsturnedtolookat
theimpactofthemassmediaonsociety.[Theystudied]mediaindustries,theirpro
gramcontent,andeffectsontheiraudiences...[W]hatbeganinthe1930sasaconcern
withtotalitarianpoliticalpropagandabecame,bythe1950s,theintellectualfoun
tainheadofmotivationresearchtheprimetoolofMadisonAvenue.(Denisoff
andPeterson,1972:45)SeealsoKarshner(1971)andRothenbuhler(1987).
7. Theoriginalcitationends:styleimpliesanemphasisonthemusicalcode,while
genrerelatestoallkindsofcodesthatarereferredtoinamusicalevent,sothetwo
termsclearlycoverdifferentsemanticfields.Theitalicsandemphasisaremine.
8. Forexample,thestartofVirtualRealityfromDisclosure(Morricone,1994b)resem
blesbrasspassagesinCantataperlEuropa(1966).ThethreenotehookofMorricones
popsongSetelefonando(1966)isidenticalto,andreceivesthesameharmonictreat
mentas,theFallsthemefromTheMission(1986).Morriconesstyleoforchestration
(incl.soloviola,wordlesssolofemalevocals,harpsichord,etherealstrings,etc.)is
alsounmistakableinthearrangementshedid,intheearly1960sforRCA(Italia),of
tuneslikeTucanunchiagne,Nonlascerai,PioveandFascination(Morricone,1994a).
268 Tagg:MusicsMeanings8.Terms,time&space
Fabbrisdistinctionbetweengenreandstyleisusefulfortworeasons.
Firstly,itallowsfordifferentiationbetweentwosortsofSTYLEFLAG(pp.
523ff.):[a]musicalstructuresthatestablishahomestyle(STYLEINDI
CATORS)and[b]thoseusingelementsofanotherstyletorefertoagenre
otherthanthatpertinenttothehomestyleofthemusicunderanalysis
(GENRESYNECDOCHES).Thesecondreasonisthat,seeinghowmusicand
musicalrulesarecentraltothefusionofotheraspectsofgenreintoa
recognisable (albeit fuzzy) sociocultural whole, its important to con
sider those other aspects of genre, too. And thats why the next few
pagesdealwithparamusicalmatters.
ParametersofPARAMUSICALexpression
Sincemusicisnotauniversallanguage(pp. 4750)itsessentialtocon
sider cultural parameters defining the act of musical communication.
Obviously,whatmembersofdifferentpopulationsintendbyandinter
pretfromthemusictheymakeandhearwillvaryconsiderably;and,as
wesawearlier(pp. 178182),thesamemusicalstructuredoesntneces
sarilymeanthesamethingtoallindividualsincludedinthesamebasic
demographic.Thatsonereasonwhy,underEthnographicintersubjectiv
ity (p. 199, ff.), listening mode, venue, activity and scene were put for
ward as important initial points in a semiotic approach to music
analysis.Thosegeneralconsiderationsreferbacktothecommunication
model(pp. 172178)andcanbesummarisedasfollows.
Generalaspectsofparamusicalcommunication
1. Who,culturallyanddemographically,arethemusicstransmitter[s]
andreceiver[s]?Dotheybelongtothesamepopulation?Whatsort
ofrelationshipexistsbetweentransmitter[s]andreceiver[s]ofthe
musicingeneralandattheparticularoccasionofmusicalcommu
nicationyourestudying?
2. Whatmotivatesreceiver[s]tousethemusicandwhatmotivates
transmitter[s]tocreateandtransmitthemusic?
3. Whatinterference(p. 182, ff.)istheintendedmessagesubjectedtoin
itspassageinthechannel?Dotransmitter[s]andreceiver[s]share
thesamestoreofsymbolsandthesamesocioculturalnorms/moti
Tagg:MusicsMeanings8.Terms,time&space 269
vations?Whatbitsofthemusicdo[es]thereceiver[s]hear,useand
respondto?Whatsortofresponseisobservable?
4. Whataspectsofattitudeorbehaviouratthetransmittingand
receivingendsaffectthemusicalmessage?
5. Whatistheintendedandactualsituationofmusicalcommunica
tionforthemusicbothasapieceandaspartofagenre,e.g.dance,
home,work,ritual,concert,meeting,film?Where,physicallyand
socially,isthemusicproducedandwhereisitheardandused?
These issues of genre rather than style affect what music is actually
made and heard: they influence which parameters of musical expres
sionareoperative.Evenifculturalcontextisntthemainfocusofyour
studytheymustbeaddressedinordertoavoidtheperversediscipline
ofsemioticswithoutpragmatics.
9
Simultaneousparamusicalformsofculturalexpression
As briefly illustrated by clinking glasses, lively chatter and raucous
laughter in the comparison between the OFFICIAL and FOREIGN DRUNK
versions of your national anthem (pp. 229237), musical meanings
arent only affected by the overriding sociocultural and acoustic cir
cumstancesunderwhichthemusiciscreatedandheard:theyarealso
influencedby paramusical expression.Obviously, hearing arendition
of your national anthem along with clinking glasses and raucous
laughterdoesnothavethesameeffectashearingitwithout.Nordoes
the same opening to Richard Strausss Also sprach Zarathustra (1896)
meanthesamethinginTVcommercialsforFoxyBingoorSilanfabric
conditionerasitdidinfilmslikeClueless(1995),MyFavouriteMartian
(1999)orZoolander(2001).Itcertainlymeantsomethingquitedifferent
inthefilmthatinitiatedthismusicaltropeofaudiovisualgrandeur
Kubricks 2001 (1968), not to mention its origins in a philosophical
fantasynovelbyNietzsche.
10

9. Perversediscipline:seepp. 146,148,159andEco(1990: 259).


10. FormoreonAlsosprachZarathustraasaudiovisualtrope,seeLeech(1999);seealso
SongsandMusicOnTVAds/Commercials(Brodie,2010),SongsinTVCommercials
2009atsplendad.com/ads/songs/2009 andAlsoSprachZarathustra:dundundun
DUHDUN!attvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/AlsoSprachZarathustra [both 101127].
270 Tagg:MusicsMeanings8.Terms,time&space
ChecklistofPARAMUSICALtypesofexpression
Paramusicalformsofexpressionconnectedtoamusicalanalysisobject
aresummarisedintheeightpointslistednext.Therelativeabsenceor
presenceandpropertiesofthepointsenumeratedarenotonlyableto
affectthemeaningofthemusicwithwhichtheycooccur:theycanalso
beusedintheprocessofestablishingparamusicalfieldsofconnotation
relatedtoyouranalysisobject.
1. Paramusicalsound,e.g.churchbells,backgroundchatter,rattling
crockery,applause,enginehum,birdsong,soundeffects.
2. Orallanguage,incl.dialect,accent,idiom,vocabularyusedindia
logue,commentary,voiceoverorlyrics.
3. Paralinguistics,e.g.vocaltype,timbreandintonationofpeople
talking;typeandspeedofconversationordialogue.
4. Writtenlanguage,e.g.programmeorlinernotes,advertisingmate
rial,titlecredits,subtitles,writtendevicesonstageorscreen,
expressionmarksandotherscribalperformanceinstructions.
5. Graphics,typeface/font,design,layout,etc:neitherthisnorTHIS
northisnorthismeansthesameasthis,thisorthis.
6. Visuals,e.g.photos,movingpicture,typeofaction,narrativegenre,
miseenscne,scene,props,lighting,cameraangleanddistance,
POV,editingrhythmandtechniques,superimpositions,fades,
zooms,pans,gestures,facialexpressions,clothing.
7. Movement,e.g.dance,walk,run,drive,fall,lie,sit,stand,jump,
rise,dive,swerve,sway,slide,glide,hit,stroke,kick,stumble,for
wards,backwards,sideways,up,down,approach,leave,fast,slow,
sudden,gradual.
8. Location,venueandaudience(when,where,andwhofor),e.g.
18thcenturyFrencharistocratsinachteau,aliensonthestarship
Enterprise,euroclassicalconcerthallaudience,rockfansatasta
diumconcert,1970sdiscoclubbers,footballmatchcrowd,etc.Sar
torial,gesturalandothergroupbehaviouralcodesareanimportant
ingredientofparamusicalconnotation.
Tagg:MusicsMeanings8.Terms,time&space 271
ParametersofMUSICALexpression
Parametersofmusicalexpressioncanbethoughtofinfourmaininter
relatedandoverlappingcategories:[1]Time,speedandspace(thischap
ter);[2]Timbreandloudness(firstpartofChapter9);[3]Toneandtonality
(second part of Chapter 9); [4] Totality (the parameter aggregates,
Chapters1112).Chapter10isentirelydevotedtowaysofdesignating
differenttypesofvocalexpression.Pleaserememberthatveryfewcon
ceptsdenotingparametersofmusicalexpressionfitneatlyintoanyone
ofthefirstthreecategoriesandthatcategory4includesseveralbydef
inition.Forexample,nothingincategories2(timbreanddynamics)or
3(toneandtonality)canexistwithouttheparametersoftimeandspace
(category 1); nor can elements of temporal organisation like rhythm
andmetreexistwithouttimbral,dynamicortonalpatterning,norcan
toneortimbrebeunderstoodwithoutconsideringpitchandloudness.
None of this taxonomic untidiness will surprise those familiar with
crossdomain representation, synaesthesis or music and the brain
(pp. 6271). After all, no sound can exist without the movement of an
object or mass of some kind (incl. air and water) interacting with an
other (hitting, stroking, scraping, shaking, ruffling, blowing, stirring,
etc.),norcansuchsoundproducingfrictionoccurwithoutenergyena
blingthemovementwhich,initsturn,presupposesspaceinwhichthe
movementtakesplace.Evensynthesisedsoundneedsenergy(electri
cal)togeneratewaveformsofsufficientamplitudetopowermovement
inspeakerandheadphonemembranes.Sinceallthissoundproducing
energyandmovementoccupiesbothspaceandtime,parametersofex
pressionprimarilyrelatingtotimeandspacearepresentedfirst.How
ever,itsvirtuallyimpossibletodiscussanyaspectofmusicalstructure
withoutusingfourverycommonconceptswhosemeaningsareoften
unclear.ThatswhyNOTE,PITCH,TIMBREandTONEeachneedsitswork
ing definition.
11
A PIECE OF MUSIC and the EXTENDED PRESENT are two
otheressentialtermsrequiringatleastsomesortofclarification.Well
startwiththelatter.
11. ForfullerexplanationofNOTE,PITCH,TIMBREANDTONE,seeTagg(2009: 1722).
272 Tagg:MusicsMeanings8.Terms,time&space
Basicconcepts(2)
Pieceofmusic
Apieceofmusicisusuallydelimited,bothbeforeandafter,bysome
thingthatisntheardasmusic(e.g.silence,talking,backgroundsound).
Apieceofmusiccanalsostartorendwhenimmediatelyprecededor
followed by other music that is clearly recognised to have a different
identity.Ifapieceofmusicexistsasrecordedsound,itwilltypicallyoc
cupyoneCDtrackorconstituteasingleaudiofile.
12

Extendedpresent
TheEXTENDEDPRESENT,alsomisleadinglycalledthespeciouspresent,
13
is
akeyconceptoftimeinmusic.Itcanbeunderstoodaslastingroughlyas
longasittakesahumanbeingtobreatheinandout,orthedurationof
alongexhalation,orofafewheartbeats,orofenunciatingaphraseor
shortsentence,i.e.thedurationofamusicalphrase,orofashortpat
ternofgesturesordancesteps.Suchimmediate,presenttimeactivities
usuallylast,dependingontempoplusdegreeofexertion,forbetween
aroundoneandeightsecondsofexternal,objectivetime.
The extended present is also a concept implied in the distinction be
tweentheintensionalandextensionalaestheticsofmusic(Chester,1970).
Accordingtothispolarity,aclassicalsonataformmovement(seep. 409
ff.)ismorelikelytoderiveinterestfromthepresentationofideasover
adurationofseveralminutes(extensionaldiataxis),whileapopsongor
filmmusiccueismorelikelytodosoinbatchesofnowsoundinthe
extendedpresent(intensionalsyncrisis).The3.6secondsofguitarriffac
companiedbybassanddrumkitinSatisfaction(RollingStones,1965)is
atextbookexampleofrockintensionalityintheextendedpresent.
14
Theresnoclearboundarybetweentheextendedpresentandthepass
ingoftimealongaunidimensionalaxisfrominfinitepasttoinfinitefu
ture through a point of supposedly no duration (the present). If you
12. Seealsopage 230fordefinitionofanalysisobject(AO).
13. Speciousmeanssuperficiallyplausiblebutactuallywrong(ConciseOxfordDiction
ary,1995).Theextendedpresentisnotspecious:itsabiologicalreality(seep.273).
14. Noneofthismeansthatsonataformmovementsneverexhibittimbralormetric
interestorthatpoprecordingsnevercontainasenseofnarrative.Itssimplyaques
tionofdegreeandofgeneraltendency.
Tagg:MusicsMeanings8.Terms,time&space 273
haveeverstaredtransfixedatasunsetoverthesea,ordrownedwith
delightintheeyesofyourbeloved,youllknowthatNOWcanextend
formanyseconds.Timeseemstostandstill.
15
Butitsalsoworthknow
ing that the extended present has an objective existence inside the human
brain.Forexample,endingthespokensentenceyoujuststartedrelies
ontheshorttermstorageofinformationinadifferentpartofthebrain
theworkingmemorytothatusedformediumandlongtermstor
age.
16
Thephonologicalloopisakeycomponentinworkingmemory.It
canholdabouttwosecondsofsoundand,likealoopbasedtapeecho
unit,involvestwostages:shorttermstoragewithrapidlydecayingau
ditory memory traces and an articulatory rehearsal component that
canrevivethosetraces.Eachphonologicalloopislikeanongoingmini
chunkofinformationthatcanberecalledandstrungtogetherwithup
tothreeothersinimmediatesuccession(fourinall)toproducealarger
chunk of now sound covering a maximum of around eight seconds.
This distinction is not unlike that between a computers RAM and its
hard drive. It also means that setting the duration of the extended
present to between one and eight seconds, an estimation Ive based
solelyontimingalargenumberofmusemesandmusicalphrases,can
notbequalifiedasspeciousordismissedasfancifulspeculation.
Note
InmusicalcontextsNOTEmeansfourdifferentthings:[1]asingle,dis
cretesoundinsideapieceofmusic;[2]suchasoundwithdiscernible
fundamentalpitch(p. 277);[3]theduration,relativetothemusicsun
derlyingpulse(p. 288),ofanynote(e.g.quarternote);[4]thegraphic
representation of a note, according to any of the above definitions, in
musicalnotation.NOTEwillbeusedhereinthefirstsense,i.e.tomean
anysingle,finite,discreteminimalsoniceventinapieceofmusic,irrespec
tiveoftheeventsduration,pitch,timbreorgraphicrepresentation.
17

15. Alsoknownasthespeciouspresent,thephenomenonisdiscussedinmoredetailby
Levithin(2006),Poidevin(2009)andWellek(1963).
16. ThissectiondrawsonBaddeley(1992,2000),Cowan(2001),andGobet&Clarkson
(2004);seealsoMYoung(1988:8586,277)andTagg(1984:6).
17. ThisfirstdefinitionofnoteisthatusedinMIDIsequencing.
274 Tagg:MusicsMeanings8.Terms,time&space
Pitch
PITCHisthataspectofasounddeterminedbytherateofvibrationspro
ducing it. Pitch is scientifically measured in units of sound wave fre
quencycalledcyclespersecondorHertz(Hz).27.5Hzis,forinstance,
thepitchofthelowestnoteonapiano(bottoma),4,186Hzitshighest
(topc).
18
Pitchissimplythedegreeofperceivedhighnessorlownessof
asound.
Highpitchisingeneralassociatedwithlightinboththenotdarkand
not heavy senses of the word. Perhaps thats because gusts of wind
scatterleaves,plasticbagsandothersmall,lightobjects,blowingthem
upintotheairtowardsthesky,thecloudsandthesun.Heavyobjects
aremoredifficulttomove,morelikelytostayontheground,whichis
normallyperceivedasdarkerandheavierthanair.Notonlydolarge,
heavyobjectsneedlotsofenergy(atornado,say,orvastamountsofjet
fuel)togetthemofftheground;theirveryweightmakesthemappear
less volatile, more likely to be understood as heavy, dark or massive
ratherthanquick,smallorlight.
19
Besides,smallchildrenhavesmaller
bodiesandvocalequipmentproducinghigher,lightersoundsthan
grownups;andtheprocesswherebyadolescentmalevoicesbreakand
deepenreinforcesthesamesortofsynaestheticpatterning,asdoesthe
factthatsingerstendtousetheheadregistertoproducehighnotes,the
chestregisterforlowones.Moreover,thevibrationsofaloudbassin
strument,orofanearthquake,arefeltintheabdomen,whereasdisso
nanthighpitchedsoundsareoftenusedinfilmmusicasasortofsonic
headachetoaccompanyscenesofmentaldisorder,relentlesssunlight,
etc.
Along with volume, timbre and duration, pitch is a basic element of
sound.Itallowshumanstodistinguishbetween,forexampleahihat
andalargegongstruckinthesameway,orbetweenthetopnotesofa
piccolofluteandthelowestonesonaltofluteplayedatthesamevol
umewiththesamesortofattackforthesameduration.Now,theresa
18. Thefrequency(hz)ofperceivedpitchrisesbyafactorof2foreachoctave.Although
thetopassoundwavesoscillate128(2
7
)timesfasterthanthoseofthebottoma,the
topaat3,520hzisonly8,not128,octaveshigherthantheaat27.5hz.
19. TheFrenchforHIGHisaigu(=sharp,acute),grave(=deep,solemn)forLOW.
Tagg:MusicsMeanings8.Terms,time&space 275
problemwiththatprevioussentencebecausethehighorlowpitchof
flutenotesisdifferentfromthehighorlowpitchesofhihatandlarge
gong, even though the sound of a big gong contains a lot of low fre
quenciesandthehihat(quellesurprise!)soundshigh.Thatproblemhas
todowiththedifferencebetweenNOTEandTONE.
Tone
Thedifferenceofpitchbetweenhihatandlargegong,ontheonehand,
and,ontheother,betweenhighandlowflutenotesisthatflutenotes,
highorlow,eachhaveoneclearlydiscerniblefundamentalpitchwhilehi
hat, snare drum, bass drum and gong notes do not. Its this factor of
clearlydiscerniblefundamentalpitchaconceptexplainedunderTIMBRE
(p. 279, ff.) that determines whether the note in question is also a
TONE.ATONEissimplyanoteofdiscerniblefundamentalpitch.
The main reason why, technically speaking, a tone contains a funda
mental pitch is because its sound wave rate is steady or periodic,
whereas aperiodic sounds exhibit no such regularity (fig. 81). Thats
whysingingisheardasmoretonalthantalking,whistlingmoresothan
hissing,groaningmoretonalthangrunting.Allsixsoundscanbeused
asnotesinmusicbutonlythreeofthem(singing,whistlingandgroan
ing) are likely to be tonal. It may be worth adding the obvious point
that,inourculture,tonesaretheonlytypeofnoteswithpitchnames
like a, b$, b8, c, c#, etc.
20
That all seems quite straightforward but
thereareatleasttwomajorproblemswiththewordtone.
20. InEnglish,thenotenameaispronouncedA,bBflat,b1Bnaturalandc|C
sharp.Pitchnamescanbeabsoluteorrelative.Absolutenotenamesdesignatefixed
pitch.Forexample,thenotea(A)mustsoundatanaudiblefundamentalpitch
exponentiallyrelatedto27.5hz,i.e.at27.5hz(lowa),55hz,110hz,220hz,440hz
(concertpitch),880hz,1760hz,3520hz(high)andsoon.Notenameslikedohremifa
solati(tonicsolfa)arerelativebecausetheydesignatetherelationshipofeachnote
towhateverhappenstobethemusicskeynote.
Fig. 8-1. Periodic and aperiodic sound waves
276 Tagg:MusicsMeanings8.Terms,time&space
Oneproblemisthattonemeanssomanydifferentthingsinrelationto
sound. It can refer to aspects of speech that express attitude, as in I
dontlikeyourtone.
21
Itcanevenmeantimbre,aswiththetoneknob
onaguitaramp,wheretoneisshortfortonecolour.Toneisoftenusedto
meannotanoteofdiscerniblefundamentalpitchbutthepitchstepor
INTERVAL (p. 322 ff.) between two neighbouring tones, as in whole tone
(e.g.betweenthenotescandd)andsemitone(e.g.betweeneandf).
Anothercriticalproblemwithtoneistheuseofitsderivativestonaland
tonalityinconventionalWesternmusictheory.Givenourcommonsense
definitionoftone,tonalshouldlogicallymeanhavingdiscerniblefunda
mentalpitchandtonalityshouldmeananysystemaccordingtowhich
tonesareconfiguredinmusic.Unfortunately,manymusicscholarsin
the West still use tonal and tonality to refer to just one way in which
tones are configured that of the euroclassical repertoire between
c. 1730 and c. 1910. This ethnically, socially and historically restrictive
use of the word has bizarre consequences, one being the nonsensical
dualismTONALv.MODALallmodesarebydefinitiontonal!,another
theanachronismoftwelvetonemusicwhichdespiteitsnameiscalled
atonalinsteadof ATONICAL!
22
To avoid suchlexicalabsurdity, here are
thedefinitionsIllbeusing.
TONE(n.):anotewithdiscerniblefundamentalpitch;
TONAL(adj.):havingthepropertiesofatone;
TONALITY(n.):anysystemaccordingtowhichtonesareconfigured;
TONIC(n.):musicalkeynoteorreferencetone;
TONICAL(adj.,neol.):havingatonicorkeynote.
21. Youcanevenlikeordislikethetoneofaletterwithoutasoundbeinguttered.Tone
refersalsotopitchsequencesallowingspeakersoftonallanguagestodistinguish
betweenthemeaningsofphoneticallyotherwiseidenticalwords.InVietnamese,ma,
mandmmeanGHOST,BUTandMOTHERrespectively.InSwedish,andencanmean
eitherTHEDUCKorTHESPIRIT,dependingontone.Finally,mynameinMandarin,
Dfil, is(=dignity,elegance,reason)butcouldalsocomeacrossas
(=sore,bandit,mucus)ifthethreesyllableswereincorrectlyintoned!
22. ThisanomalymayarisebecauseinneoLatinlanguagestheEnglishwordkeyand
theGermanwordTonart,bothmeaningtheconfigurationoftonesinrelationtoa
keynoteortonic,alsotranslatesastonalit,tonalit,tonalidad,etc.TheEnglish/Ger
mandistinctionbetweenkey/Tonartandtonality/Tonalittis,sotospeak,lostinneo
Latinlanguages.ThislexicalconceptualproblemisdiscussedinTagg(2011f:56).
Tagg:MusicsMeanings8.Terms,time&space 277
Timbre
TIMBRE['Inbro]anditsadjectiveTIMBRAL['Iinbrol]arewordsdenot
ing acoustic features that allow us to distinguish between two notes,
tonal or otherwise, sounded at the same pitch and volume.
23
Timbre,
sometimes also called tone quality or tone colour (Klangfarbe), is a
complex acoustic phenomenon whose four basic phases were simpli
fiedbyanaloguesynthesisermanufacturersinanADSRscheme:Afor
attack, D for decay, S for sustain and R for release. The properties of
eachoftheseelements,andhowthosepropertiesvaryasthesoundof
anoteisproduced,continuesandends,determinethespecificqualities
of what we hear as timbre. That whole process from start to finish is
calledtheENVELOPE(Fig.82,p. 278).
24

Theenvelopeofnotesplayedondrums,pianoandotherpercussionin
struments,aswellasnotesonpluckedacousticinstruments,consistof
only attack and decay. Those played by bowed strings, woodwind,
brass and electrically amplified instruments contain all four phases.
Thefirsttypeofnotereliesonaoneoffactiontoproduceasoundthat
canlastfromaslittleasjustafewmilliseconds(e.g.xylophone)tosev
eralseconds(e.g.largegong,loudheldnoteonthepiano,asinFig.8
2a and b). The second type is generated by ongoing action (bowing,
blowing,electriccurrent,etc.,aswiththeviolinsandsynthesiserinFig.
82c and d.). These and other distinctions are essential to the under
standing of how timbre is produced. However, for the purposes of a
perceptionbased semiotic analysis the following three phases, ex
plainednext,willprobablysuffice:ATTACK,CONTINUANTandRELEASE.
ATTACKreferstotheinitialfractionofanotecorrespondingtotheway
thenoteisstruck,hit,plucked,scraped,blown,etc.onanacousticin
strument, or attacked by the voice. For example, its easy to distin
guishthesamenoteofthesamedurationplayedatthesamevolumein
the same position on the same string on the same guitar in the same
room if the instrument is plucked with the flesh of the thumb rather
thanwithaplectrum.
23. Formanyimportantarticlesabouttimbre,seeTIMBRE(2005).
24. ThisADSRmodel(Fabbri,1984: 54)describeshowtheoverallvolumeofagiven
soundevolves,butexcludesotherimportantparameterslikevariationsinfrequency
contentinthecourseoftheentireenvelope.
278 Tagg:MusicsMeanings8.Terms,time&space
RELEASEreferstothewayanoteends.Forexample,xylophoneandun
sustainedpianonotesendmoreabruptlythanpianonotesplayedwith
thesustainpedalpusheddown,orthanundampedorunclippednotes
on,say,guitar,Frenchhornorcello.Releaseisoftenaudiblewhenvio
liniststaketheirbowoffthestringattheendofalongnote(Fig.82c).
Fig. 8-2.Attack, decay, sustain release: four envelopes
CONTINUANTisatermIveborrowedfromphoneticswhereitmeansan
extendableorsustainableconsonant,like/r:/asinRRREALLY!or/]:/as
inSHSHSH!whenyouwantotherstobequiet.
25
Imadaptingcontinu
ant here to denote in a more aesthesically friendly way the ongoing
Tagg:MusicsMeanings8.Terms,time&space 279
bodyofanote,i.e.thepartthatismostlikelytobeheardastonal,re
gardlessofwhetheritsthedecayofstruckorpluckednotesorthesus
tain part of notes produced in other ways. Timbral envelopes are
perhaps easiest to conceptualise using onomatopoeias like ding and
pling(twosmallbells?)ortwangandblang(twoelectricguitarsounds?).
The initial consonants represent the sounds attack, ng its release and
thevowelsitscontinuant(sustainand/ordecay).Unlessyourehearing,
say,axylophoneorshort,unsustainednotesonpianoorguitar,anotes
continuant is usually, compared to the attack, a longer sound whose
timbreisacousticallydeterminedbyitsfrequencyspectrum,i.e.byhow
muchofwhichfrequenciesitcontains.Andthat,finally,iswhereFUN
DAMENTALPITCHcomesin.
26
Aswesawjustsaw,somemusicalsounds,likethoseofthehihatanda
kick drum, although heard as high and lowpitched respectively, are
aperiodic(fig.81,p.275):theyhavenoaudiblefundamentalpitch.The
frequency spectrum of tonal instruments and singing voices, on the
otherhand,isperiodicinrelationtoafundamental.Now,atonesungor
playedataparticularpitchdoesntonlyconsistofwavesoscillatingat
the rate corresponding to that single pitch, its FUNDAMENTAL: it also
containsthesoundwavesofovertonesorharmonics(a.k.a.partials)oscil
latingatintegralmultiplesofthefundamentalsownfrequency.
27
How
stronglywhichharmonicsarepresentinwhichpartsofanenvelopeis
anessentialaspectoftimbre.
25. Moreover,anextended/n/ischaracteristicofhuMMing,/s/ofhiSSingand/z/of
buZZing;otherphoneticcontinuantsinEnglishare//(zh:GGGenre),/n/(NNN
ever!),/l/(FFF**koff!)and/v/(VVVicious!).Continuantsinotherlanguagescan
makealexicalratherthanprosodicdifference:e.g.ala['ola](=wing)andalla['alla]
(=la)inItalian;caro['kora](=dear)and['karra](= wagon)inSpanish.
26. Fig.82showsonlyeachenvelopesamplitude(loudness/volume).Variationsinthe
soundsfrequencyspectrum,e.g.thesynthsstereoWAAHOOWAAH,thegongsBOI
OIOINGeffectsandtheviolinsectionsuseofvibratoarentincluded.
27. Sinewavetonescontainonlythefundamentalbutallothertones,synthesisedornat
ural,containbothafundamentalandaspecificconfigurationofovertones.
280 Tagg:MusicsMeanings8.Terms,time&space
Fig. 8-3.Sound waves for flute, clarinet, trumpet and piano
28

ThefoursoundwavesshowninFigure83areallperiodicinthatthey
allhavearegularlyrecurringwavepattern.Theyalsoallhaveastrong
fundamental (the first peak in each phase) but the similarities end
there. Flute tones contain a strong first harmonic, oscillating at twice
thefrequencyofthefundamental,butnotmuchelse(hencethewave
formscharacteristicsinglebulge),whiletonesplayedontheotherin
struments consist of a more complex array of frequencies in the har
monic series producing more complex wave forms. The almost
limitless range of combinations of variable amounts of harmonics
presentinatoneitsfrequencyspectrummaketimbreanessentialpa
rameterofmusicalexpression.Variationsofvocaltimbrecanbepartic
ularlyexpressiveandarediscussedinChapter10.
Withtheseexplanationsofbasictermsoutofthewaywecannowcon
frontthemaintopicofthenextfewchapterstheparametersofmusi
cal expression. The underlying premise is that change in any of the
parameters, by definition involving a change of sonic structure, can
alsobringaboutachangeofmeaning.
29

28. (a)and(b)inFigure83areadaptedfromWood(1962: 6869);(c)and(d)arebased


onimagesatixbtlabs.com/articles/soundfaq/ [101128].
29. Canistheoperativeword.Structuralchangedoesnotalwaysleadtoachangeof
musicalmeaning(seeCaveat,p. 244, ff.).Itsimplydoessomoreoftenthannot.
Tagg:MusicsMeanings8.Terms,time&space 281
Time,speedandspace
Duration
Itmaybehelpfultothinkofmusicaldurationsinfivefuzzycategories:
[1]MICRODURATIONS,lastingtypicallylessthan1second;[2]MESODU
RATIONS,equivalenttothetimespanofatleastonebutnomorethan,
say,eightboutsoftheextendedpresent(160);[3]MEGADURATIONS,
ranging from the time occupied by a long advert or title theme (c. 1
min.), through that of an uptempo dance number ( 2 mins.) to the
standardlengthofapopsong,rocktrack,SchubertLied,orshorteuro
classicalmovement( 36mins.);[4]MACRODURATIONS,typicalforex
tended euroclassical symphony movements, for jazz or prog rock
trackscontainingmultiplesectionsand/orlengthysoloimprovisations
(630mins.);[5]GIGADURATIONS(>30mins.),asforacompleteop
era, a Mahler symphony, or a traditional live rga performance. Only
micro,mesoandmegadurationsneedconcernushere.
30
Microdurations:notesandpauses
Microdifferencesof100milliseconds(onetenthofasecond),oreven
less,canproducesignificantlydifferentlinguisticandmusicaleffects.
Figure84(p.282)showsthedurationsinmilliseconds(ms)offourdif
ferent ways of asking the question What did you say?. Version [a]
sounds angry WHAT [the] DID YOU SAY?!; [b] asks
whatdidyouactuallysayratherthanmeantosay?;[c]soundsrobotic;
version[d]isspokenquickly,asineverydayconversation.
30. Theseroughcategoriesofdurationtallytosomeextentwiththoseofhumanbiolog
icalcycles.AmongthoselistedbyYoung(1988:36)are(withapproximateaverage
durations):bioelectricnervouswaves(1ms);heartbeatcomplex(1);ventilation(4);
bloodcircuitflow(10);bloodflowoscillations(30);metabolicoscillations(140);
vasomotoroscillations(640);fastendocrineoscillations(516);gasexchangeoscil
lations(30).FormoreonmusicaltimesenseseeTagg(1984).
282 Tagg:MusicsMeanings8.Terms,time&space
Fig. 8-4.What did you say? four patterns of micro-duration
Atleastfivepointsofmicrodurationareworthnotinghere.
1. Version[a]islongerthanboth[b]and[c],muchlongerthanversion
[d].Loudness,pitch,timbreandpropulsivereiteration(p.518ff.)
arenttheonlyparametersdeterminingsonicemphasisbecause,
clearly,themoretimeyouspendononeidea,themoreitwillbe
heard.Thisobservationholdsforindividualsyllables(notes)
withinthephrase(e.g.theWHATin[a],SAYin[b])aswellasforthe
wholePHRASEinrelationtootherphrasesinitsvicinity.
2. Variants[b]and[d]arebotharticulatedasonesingleanduninter
ruptedstreamofsounds,i.e.legato,Italianforjoined.Thesame
phraseisbrokeninvariant[a](anger)byapregnantpause(tacetis
Latinforissilent)lastingoverhalfasecond:WHAT[pause]did
yousay?.The600millisecondpause,aslongasthewholeofvari
ant[d],isjustascommunicativeastheWHAToutburstthatpre
cededit.Durationofsilenceinspeechandinmusiccanbeas
communicativeasdurationofsound.
3. Insteadofoneunbrokenenunciation,allfournotes(syllables)in
variant[c](robot)aresoundedforthesameduration(200250ms
each)separatedbyshortsilencesofequallength(150200ms).The
phrasesnotesarepresentedinachoppymanner(staccato):the
notesorsyllablesaredetachedfromtheflowofthestatementto
whichtheywouldnormallybelonginhumanspeech.
31
31. Staccatophrasingisoftenusedincombinationwithminimalvariationofpitch,
dynamicsandnotelengthtocreateparticulartypesofnonhumaneffects.
Tagg:MusicsMeanings8.Terms,time&space 283
4. Eachnoteorpauseineachofthefourvariantsoccupiesamicro
durationinsidealongerdurationthePHRASEWhatdidyousay?.
Thosedifferentconfigurationsofmicrodurationsgiveeachvariant
itsownidentifiableRHYTHM.
5. Variationofmicrodurationsinmusiccorrespondsroughlywith
whatclassicallytrainedmusicianscallphrasingbecausethose
durationsareconstituentelementsinamusicalphrase.
Thepatterningofmicrodurationsinmusiccanhaveothersignificant
effects.Forexample,thetimedifferencebetweenplacingnotesonehalf
andtwothirdsofthewaybetweenbeatsisonesixthofaBEAT,e.g.76
millisecondsat132bpm.Thatmicrodurationmakesallthedifference
betweenstraight(:.=..)andswung(:.. = . .)articulationsofthe
beat.Microdurationsaresignificantbecausetheirpatterningcontains
importantemotionalandkineticinformation.Theyareessentialinme
diatingfeelsthatsoundchoppyorsmooth,straightorswung,stutter
ing or flowing, distinct or fuzzy, nervous or confident, bold or timid,
etc.,aswellasinmediatingcertainnotionsofspace(p. 298ff.).
Mesodurations
Phrase
MusicalPHRASESarethebasicunitsofmesodurations.Dependingon
TEMPO and degree of exertion,theycanlast for as little as onesecond
andasmuchasaroundeightthetimespanoftheEXTENDEDPRESENT
(p. 272).Consecutivephrasesareusuallyseparatedfromeachotherby
thesortoftimeittakestobreathein,especiallyifplayedonawindin
strumentorifsung.Foursecondsisatypicalphraselength,equivalent
to the time it normally takes to in and exhale (the ventilation cycle,
the duration of the extended present).
32
Pertinent questions to ask
aboutphrasesare:Whatistheirlength?Aretheyextensive,controlled,
lyrical or ecstatic? Are consecutive phrases punctuated by breathing
spacesorpresentedwithoutcsura?Arephrasesshort,stressed,out
ofbreath,justconsistingofshortMOTIFs?Isphraselengthconsistentor
doesitvary?Whateffectsdothesephraselengthscreate?
32. Biorhythms:seeMYoung(1988: 36);extendedpresentseep.272.
284 Tagg:MusicsMeanings8.Terms,time&space
Motif
MOTIFsareeitherconstituentpartsofaphraseorextremelyshortme
lodicfiguresinthemselves.Theyrarelylastformorethanasecondor
twoandarebuildingblocksnotonlyinmelodicconstructionbutalso
ininstrumentalpatterns like riffs.Motifsdiffer fromphrases, notjust
bybeingshorter,butalsointhattheycanbeongoing,asintheobvious
caseofrepeatedguitarriffswherenobreathingspaceisrequired.
33
Periodicity
AmusicalPERIODconsistsofatleastonephrase.Inmanytypesofdance
musicandpopularsongPERIODICITYisregular:theperiodsareofequal
length,oftenarrangedinmultiplesof4BARs.
34
Aperiodconsistingof4
barsof]METREat96bpm(16beats,10seconds)
34
willmostlikelycon
sistoftwo2barphrases,eachlasting5seconds.Aperiodconsistingof
8 bars of ] at 120 bpm (32 beats, 16 seconds) will probably consist of
four2barphrases,eachlasting4seconds.
InurbanWesterncultures,musicrelatingtogrossmotoricmovement,
especially music with an energetic GROOVE (p. 296), is, as just men
tioned, usually organised in larger symmetric durational units, typi
cally in multiples of four the fourbar phrase, the eightbar period
andsoon.Thisquadraticsymmetryofmesodurationsappliesnotjust
totheobviousrectangularityofmarchesandtechnobutalsotomusic
for many types of dance, from slow foxtrots or waltzes to energetic
jives, jigs, reels or sambas. Such symmetrical periodicity serves to or
ganisedancestepsintolongerpatterns,asexemplifiedinTable81.
Table 8-1. Gay Gordons
35
step patterns at 112 bpm over 8 bars of ] (17")
33. TheSatisfactionguitarriff(RollingStones,1964)contains8notes(thelongtopnoteas
no.5)andconsistsofeithertwoorthreemotifs,dependingonhowyoucount.With
justtwomotifs,thefirstonewouldcovernotes15,thesecondnotes68.Thethree
motifswouldbe:[1]notes1and2;[2]notes3,4and5;[3]notes6,7and8.
34. FordiscussionofBARandMETRE,seep.293ff.
bars secs. beats dir. steps
12 04.3 18

C4stepsforward,turn;C4stepsback
34 4.38.6 916

C4stepsforward,turn;C4stepsback
56 8.612.9 1724

underCsrightarmheldhigh
78 12.917.1 2532

C,Ctogether,polkatwirl
Tagg:MusicsMeanings8.Terms,time&space 285
EachofthefirstsixteenfootstepsinaGayGordonscoincideswitheach
beatofthemusic.At112bpmthatmeansonebeat=onefootstepevery
0.54 seconds. Each step pattern lasts four beats (one ] bar) or 2.1 sec
onds.Eachofthesetwosecond,fourbeatpatternshasthedurationof
a musical phrase and is repeated with minor variations to create a
largerpatternspanningtwobarsof](8beatsin4.3),adurationstill
withinthelimitsoftheextendedpresent.Thattwobarpatternisinits
turnrepeatedwithminorvariationstocreateafourbarperiodofsix
teen beats (4 ]) or 8.6 seconds, a duration equivalent at 112 bpm to
two bouts of the extended present. The complete 17second or 8bar
patternofGayGordonsstepsfallsintotwoclearlydistinguishablefour
bar periods, the first (bars 14) containing simple steps forward and
backward, the second (bars 58) featuring two sets of two clockwise
spins.Ladies()spinclockwiseeighttimesandmen(C)fourtimes(
incolumn5ofFigure81)asbothpartnersproceedinagenerallyanti
clockwise direction ( in column 4) to complete the entire 17second
patternconsistingof32beats(8barsof]).Thatentiresequenceisthen
repeated starting from a new position on the circumference of the
shared dance floor. Finally, if the whole sequence of steps is repeated
eighttimesat112bpmthedancewilllastfor2:17,bywhichtimeyou
will have held hands with your partner for 1:43 and spun around in
eachothersarms,polkastyle,fortheremaining0:34.
TheGayGordonsexampleservestwopurposes.Thefirstistoillustrate
the hierarchy of musics mesodurations, ranging from smaller units
withintheextendedpresent,throughlongerperiodsincorporatingtwo
ormoresuchsegments,tocompleteepisodesliketheentire17second
cycleofdancemovements.PERIODICITYistheoperativewordhere.All
too often overlooked in conventional music analysis, periodicity sim
plymeansthewayinwhichmusicalmesodurations(phrasesinparticular)
are configured within the same piece, whether they are long or short,
regular or irregular, symmetrical or asymmetrical, etc.
36
The second
35. GayGordons:oldtimeScottishcilidhdance.Couplesfollowthesamebasicsteps
anticlockwise(,apartfrominbars34)roundthedancefloor(dir.incolumn4).
instepscolumnindicatesclockwisespinninginsideeachcouplesspace.Correct
onlinedemonstrationsofGayGordonssteps:m VmJWf9uk4js, m P53f7a5WeOY.
286 Tagg:MusicsMeanings8.Terms,time&space
pointofTable81istoexemplifytheregularperiodicitythatcharacterises
not only most types of dance and march but also work songs, in fact
anymusicwithanenergeticGROOVE(p.296)relatingtogrossmotoric
bodymovement,beitfastorslow.
REGULAR PERIODICITY is common in situations where coordination of
movementbetweenindividualsisessential,asinsharingspaceonthe
dancefloor,marchingonaparadeground,orincollaborativetasksof
manuallabourlikehoistingthetopsail,weighinganchor,crosscutting
trees,haulingbarges,ortrackliningarailway.
37
Thegreatertheneed
for concerted simultaneity and the greater the number of people in
volvedintheactivity,themoreregularandsymmetricaltheperiodicity
of music connected with that activity is likely to be. Just consider the
difference between delivering a political speech (one person) and
chantingpoliticalslogans(manypeople),orbetweenapersonalrock
balladlikeYourSong(John,1970)andacollectiverockanthemlikeWe
WillRockYou(Queen,1977),orbetweencountryblues(oneperformer)
andurbanblues(usuallyseveralmusicians).
38
IRREGULARPERIODICITY,ontheotherhand,ismorelikelytocauseWest
ernlistenerssomesortofsurprise,evenconfusion,becauseiteitherde
lays(Weshouldbeinthenextbitbynow!)oranticipateswhateveris
expectedtohappennext(Whoops!Thatcaughtmeoffguard.).
39
Its
also common when the rhythm of lyrics or visual narrative overrides
36. Foroverviewofparallelsinperiodicfunctionsofthehumanbodyseeftnt.30,p.281.
37. Ahalyardisgoodforhoistingsails,acapstanshantyforweighinganchor.Forcross
cuttingandtracklining,seeBJackson(1972)andOliver(1962,1972),Lomax&Bot
kin(1943).Forbargehauling,seeVolgaBoatmen(1965,1997).
38. AlthoughmostofYourSong(singularpronouns)consistsoftwobarperiods(2]at
c. 126bpm),thereisaslowerbreaksectionintimeatHowwonderfullifeis.
Theresnosuchirregularityofperiodtoconfusethestadiumaudiencedoingthe
pluralpronounWESINGALONGtotheQueentune.Countrybluesrecordingsbased
onthe12barmatrixaremorelikelythanurbanbluesnumberstohaveirregular
periodicity:11,11,12,13,14barspercyclearenotuncommonincountryblues.
UrbanbluesperformancesbyJohnLeeHookerorLightninHopkinsoftenretainthe
variableperiodicityofcountryblues.[1]Onlythemostskilledmusicianscould
keepupwithhisunpredictablechanges(inlaynotestoHopkins,2000).[2]Kirkland
wasoneofthefewwhocouldfollowwhatHookerwasdoing(PaulTrynkasnotes
toHooker,2002).JimmieRodgersTForTexas(1927,a.k.a.BlueYodel#1)isanother
wellknownexampleofaveryapproximate12barbluesformat.
Tagg:MusicsMeanings8.Terms,time&space 287
theexpectedregularityofmusicalevents.Anextendedperiodof,say,
4or5barsinsteadoftheusual4inapopularsongcancommunicate
somethinglikeThewordsareimportanthereandImgoingtofitthem
inevenifitmeansspendingalittleextratimeonthem,whilecuttinga
periodshortcantellthelistenertheresnowaitingforthenextbit.
40
However,irregularperiodicitycanalsohelpcreateeffectsattheoppo
siteendofthespectrumfromurgencyorconfusion.Ifthemusicissoft,
thetempomoderateorslow,thearticulationrelativelysmooth,ifthere
arenosuddensurprisesand,mostimportantly,ifthemusicfeatureslit
tle or no energetic groove, then the symmetric arrangement of meso
durationsintoregularquadraticpatternscanbediscarded.Thathelps
createareflective,meditativeandrhapsodicgroovefreefromthecon
strictionsofmovementimmanentinthesocialorganisationoftimeand
spacetypicalformarching,dancing,worksongsorstreetslogans.In
stead, a floating sense of relative stasis and tranquillity can be pro
duced, with tonal and timbral parameters helping define its mood as
sereneordesolate,relaxingorforeboding,etc.
41

Appropriatequestionsaboutperiodicitymightbe:Isitconstantorvar
ied?Regularorirregular?Whateffectsarecreatedbythemusicsperi
odicity? Are the lyrics or the dance groove more important? Is it a
theme tune (regular periodicity more likely) or a piece of underscore
(irregularperiodicitymorelikely)?Isitasoloorensemblepiece?
Episode(section)
Onestepupthehierarchyofdurationsfromphrasesandperiods,but
below that of a complete normallength piece, comes the category of
SECTIONorEPISODE.Inpointoffact,episodesarentsomuchdefinablein
39. Cuttingaregularperiodshortbyabeatortwoliterallyhurriesthemusicforwards.Gas
tonRochon,cocomposerofToutlemondeestmalheureux(Vigneault,1976),described
thestumblingeffectofthetunes11insteadoftheexpected12barperiods.
40. Differencesbetweenregularandirregularperiodicityareveryclearinthecontrast
betweenverseandchorusinFernando(Abba,1975;seeTagg,2000b:4950,6776).
41. Extendedandfloatinglyirregularorindiscernibleperiodicitymayhelpcommuni
cateasenseofstasisbutthatstasisneedstonalandtimbralparameterstodefineits
moodas,say,agreeable,alien,beautiful,boring,cold,contented,dark,delicate,
depressing,desolate,empty,eternal,ethereal,fateful,ineffable,inimical,inscrutable,
light,lonely,nostalgic,ordered,pastoral,peaceful,pleasant,sad,serene,threatening,
tragic,transcendent,unpleasant,vast,worryingandsoon.
288 Tagg:MusicsMeanings8.Terms,time&space
terms of duration as of their distinctiveness as regards sonic content
andexpressivecharacter.
42
Episodeslikeverseandrefrain,AandB
sections in a jazz standard, etc. are the basic building blocks of the
longernarrativeprocesses(MEGADURATIONS)discussedinChapter11.
Megadurations
The basic unit of megaduration is that of an entire piece, be it a title
theme lasting less than a minute, a pop song or Schubert Lied lasting
less than three minutes, or a shortish movement from a euroclassical
symphony, or a prog rock or jazz track lasting six minutes or more.
Theresclearlynopointthinkingintermsofmegadurationifthepiece
isajingle,bridgeortaillastingnomorethanafewseconds,
43
buteven
a60secondTVthemetunecontainsphrasesandperiods,oftenalsoep
isodes.Ifso,itsidentityasapieceispartlydeterminedbythewayin
whichconstituentepisodesaremanagedintermsoforder,relativedu
ration,etc.insideitstotalduration.
44
Wellreturntoquestionsofdia
taxis(musicalnarrative)inChapter11.
Speed
Asenseofspeedinmusicisprimarilycreatedbyusingtwoparameters
ofexpression:TEMPOandSURFACERATE.
Tempo,beatandpulse
MusicalPULSEorTEMPOismeasuredinbeatsperminute(bpm),arate
alsoknownasitsMETRONOMEMARKING.Pulsus,theLatinoriginofthe
word PULSE, means BEAT, as in heartbeat. Metronome markings range
from40to212.Thisrangeofbpmrelatesdirectlytohumanpulse:40
bpmisthatofawelltrainedathleteindeepsleepand212bpmthatof
42. Episode:apassagecontainingdistinctmaterialaspartofalargersequenceof
events(ConciseOxfordDictionary,1995).
43. Fordiscussionofbridgesandtails,seep.521,ff.
44. Forexample,the49secondthemeforthefirstTVseriesofKojak(19711973)runsepi
sodicallyasfollows:[A
1
],ashortintro(7)followedbyathreebarphrase/period(5)
repeatedonceidentically(5)andagainatahigherpitch(6);[B],aperiodconsisting
ofthree3secondphrasespresentingstarklycontrastingmaterial(9);[A
2
].acom
pactedversionofthewholeofA
1
(8insteadof18),endingwithanextendedfinal
chordandfinalreverb[9](Tagg,2000a:140142,313321).Forepisodicformofthe
NYPDBluetheme,<seefootnote50,p.291.
Tagg:MusicsMeanings8.Terms,time&space 289
ababyinaseriousstateofstress.Mostmetronomemarkingsareinthe
range50to160bpmandcanalsoberelatedtofootsteps:52bpmfora
slowfuneralprocession,90bpmforapleasantstroll,120abriskmarch,
160forlongdistancerunningand200foranOlympic100metresprint.
Tempoprovidestheunderlyingpaceofapieceofmusic.
45
Tempo beats can be stated either explicitly, as in the obvious FOURTO
THEFLOORkickdrumsoundofelectronicdancemusic,orimplicitlyas
pointsatregularintervalsinferablefromtherateatwhichprominent
partsofthemusicseemtomove.
BEATisoftenusedlooselytorefertocombinationsoftempo,metreand
rhythm(e.g.breakbeat),butitisstrictlyspeakingnomorethantheoc
currence,atregularintervalsofbetween0.67and3.5persecond(40210
bpm),ofpointsintimecomparablewiththosedefiningthedurationof
heartbeatsorbreaths.Theconstantpresenceoftheseelementalbiolog
ical functions throughout life makes them inevitable reference points
forexperiencingandmeasuringthespeedanddurationofothersound
andmovement.Thatswhywecanfeelabeatinmusicevenifnoneis
audibleandwhythebeat,inthisstrictsenseoftheword,isnotonlythe
basicunitoftempobutalsoofMETRE.
46
Itsalsowhynotessoundedreg
ularly at a rate outside the limits of the metronome cant be musical
beats. If theyre much below 50 bpm well hear them occurring on at
leasteveryotherbeat;iftheyexceed200wellheartwoforeverypass
ingbeat.
47
Suchextrametronomicratesareoftenimportantincommu
nicatingamusicalsenseofspeed,aswellseenext.
Surfacerate
Iftempo,withitspulsequantifiableinbpm,indicatesthemusicsun
derlying pace, its SURFACE RATE can be measured in notes per minute
(npm) indicating the speed at which actual notes are sounded or im
45. Source:BraBckersLkarlexikon,vol.5(Hgans,1982:145146).Tempoiseasyto
workoutifyouhaveasmartphone.Justdownloadametronomeapp,tapthetempo
asyouhearitinthemusicandthebpmratewillappearonscreen.
46. Upbeat,downbeatandoffbeatarediscussedunderEMPHASIS(p. 292).
47. SomemanicDJsmayclaimtheyhavetracksrunningat,say,424bpm.Thatsplain
nonsensebecausehumanfootstepsorheartbeatsat424bpmareimpossible.Dancers
willinterpret424bpmaseither212or,morelikely,106bpm.
290 Tagg:MusicsMeanings8.Terms,time&space
plied.Forexample,a HOMOPHONIChymnsungat80bpmwithvirtually
all its notes running at the same rate (80 npm, i.e. one note per beat)
soundsmuchslowerthanaTVthemetuneplayedalsoat80bpmbut
with plenty of notes running two, three, four or even six times faster
than the underlying tempo. Put simply, DUM DIDDLEY DIDDLEY DUM
soundsabitfasterthanDUMDIDDLEDIDDLEDUM,definitelyfasterthan
DUM DID DID DUM, and radically faster than DUM DUM, even
thoughthedurationbetweeneachbeatonDUMisidenticalinallfour
cases.
48
Therefore,whentalkingaboutasenseofspeedinmusic,itses
sentialtoconsiderboththeunderlyingpulse(thetempo,themetronome
marking,theDUMDUMorBOOMBOOMfactor,thebpm)ANDthemusics
surfacerate(theDIDDLEDIDDLEorDIDDLEYDIDDLEYfactor,thenpm).
49
Put another way, tempo (bpm) can usually, though not always, be
thoughtofintermsofgrossmotoricmovementandsurfacerate(npm)
asfinemotoric(p.63,ff.).
Now,althoughsurfacerateisusuallyquickerthantempo,itcanoften
bethesame,asinHOMOPHONIChymns,and,occasionally,slower.Con
sider, for example, the TV theme for NYPD Blue (Post, 1993<) which
runsforoneminuteatastable120bpm.Atthestart,louddrumsestab
lishasurfaceratefourtimesfaster(480npm)thanthetempo(120bpm),
butat0:19thedrumsfadeintothefardistanceandapastoraltheme,
carried by sampled cor anglais and a string pad, occupies the fore
groundwithasurfaceratefourtimesslower(30npm)thantheunderly
ing tempo. The stark contrast of relationship between the constant
tempo(120bpm)andthetworadicallydifferentsurfacerates(480and
30npm)createstwodramaticallydifferentmoodsgivingtwoverydif
ferentimpressionsofspeedandspace.
50
Surfaceratetendstovarymuchmorethanunderlyingtempoandis,as
48. ThetitlethemetoTheVirginian(TLTT: 277396)isin[at72bpmwithsurfacerate
activitybetween216and432npm.30informantsnotedHIGHSPEEDasaresponseto
thattunewhileonly14mentionedspeedinresponsetoarockrecordingrunningat
afastertempo(112bpm)butwithasurfacerateofonly224.Seealsofootnote49.
49. Formoreabouttempoandsurfacerate,seeSpeed,normalityandtelevisioninthe
Sportsnightanalysis(Tagg&Clarida,2003: 483487).N.B.DUMDUMsandBOOMsdo
NOTimplyunderlyingbeatsinmanytypesofSubsaharanmusic;seeUpsidedown
andbacktofront,p.460,ff.
Tagg:MusicsMeanings8.Terms,time&space 291
thenamesuggestsaudibleonthesurface.Nevertheless,thesamesur
face rate can often be heard more or less permanently throughout a
completeepisodeorentirepieceofmusic.Thehihatsoundingrepeat
edlyinapopsongattwicetherateoftheunderlyingpulseisonecase
in point and its consistent bisection of the beat creates what can be
calledsubbeats.SUBBEATtheregularsubdivisionofabeatisause
fulconceptintheunderstandingofMETRE(p. 293 ff.).
Appropriate questions to ask about tempo and surface rate might be:
Doesthemusichavearegularpulsemeasurableinbpm?Ifnot,doesit
changesuddenlyorgradually?
51
Ifthemusichasnopulse,whateffect
doesthatcreate?Ifithaspulse,whatsthetempoinbpm?Istheresa
constantsurfacerateordoesitvary?Orarethereseveralsimultaneous
surface rates? How fast (or slow) is the surface rate in relation to the
tempo?Whateffectiscreatedby,say,afastsurfacerateandaslowun
derlyingtempo,orbyaslowsurfacerateandafasttempo?
Harmonicrhythm
Harmonic rhythm isnt really a rhythm but a rate, more precisely the
rate at which different chords (if any) are presented. A single held
chord,oraveryslowrateofharmonicchange,ismorelikelytobring
about an effect of stasis, quick change between several chords more
likelytofavourasenseofspeed.
Rhythm
RHYTHMhasmanymeanings.
52
Apartfromitsuseasablankettermto
cover cyclical events (annual, seasonal, menstrual, daily, etc.) its also
often used loosely to refer to one or more of several parameters like
tempo,surfacerate,metreandgroove.Here,however,RHYTHMmeans
50. Thefastlouddrumsreturntotheforegroundat0:46intheoriginal1minuteversion
(tagg.org/bookxtrax/NonMuso/mp3s/NYPDBlue.mp3 [110819]); thepastoralsectionstarts
at0:28(notat0:19)inthe3minuteCDversionatm 5PIb4IrXh9A [110819]).Inaper
sonalinterviewwithPeterDKaye(LosAngeles,January2003,onunpublishedDVD),
MikePostreferredtothepastoralsectionasIrish.PostsIrishcharacterisation
opensawholecanofsemiomusicalwormsthatcannotbediscussedhere.
51. Gradualspeedingupinmusiciscalledaccelerando,slowingdownrallentando.
52. Rhythmos()originallymeantmeasuredmotion[or]time.initsturn
derivesfromtheverb(=flow).Rhymeisanearlierderivativefromrhythmsand
hastodowithasenseoforder,asinthephrasewithoutrhymeorreason.
292 Tagg:MusicsMeanings8.Terms,time&space
temporal configuration of notes and pauses between notes (short or long,
weak or strong, etc.) to produce recognisable patterns of sound in
movement. Such configurations can be heard as smoothor jerky, mo
notonousorinvigorating,variedorrepetitive,andsoon.Asaspecific
configuration in microdurations, A RHYTHM can consist of just two
notes,liketheScotchsnap(...),orfournotes,liketheDADADADAAHM
motif at the start of Beethovens fifth symphony (... .). The eight
notesofthefamousSatisfactionriffalsoformarhythmconstitutingan
entiremusicalphrase(3.6:. .. ..._.. ..._.)butitcanalsobeheard
astwoelidedmotifs(. .. ..._ and.. ..._.).
53

A single note on its own does not constitute a rhythm, nor, strictly
speaking,doesthetickingofaclockormetronome.Whenwesaythe
clockgoesTICKTOCKweascribetwodifferentsoundstowhatisinfact
anidenticallyrepeatedsinglesound.Webinaurallyconfigurethatone
soundintoarhythmusingatimbral/tonaldistinctionthatseemslogical
forthe DINGDONG of atwotone door chime butanachronistic forthe
monotonetickingofaclock.
54
Still,evenmonotonoustickingcan,like
the inexorable FOUR TO THE FLOOR of house and techno, become a
rhythmifitsinapieceofmusiccontainingothertemporalconfigurations
ofnotesandpausesbetweennotes(rhythms).Themonotonythenbecomes
oneofseveralrhythmsthattogethercreateagroove,howevermechan
icalormetronomicitmayseemtosome.
55
Besides,rhythmusuallyin
volves theconfiguration of notesinto specific, identifiable patterns of
eitherpitchorEMPHASIS.
Emphasis/accentuation
Anotecanbeemphasisedusingthefollowingtypesofaccent:
1. DYNAMIC:thenoteislouderthanthoseimmediatelyprecedingit;
56

53. Satisfaction:RollingStones(1965).Ageneralruleofthumbisthatasinglerhythm
pattern(arhythm)lastsforbetweenaboutand4.Itneverexceedsthelimitsof
presenttimewithoutbeingrepeated.ThelongestriffIknowis8,inPiazzadegli
affari(startsat0:07,FrancoFabbrionguitar,CStormySix,1982).Thatriffhastwo
parts:oneascending,theotherdescending(c.4each).Forextensivetreatmentofthe
Scotchsnap,seemTagg(2011b).
54. TICKTICK:yes;TOCKTOCK:yes;TICKTOCK:Idontthinkso!Anaphone:seep. 487ff.
55. Infactthatmaywellbeanessentialaspectofthegroovesaesthetic;seeTagg
(1984: 1415)andCollins(2002:376386).
Tagg:MusicsMeanings8.Terms,time&space 293
2. AGOGIC:thenoteitself,orthedurationofthenoteplusthesilence
immediatelyfollowingit,is/arelongerthanthenote[s]immediately
precedingit(itsupbeat[s],itsleadinoranacrusis);
3. TONIC:thenoteclearlydivergesinpitchinrelationtonotesimmedi
atelybeforeit.
4. METRIC:seenext,underMETRE.
Metre
InmosttypesofWesternmusic,emphasisednotesrecurringatregular
intervalsseparatedbythesamenumberofbeatsorsubbeatsareheard
astheregulargroupingofbeatsintoaMETREwithMETRICACCENTson
thefirstnoteofeachgroup.Asweshallsee,thosebeatscanbeeitherre
inforcedbycoincidingwithoneormoreofthethreeothertypesofem
phasis,orcontradictedbyplacingaccentselsewhereinthemetre.
ThebasicunitofmetreistheBARorMEASURE.Abarisadurationde
finedbyagivennumberofcomponentbeats,allofaconsistentdura
tiondefinableinbeatsperminute.(twofour),,] and [ (sixeight)
are the commonest TIME SIGNATUREs (= symbols indicating metre) for
musicofEuropeanorigin.
57
Thelowerfigureinthetimesignatures,,
and ] denotes a quarternote () or crotchet (.), the most common
scribalunitfordesignatingasinglebeatofmusic.
58
The2,3and4
ontopin, and] indicatethenumberofbeatsineachbar.At120bpm
(.=120),abarlastsfor1second,a or[barfor1anda]barfor2
seconds. The 16 subbeats shown in Figure 85 (p. 294: 8 beats at 120
bpmin,,and];6at80bpmin[)occupy4seconds.
59
Insuchstand
ard types of metre, metric accents are on the first beat (one) of each
bar.ThatbeatisalsocalledtheDOWNBEATbecausedownisthedirection
oftheeuroclassicalconductorsbatonatthosepointsinthemusic.Bars
56. Dynamicaccentsareusuallygeneratedduringthenotesattackphase(seep. 277).
57. TIMESIGNATURE:scribalexpressionofmetre., , ,arepronouncedtwofour,three
four,fourfour,sixeight.canalsobewrittencandreferredtoascommontime.
58. 120bpmcanalsobewritten.=120(quarternote/crotchetequals120).
59. isdifferent:the8designateseighthnotes/quaversassubbeats.Whensixquavers
areheardasthreegroupsoftwo(.. .. ..)theyformthreebeatstothebarin
metre(. . .).Ifheardastwogroupsofthree(... ...)theyformtwogroupsof1
beats(.. .. ),inwhichcasethetimesignatureis:1beatsarethenheardas1beat
consistingofthreesubbeats.SeealsoHEMIOLA(p.458ff.).
294 Tagg:MusicsMeanings8.Terms,time&space
areuserfriendlyunitsfordenotingmusicaldurationsbecausetheycan
be both felt and counted as the music actually progresses, whereas
thinkingaboutdurationinsecondsisvirtuallyimpossiblewithmusic
inprogressunlessitstempoisexactly60or120bpm.
While a recurring rhythmic pattern at a particular tempo and metre
maybesemioticallysignificant(e.g.slowwaltz,freneticjig,relentless
march,laidbackballad,etc.),differenceofmetreisonitsownnoguar
anteefordifferenceofperceivedkineticeffect.Forexample,although
music in fasttime will morelikely sound like a polkaor reel rather
than a lyrical ballad, is the metre not only for swirling Viennese
waltzesbutalsoforsometypesoflyricalballad,aswellasforthese
date UK national anthem. Similarly, depending on tempo, rhythmic
patterningandotherfactors,[metremightjustaswellsignalalullaby
asacavalrymarch,orlivelygalliardorcueca,while]isthemostcom
mon metre for an almost limitless variety of Western music, ranging
fromuptemporockviasonandfoxtrottofuneraldirges.
60

Fig. 8-5.Usual Western time signatures, bars, beats and subbeats


The explanations just given about metre apply in general to music of
CentralandWesternEuropeanorigin.Thatmusicismainlymonomet
ric (= uses only one metre at a time) and symmetric, meaning that its
patternsofstrongandweak[sub]beatsareconsistentlygroupedinto
simplemultiplesoftwoorthree.However,inalotoftraditionalmusic
from SubSaharan Africa, metric practices are much more complex.
Thereareoftencrossrhythmicconfigurationsrunningincyclesof12or
60. isalsoshownas(Cforcommontime)inWesternmusicnotation.
Tagg:MusicsMeanings8.Terms,time&space 295
24subbeatssimultaneouslydivisibleintopatternsof2,3,4and6sub
beats,andwithvariableplacementofwhatearsraisedonmonometric
musichearasupanddownbeatsinanyoneofthosesimultaneously
sounding metres.
61
Another tradition of metre differing from that of
WesternEuropeisthatfoundinmanytypesofmusicfromtheBalkans,
Turkey, the Arab world and Indian subcontinent. There, asymmetric
metreisquitecommon,featuringtimesignatureslikefive(ingroupsof
3+2 or 2+3 beats or subbeats), seven (4+3 or 3+4), ten (3+4+3, 3+3+4,
3+2+3+2),etc.
62
InmusicfromtheurbanWestthemostcommonexceptionstothesym
metric articulation of beats and subbeats are those that configure the
eightsubbeatsofa]baras3+3+2insteadof4+4,orthesixteensubbeats
of two ] bars as 3+3+3+3+2+2 instead of 4+4+4+4.
63
These alternative
patternsinvolvemetricaccents,placedonthefirstnoteineachgroup
ofsubbeats,thatdontcoincidewithregularpointsofemphasisinthe
underlyingmetre.Suchvariationofmetricaccentissometimescalled
CROSSRHYTHM; or,toput it moreconventionally, ifa partofthe[bar]
thatisusuallyunstressedisaccented,aswithcrossrhythm,itcanbe
calledaSYNCOPATION.
64
Ofcourse,syncopationcanalso,asnotedear
lier,resultfromdynamic,tonaloragogicaccentsfallingonametrically
unstressedpointinthebar,butsyncopationcanlogicallyexistonlyif
the music is monometric. If cross rhythm is in operation, as in many
typesofSubSaharantraditionalmusic,orifthelocationofthedown
61. Suchpolymetriccrossrhythmisoftenmisleadinglycalledpolyrhythm;seep.457.
62. Someoftheasymmetricmetresarecalledaksak,Turkishforlimp,nottoinsultthe
ambulatorilydisadvantagedbuttodenoteagaitcharacterisedbyunequalduration
betweenstepsoftheleftandrightfoot(3subbeatsforone,2fortheother).
63. Unevengroupingofeightsubbeatsas3+3+2ischaracteristicoftherumbaandoccurs
withtherisingvocalsonaah!justbeforethehooklineofTwistAndShout(Top
Notes,1961;Beatles,1963;Poole,1963).Theunevengroupingof16subbeatsinto
groupsof3+3+3+3+2+2isafavouritewithAngusYoung,asinShootToThrill(AC/
DC,1980);itsalsoatthebasisofthebossanovaclavespatterncoveringtwobarsof
].Anothercommonexceptionisthehemiolawhichinvolvessixsubbeatsgrouped
simultaneouslyoralternatelyas23and32,asinthecourante,galliardandIwant
tobeinAmericafromWestSideStory(Bernstein,1957).Thehemiolaisalsothesim
plestformofpolymetricityinWestAfricantraditionalmusicandformstherhythmic
basisofIberoAmericandancestylesliketheChileancueca.Seealsop.458,ff.
64. Benward&Saker(2003: 12),quotedinWikipediaentryonsyncopation[110822].
296 Tagg:MusicsMeanings8.Terms,time&space
beatvariesbetweeninstrumentsorfromonebartothenext,asinthe
combinationofCubanMontunowithclavesandothersalsapatterns,
therecanbenosyncopationbecausethemusicis,atleasttoeurocentric
ears,inapermanentstateofcrossrhythmorsyncopation.
65
Anyhow,
patterns of metric grouping of beats, subbeats and accents are,
whatevertheircharacter,keyelementsintheconstructionofdifferent
feelsorGROOVES.
Groove
Likethegroovesonavinylrecord,musicalgroovesarecyclical.They
consistofoneormorerhythmpatternslasting,assingleunits,nolongerthan
theextendedpresent(usuallyjustacoupleofseconds),butthosepatterns
havetoberepeatedseveraltimesbeforetheyconstitutegrooves.Theyfit
into an overriding tempo and metre, and are usually repeated con
stantly,thoughoftenwithminorvariations,throughoutentirepiecesof
music, or at least for a complete episode inside one piece. Groove re
latesdirectlytothegrossmotoricmovementofthehumanbodyandis
most obviously connected to dance, different grooves being suited to
differenttypesofbodymovement,steppatterns,etc.
66

Althoughthemusicalsenseofthewordgrooveoriginatedindiscourse
aboutoneculturallyspecifictypeofrhythmicandmetricpatterning
theswingarticulationandanticipateddownbeatsofjazz,lateralsoap
plied to rock, reggae, funk, R&B, etc. its a concept that can be use
fullyappliedtoanymusicwhosepresenttimecyclicconfigurationsof
65. Montuno:arepeatedpatternofnotesorchordswithsyncopatedmovinginner
voicesandadifferentlysyncopatingbassline(Wikipedia).Thatmultiplicityofsyn
copationbegsthequestionsyncopatedinrelationtowhat?If,withsuchcross
rhythmstheresnounequivocalsingleunderlyingpatternofmetricaccentuationand
placementtherecanbenosyncopation.Listeninsteadto,forexample,CarlosSar
duyDimetscover(2005)ofCompaySegundosChanChan(1985).Forsomething
moremainstream,try03:2004:20inTimPopconBirdland(VanVan,2002;relevant
excerptattagg.org\bookxtrax\NonMuso\mp3s\VanVanLoop.mp3 [110822]).Seealsounder
Transatlanticcrossrhythm(p. 463,ff.).
66. [G]roovemarksanunderstandingofrhythmicpatterningthatunderliesitsrolein
producingthecharacteristicrhythmicfeelofapiece[I]tisthefeelcreatedbya
repeatingframework(Middleton,1999).ThankstoFranciscoGimnez(Granada)
forsuggestingpossiblesimilaritiesbetweengrooveandtheflamenconotionofpalo;
see,forexample,Zanin(2008)andGonzlezSnchez(2011).
Tagg:MusicsMeanings8.Terms,time&space 297
tempo, rhythm and metre relate to bodily movement. The Viennese
waltz,theChileancueca,thebourre,thecourante,thejig,theslipjig,
the reel, the mazurka and the minuet each has its specific groove, as
doesevenamarch,beitswunglikeTheWashingtonPost(Sousa,1889)
orstraightliketheMarseillaise(RougetdeLisle,1792).Thismeansthat
whilemazurkaormarchgroovesmaysoundungroovytojazzorfunk
fans,theyare,likeitornot,metric/rhythmicconfigurationsconnected
to bodily movement, configurations which, just like jazz or funk
grooves,arerepeatedandwhosedurationasindividualoccurrencesdo
notexceedthelimitsoftheextendedpresent.Ofcourse,amarchorma
zurkagroovesoundsquitedifferenttothatofaFunkyDrummerloop,
butthereisnoreasontoreservesuchausefulconceptasgrooveforcer
tainmusicaltraditionsanddenyittoothersanymorethanthereisto
insist that a composition must be the written work of one individual,
ratherthan,forexample,theresultofauralcollaborationbetweenband
memberswithinputfromproducersandrecordingengineers.
67

Repeatedmetric/rhythmicconfigurations(groovesinthesensejustde
scribed) in the music youre analysing might suggest continual or re
peated movements like tiptoeing through the tulips, or marching to
war,ortrudgingtoaplaceofexecution,ortwirlingaroundasanele
gantcouplewaltzinginanimperialballroom,orchoppingtheairwith
robotic arms, or singing your baby to sleep, or gyrating like a belly
dancer, or hauling a heavy load, or swimming against the tide, or
grindingandthrustingyourpelvis,orfloatingonyourbackinaswim
mingpool,orshufflingyourfeetfastandforwards,orspinninground
67. FunkyDrummer(JBrown,1970)featuresthehomonymousbreakbyClydeStubble
fieldthatsubsequentlyusedhundredsoftimesbysuchartistsasTheBeastieBoys,
ComptonsMostWanted,ErikB&Rakim,IceT,LLCoolJ,NewOrder,NineInch
Nails,NWA,Prince,PublicEnemyandRunDMC;sourceRapSampleFAQthe-
breaks.com/search.php [110210].Curiosity:formarchasungroovygenresynecdoche
inastylecontextofgroovysoulgroovestyleindicators,seeJamesLast(1969).
ComposesimplyderivesfromLatincomponere/compostum,conorcommeaningwith
ortogetherandponere/positumput:tocomposesimplymeanstoputtogether.As
anexchangeofideasontheIASPMlistinJanuary2011showed,somepopularmusic
scholarsarereluctanttotalkaboutcomposition.Theythinkitsoundstooclassically
grandiosejustas,inversely,otherscannotconceiveofaViennesewaltzhaving
groove:thewordisconsideredtoocoolforsomethingconsidereduncool.
298 Tagg:MusicsMeanings8.Terms,time&space
withothersinaneightsomereel,orgallopinghellforleather,ortaking
aleisurelystroll,etc.adinfinitum.Infactitsprobablybest,ifyoufeel
uncertain about the lexical niceties of metre and rhythm, to describe
yourkineticimpressionofthegrooveinquestioninthesortofaesthesic
termsjustlisted.Andifyoufeeluncertainaboutyourownkineticim
pressions of that groove you can always test those impressions inter
subjectively(seeChapter6).
Space
Spaceisintimatelycorrelatedwithtimeandmovement.Thatsimpleas
sertionisborneouteverymomentoftheday:wehavetotimeourown
movementsthroughspacecorrectlyifwewanttocrosstheroadwith
outbeingrunover,tofetchfoodfromthefridge,or,infact,totakeany
action atall. Evenwhen weremotionlesswe relyon timeand move
ment, as well as on loudness and timbre, to let us know what sort of
space were in. The milliseconds it takes for a sound we emit to re
bound, once or several times, loudly or softly at 343 metres per sec
ond,
68
fromdifferentsurfacesofdifferentmaterialsplacedatdifferent
anglesanddistancesfromourearshelpinformusifwerein,say,abed
room,abathroom,acathedral,anopenfield,anemptystreetoralley,
oralong(orshort)corridorinaluxuryhotelorlargeprison.Suchas
pects of acoustic space can be part of live performance but are used
muchmoreextensivelyasparametersofexpressioninrecordedmusic
whereinputsignalsfromvoicesandinstrumentscanbetreated,sepa
rately or together, so that they appear to be sounding in a particular
sortofacousticspace.Eachacousticspacehasauniqueprofiledefined
by many different parameters determining two sorts of sound reflec
tion:ECHO,wherereturnsignalsareheardasdistinctrepeatsofpartor
wholeoftheinputsignal,andREVERB,wherereturnsignalsmergeinto
one overall spatial impression. The first question to ask is therefore
prettyobvious:Whatkindofspacearewehearinginapieceofmusic
throughtheuseofechoorreverb?
69

68. Thespeedofsoundindryairat20Cis343metrespersecond(1236km/h).
Tagg:MusicsMeanings8.Terms,time&space 299
Auralstaging
With live acoustic performance we mostly hear just one space unless
wewalkaroundthevenuetocheckoutthesoundfromdifferentangles
anddistances.
70
Butbythelate1920s,aftertheinventionofthecoilmi
crophone,performanceofpopularsongcouldincludetwosimultane
ousspaces:oneforthebandintheuntreatedacousticspace,theother
forthevocalistwhocould,throughamplification,singsoftlyinclose
uptothelistenerwithoutbeingdrownedoutbytheband.
71
Sincethe
adventofmultitrackrecording,eachSTRAND(track,line,part,stream)
ofthemusiccanbetreatedseparatelyandsoplacedindifferenttwodi
mensional positions relative to the listeners ears in the same given
space (left, right or centre; near or far). Moreover, each strand of the
musiccanalsobeassigneditsownacousticspacethatcanbecombined
withotherstrandsinthemusictoformaspatialcompositeimpossible
outthereinexternalreality,butwhichcanbebothsuggestiveandcon
vincinginsideourheadsasvirtualaudioreality.AURALSTAGINGiswhat
I call the use of acoustic parameters to create such virtual reality.
72
Lacasse(2005)explainsthissortofsonicmiseenscne,illustratingits
useintworecordingsbyPeterGabriel(1992,2002)inwhichapowerful
dynamic between inner thoughts and emotional outbursts is created
throughthesubtletreatmentofvocaltracksinrelationtotherestofthe
music.
73
Widely used and extremely important in film soundtracks,
69. Reverbanddelaytemplatenamesinanygoodaudioeditingsoftwarearequiteuse
fulinanalysis.Myaudiosoftwareofferstemplatesrangingfromdenseroomvia
mediumhallandsewertocathedral.
70. Twotypesofexception:[1]polychoralworks(corispezzati)by,forexample,Giovanni
Gabrieli(15541612);Talliss40partmotet(85voices)Speminalium(1570);[2]echo
effectsoffstageinBaroqueopera(e.g.Purcell,1690).
71. Withoutthisseparationofmusicintotwospaces,croonerslikeBingCrosbyandBil
lieHolidaycouldnothaveintimatelyreachedmillionsonrecordorontheradio.
72. Lacasse(2005)usesphonographicstagingtodenotethesamething.Ipreferauralto
phonographicbecausethelattermeansrelatedtosoundrecording(inparticularto
recordeddiscs),andbecauseauralstagingiscommoninnonphonographicsitua
tions(filmandgamessound,soundmixingatrockgigs,Renaissancepolychorality
[ftnt70]etc.).Auralstagingcoversthemiseenscneofanycombinationof
sounds,betheyvocal,instrumental,musical,paramusical,recordedorlive.Dock
wrayandMoore(2010)usesoundbox(Moore,1993)toconceptualisearectangular
stereospace(semicube)inwhichsoundsseemtobeplaced.Sincethestereoacous
tichorizonissemicircular(p. 302),Ichosenottousethenotionofabox.
300 Tagg:MusicsMeanings8.Terms,time&space
video games and studio recordings, aural staging is still often over
lookedasavitalparameterofexpressiontoconsiderintheanalysisof
thevastmajorityofmusicproducedsincethemid1960s.
74

Nowtheresnoroomheretoevenstarttryingtoexplaintheacoustics,
neurology or psychology of aural staging because it involves not just
the representation of particular types of space in music, but also the
placement of different sound sources in their own spaces, how those
soundsourcesarepositioned(eitherstationaryorinmotion)inrelation
toeachother,aswellashoweachofthesevariousconfigurationspro
duceaspecificoveralleffectonthelistener.
75
Withoutthatsortofback
groundtheoryandwithoutthepoeticexperienceofasoundengineer,
theonlyviableanalyticalapproachconsistsof:[1]beingawareofaural
staginganditsimportance;[2]theaesthesicdescriptionofitseffectson
thelistener.Aswithmanyotherparametersofmusicalexpression,this
approach involves registering and describing its effects on yourself
and, if possible, on other listeners. Are you hearing a large or small
space? Or several spaces? What sort of spaces? Which strands of the
music (e.g. vocals, drums, bass, backing singers, individual instru
ments or instrument sections, sound effects, etc.) are in which space?
Aretheysituatedtotheleft,rightorinthemiddle?Aretheycloseby,
farofforinthemiddledistance?Aretheyconstantlyinthesameposi
tion?Whichsoundsareinternal(thoughtsinsound)ratherthanexter
nal(statementsoutloud)?Whichsoundsaremoreambient,creating
moreofbackgroundorenvironment,andwhichonesare more likea
figure(nearorfar)againstthatbackground,orinthatenvironment?
73. PeterGabrielsDiggingInTheDirt(1992)andDarkness(2002);seealsoLacasse(1995)
fordetailedanalysisofDiggingInTheDirtandLacasse(2000)forthehistory,aesthet
icsandsemioticsofvocalstaging(includingmanyexamples).
74. Awarenessofauralstagingssemioticpotentialisessentialanddiscussedfurther
underSpatialanaphonesinChapter13(p.500,ff.).Forphonographicstagingin
OwnerOfALonelyHeart(Yes,1983)andUnfinishedSympathy(MassiveAttack,1991),
seepp.500502.Foranilluminatingexampleofhowauralstagingisusedbyfilm
soundeditors,seeTagg(ed.1980:5258).
75. Suggestionsforfurtherreading:Lacasse(2000),Moylan(1992,2002).
Tagg:MusicsMeanings8.Terms,time&space 301
Now, even if the most practical
way of dealing with aural staging
maybebasedininterpretationsof
perception,onetheoreticalissueis
essential to the understanding of
how a sense of musical space can
bemediated.Ithastodowithhow
the three dimensions of Euclidean
space (Fig. 86) are represented
acoustically.Intwochannelstereo,
soundscanbeplacedanywhereonthehorizontal(lateral)xaxisrun
ningfromleftthroughcentretoright(panning,Fig.87).Itssimple:a
soundplacedontheleft,rightorinthecentrewillbeliterallyheardas
coming from that position. With the vertical y axis things arent that
simplebecausemusicisrarely,ifever,recordedordiffusedinvertical
stereo.Inliveperformanceyouneverseepiccoloflutes,hihatsorso
pranosplacedsignificantlyhigherthanbassinstrumentsorvoicesand
itsonlyinthemostexperimentalstudiosthatyoullfindtweetersinthe
ceiling or woofers under the floor: everything comes at you from the
sameheight.Theverticalplacementandperceptionofsoundreliesin
otherwordsonamuchlessliteraltypeofmediation,mostobviouslyon
pitchparameters.
76

Fig. 8-7.Speaker placement for (a) two-channel stereo;


(b) 5.1 surround sound
76. Anotherpossiblefactordeterminingourabilitytoverticallylocateasound,beit
highorlowpitched,isthepatternwehearofsoundsreflectedonhorizontalorslop
ingsurfaces,onthetimethosereflectionstaketoreachourearsinrelationtothe
originalsoundsource,andonthetimbralpropertiesofthosesounds.
Fig. 8-6.3D model (frontal view)
302 Tagg:MusicsMeanings8.Terms,time&space
Thethirddimension(zaxis)hasnostandardadjectivallabelequivalent
totheHORIZONTALandVERTICALofthexandyaxes.Oftenreferredtoas
depth,thezaxismightbemoreaccuratelycalledFRONTALintermsof
simplestereoandFRONTALRETRALinasurroundsoundsetup(Fig.87).
Infact,thezaxiscan,strictlyspeaking,onlyworkproperlyinsurround
soundbecauseifpointsonthexaxisrangefromfarlefttofarright,and
thoseontheyaxisfromhighuptolowdown,thenthoseonthezaxis
mustlogicallyrangefromfarbehindtofarinfrontofthelistener.Far
istheoperativewordherebecausewearedealingwithdistancealong
both axes of stereo sound: horizontal (x) and frontal (z). As shown in
Figure87,thestereosacoustichorizontracesasemicircle,likethetop
halfofacompassfaceoranalogueclock,runningfromfarleft(westor
quarter to), round through a long way in front of the listener (far
northortwelveoclock)tofarright(eastorthreeoclock).Sounds
can be placed anywhere within that semicircle and their distance or
proximitytothelistenerismediatedbysettingdifferentvaluesforpa
rametersofloudness,timbreandreverb.
77
Thisshorttheorisationshouldmakeatleastonethingclear:themedia
tionofacousticspaceandthepositioningofsoundswithinthatspace
is, with the exception of lateral placement, not so much a matter of
puttingthosesoundsliterallyintheirrespectivepositionsinrelationto
theprospectivelistenersearsasgenerating,byothermeans,sonicdata
thatlistenersintuitivelyinterpretasrelativelytotheleftorright,faror
near,highorlow,diffuseorcompactetc.inrelationtoanoverallspace
thatseemslargeorsmall,publicorintimate,openorclosed,andsoon.
Thelistenerisinotherwords,asFigure87shows,placedcentrestage
77. Stereolocationisdefinedbytwoparameters:first,thestereopositionofasound
sourceonthestereoarray;andsecond,itsdiffusion,whichreferstotheareathis
soundsourceappearstocoveralongthatarray.Forexample,ahihatmightseemto
soundfromaprecisepointonthelefthandside,whileavoicemightbemoredif
fused[D]istancecanbedefinedastheperceivedlocationofasoundsourcealong
thedepthofarecordingsvirtualsoundstage.Thesoundsourcewillbeperceivedas
soundingfromagivendistancefromthelistener,withinagivenenvironment.
Althoughreverberationandloudnessobviouslycontributetoourperceptionofdis
tance,thefundamentalparameterresponsiblefortheperceptionofdistanceisthe
timbraldefinitionoftheperceivedsoundsource.Lacasse(2005:3),referringto
Moylan(2002).
Tagg:MusicsMeanings8.Terms,time&space 303
withtheauralstagingarrangedaroundhim/her.Itsasiftheaudience
andtheactorstheauditoriumandthestagehadchangedplaces.
Now,thissectionhasmainlydealtwithspaceasaparameterofmusical
expression,but that isnt the same as perception of space inmusic, as, in
deed,wasclearinthecontradictionbetweenourabilitytohearsounds
verticallyandtheabsenceofliteralverticalityinauralstaging.Infact,
ourperceptionofspaceinmusicreliesextensivelyonotherparameters
ofexpression,manyofwhicharekinetic.Tomakethislinkquiteclear,
imaginethesortofmovementyouwouldmakeinwhichtypeofspace
whentakingthefollowingfouractions:crossingtheroad,fetchingmilk
fromthefridge,surveyingthesurroundingcountrysidefromthetopof
ahillatsunriseorsunset,andcrammingyourselfintoanovercrowded
trainatrushhour.Obviously,youdontactasifyouretryingtocatcha
rush hour train when youre at peace on top of the hill, or meander
meditativelywitharmsoutstretchedandeyescontemplatingthehori
zonwhenyouhavetocontendwithothercommuterstryingtoboard
thesamebusytrain.Nordoyourushfreneticallytofetchmilkfromthe
fridge for Grandmas tea on a Sunday afternoon, just as little as you
wouldtrytocrossabusyroadbysaunteringthreemetresintothetraf
ficasifmovingleisurelythroughthekitchen.Expansivemusicalges
ture, slow and smooth or quick and sudden, will obviously suggest
morespacethandotightorcontainedtypesofgesture,betheynervous
andclaustrophobicorgentleanddelicate.
All these aspects of movement through space can be musically medi
ated by the sorts of kinetic anaphone discussed in Chapter 13, espe
ciallyunderGesturalinterconversion(p.502ff.),asbyoverallaspects
ofcompositionaltexture(Chapter12).Butfirstweneedtoidentifyand
discussparametersotherthanthoseoftime,speedandspace.

304 Tagg:MusicsMeanings8.Terms,time&space
Tagg:MusicsMeanings 305
9.Timbre,loudnessandtonality
Timbre
HEpoeticbasicsoftimbrehavealreadybeenexplainedanddis
tinguishedfromthoseoftone(pp.277280).Withitswidevari
ety of types of frequency spectrum, attack, sustain, decay and
release, TIMBRE, in conjunction with particular combinations of pitch
andloudness,seemstorelatesynaestheticallywithsensesoftouch,tex
ture, grain, consistency and substance (pp. 494498). With its compo
nent parts produced in a matter of milliseconds (p. 278), timbre is a
parameterofexpressionsuitedtotheexpressionofvariousaspectsof
immediate materiality. Particular combinations of timbre with pitch
and loudness are often easiest to denote using synaestheticaesthesic
descriptorslikerough,smooth,rounded,sharp,hard,blunt,cutting,pierc
ing; soothing, watery, airy, sweet, sour, velvety, silky, scratchy; clean, clear,
crystalline,bright,clear,limpid;dull,dirty,muddy,muffled,nebulous;brassy,
woody, metallic, grainy, gritty, gravelly; full, fat, fullblooded, rich, meaty,
compact,thick;thin,nasal,spindly,stringy,wiry,hollow;cold,warm,etc.
1

SincesynaestheticaspectsofVOCALTIMBREarediscussedinChapter10,
the next section focuses on INSTRUMENTAL TIMBRE, including an over
viewofEFFECTSUNITSanddevices(p.309ff.).Thatisfollowedbyanex
plorationofthecloselyrelatedparameterofLOUDNESS(p.313ff.).The
secondhalfofthisChapter(p.319ff.)providesnomorethanacursory
account of TONALITY. It consists of short explanations of such parame
tersasPITCH,RANGE,REGISTER,INTERVAL,MODE,MELODYandHARMONY,all
of which are covered much more substantially in Everyday Tonality
(Tagg,2009).
1. SeealsoAssessmentoftimbreusingverbalattributes(Darke,2005).
N
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r
e
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o
n
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306 Tagg:MusicsMeanings9.Timbre,loudnessandtonality
Instrumentaltimbre
As a parameter of musical expression, timbre can be understood to
workintwoways:[1]ANAPHONICALLYthetimbreinquestionhasan
iconic semiotic connection with the sensations denoted by the sort of
adjectives listed in italics on the previous page; [2] SYNECDOCHALLY
the timbre relates indexically to a musical style and genre, producing
connotationsofaparticularcultureorenvironment.
2
Thesetwotypes
oftimbralsemiosisarenotmutuallyexclusive.Letsstartwiththelatter.
Instrumentaltimbreasethnicstereotyping
Thetimbreofamusicalinstrumentisoftenusedaspartofagenresyn
ecdoche (p. 524 ff.) to connote an elsewhere heard from a musical
home perspective, i.e. through the ears of the culture into which its
imported. For example, to most nonJapanese listeners the koto or
shakuhachi is likely to suggest JAPAN, while Highland bagpipes may
conjureupgenericBRAVEHEARTANDTARTANRYnotionsofSCOTLANDto
thoseunfamiliarwithdifferencesbetweenapibrochlamentandpipers
paradingtothestrainsofScotlandTheBraveattheEdinburghTattoo.
3
OtherwellknownexamplesofethnictimbrestereotypesaretheFrench
accordionspellingFRANCE(usuallyPARIS)tothenonFrench,quenaor
zampoasandcharangotosignalANDEANFOLKtononAndeanfolk,and
sitarwithtablastoevokeagenericINDIAintheearsofmostnonIndian
listenersintheWest.Alltheseandcountlessotherexamplesofethnic
instrumentstereotypingwillonlyworkiflistenersareunawareofthe
range of moods and functions with which the relevant instrumental
soundisassociatedinsidetheforeignmusicculture.
4
2. Forexplanationsseep.161ff(ICON);p.487ff.(ANAPHONE);p.162ff.(INDEX);p.524
(GENRESYNECDOCHE).
3. Pibroch,a.k.a.piobaireachdorcelmr(=bigmusic):musicforthegreatHighland
bagpipes,performedsoloandconsistingofanelaboratedthemewithvariations.In
keepingwithHollywoodspenchantforjingoisticUSstereotypesofhistory,Brave
heart(1995)isnearlyasinaccurateanaccountofWilliamWallacesexploitsinthir
teenthcenturyScotlandastheUSfilmU571(2001)isofhowtheNaziEnigma
cipherwascracked.Tartanry:thekitschelementsofScottishculturesuper
imposedonthecountryfirstbytheemergentScottishtouristindustryandlaterby
anAmericanfilmindustry(Wikipedia)[111027].
Tagg:MusicsMeanings9.Timbre,loudnessandtonality 307
Instrumentaltimbreandconventionsofmoodandstyle
Insideourownfamiliarandbroadtraditionofmusicalculturesinthe
urbanWest,asymphonicstringsectioncan,aswealreadysaw(p. 264),
beusedtoproducefamiliartropesrangingfromloveandromanceto
violent psychopathy. Similarly, depending on how they play what,
Frenchhornscanbeassociatedwithheroism,hunting,dangerorlyri
cism,
5
whilethedifferentsoundsofasaxophonemightleadlistenersto
thinkofwindbands,bigbands,jazz,rockorsex.Thesexconnotationis
well established in music for film and television where slightly jazzy
saxophone licks played legato have so often been used to suggest an
eroticmoodthattheyconstituteatrope,referredtobysuchepithetsas
SEXAPHONEorHIGHHEELEDSAX.Or,asBenandKerry,writingontheTV
Tropeswebsiteputit,WhatsKennyGdoingineveryonesbedroom?
6

Despite the sort of differences just mentioned, some kinds of instru


mental timbre have more focused connotations becausethey connect,
byculturallyspecificconvention,withparticularstylesorfunctions.Its
inthiswaythattheharpsichordissometimesusedinaudiovisualpro
ductionstosuggestoldentimes,mosttypicallyaEuropeaneighteenth
centuryupperclasssetting,ratherthan,say,akitchensinkdramafrom
the1960s.Itsalsowhythesymphonyorchestraislinkedtoeithereuro
classical concert halls and opera houses or to bigbudget Hollywood
4. Thelistcouldgoonforever.Iconfesstoshamelessexploitationofsuchethnicstere
otypinginthefailedradiosignaturedescribedonpages186189.Thequenaisa
wooden(orbamboo)flute(flautodiritto)withabreathysound.Zampoasare
Andeanpanpipes,alsoquitebreathy.Thecharangoisasmall,quitehighpitched
instrumentofthelutefamily,usuallystrummedrapidlyandrhythmically.
5. ForFrenchhornconnotationsseeTagg(2000a:186191).
6. ThesaxophonesexwouldmostlikelybeheteroandNorthAmericanpost1950
(tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/Sexophone [110920]).Thesexophonetropeisa
primaryincomesourceforLAsaxplayerSergioFloreswhoseOfficialSexySaxMan
Website(thesexysaxman.com [111023])advertisessaxagramservicesanddocu
mentshisKennyGstyleblitzingofcorporategatheringsandcelebritypartieswith
tuneslikeGeorgeMichaelsCarelessWhisper(1984)andthesaxrifffromBakerStreet
(Rafferty,1978).SeealsoSexySaxbySelmer(n.d.)andFrechette(n.d.),plusrecord
ingsbyKennyGhimself(e.g.GreatestHitsfrom1997).Formoreonsexy1950sjazz
tropes,seeTheChurchoftheFlatFifthandP.I.Cool,Dejectionordames?and
StrippingintosomelooserspendingintheStreetcarnamedDesirechapterinTLTT,
pp.5837,5958).FortheFrenchhornsoundasheroicorthreatening,seeTagg
(2000a:185210);foritslyricalside,trythesecondmovementofMozart(1786).
308 Tagg:MusicsMeanings9.Timbre,loudnessandtonality
productions rather than to pub gigs or experimental cinema. And its
why the sound of a church organ suggests CHURCH rather than POLE
DANCING, and at least partly why a legato oboe tune is more likely to
signalNOSTALGICPASTORALIDYLLthananANGUISHEDPOSTAPOCALYPTIC
DYSTOPIA.
7

Anaphonicconventionsofinstrumentaltimbre
Someinstrumentalsoundsactanaphonically(p. 487ff.)inthattheyre
semblesound,touchormovementthatexistoutsidemusicaldiscourse.
Timpanirolls,forexample,soundmoreliketherumblingofanearth
quakeorofdistantthunderthanlikepatteringrainorclinkingglasses.
Thatswhyatimpanirollismorelikelytoconnotedanger,asjustbefore
adaringfeatofacrobaticsatthecircus,ratherthanthesparklingmagic
ofatinsellyfantasyworldofaDisneyChristmas.Thelatterwouldbe
more aptly suggested by the tinkling of a glockenspiel or celesta be
causesuchsoundsresemblethoseofamusicbox,whichismorelikely
toconnoteaprotectedoldeworldesortofCHILDHOODthanbombsex
plodinginawartornneighbourhood.Thetinklingtimbreoftinymet
allophones also suggest shiny, small, brittle, delicate objects like the
clinking glasses just mentioned, or like Tchaikovskys Sugar Plum
Fairy(1892).Bythesameanaphonictoken,thegrainysoundofaseri
ouslyoverdrivenelectricguitarresemblesmorecloselythegrowlofa
HarleyDavidsonorofaDucatifittedwithTermignoniexhaustthanof
ababblingbrook,whilesonorouslysmoothviscousstringpadsare,as
tactileanaphones,morelikelytobelinkedtosensationsofvoluptuous
nessandromanticluxurythantothoseofdigginguptheroadwitha
jackhammer.Still,eventhoughtheremaybedemonstrableanaphonic
resemblancebetweentypesofinstrumentaltimbreandwhattheyseem
toconnote,itshouldberememberedthatsuchsemiosisislargelycon
tingentonculturallyspecificconventionsofstylisation.
8

7. Seep.522ff.,esp.Styleindicator(p.523,ff.);foroboesandpastorality,seep.252
andTLTT: 2789,3805,5045;formusicanddystopia,seeCollins(2002).
8. Forculturalrelativityofanaphonicstylisation,seeunderCodalincompetence(p.
179ff.),p.488,p.494ff.FortheDISTORTEDGUITAR=MOTORBIKErocktrope,seeBuzz,
Grrr,ClickandCrash(Tagg,2011a) andthesectionBikes,guitardistortionand
heavymetalinChapter12(pp.436444).
Tagg:MusicsMeanings9.Timbre,loudnessandtonality 309
Acousticinstrumentdevices
Thebasicprinciplesaccordingtowhichmusicalinstrumentsproduce
different timbres in different ways have already been explained (pp.
277280) and the rudiments of acoustic instrumental timbre semiosis
have just been summarised. In addition to these basic considerations,
acoustic instruments can produce countless different types of attack,
continuant, decay, release and frequency spectrum by using different
playingtechniques,forexamplepizzicato,collegnoandsulponteonvio
lin,ordamping,laisservibrer,pickingandstrummingonguitar.Acous
tic devices are also used to vary the timbre of many instruments, for
examplethedifferentsortsofmutesusedbystringandbrassplayers,
thedifferentsortsofreedtypesusedbywoodwindplayers,thediffer
ent kinds of mouthpiece available to players of instruments like the
fluteortrumpet,thearrayofsticksandbrushesthatdrummersuse,not
tomentionthevarietyofregistration(stopsortabs)availabletoorgan
ists. The range of timbral variation has radically expanded since the
1960s,firstwiththespreadofelectroacousticand,later,digitaldevices
EFFECTSUNITSfortreatingaudioinputsignals.
Effectsandeffectsunits
Timbre can be altered by using different types of echo and reverb ef
fects, as well as by placement in the stereo space (left/right, far/near),
and by using different types of microphone placed in different posi
tionsinrelationtotheoriginalsoundsource.Othercommonalterations
oftimbreareproducedbythefollowingsortsofdevice.
9
Distortion
DISTORTION effects (a.k.a. OVERDRIVE, SATURATION)
10
radically alter the
character of overtones in a sounds frequency spectrum to create tim
bresthathavebeenvariouslydescribedasrough,gritty,harsh,richand
fullbodied. FUZZ, as in the famous Satisfaction riff (Rolling Stones,
1965),producesaslightlymorepiercingtypeofdistortioneffect.
9. Forconcisetechnical(poetic)definitionsandmoredetailabouteacheffectseethe
authoritativeEffectsunitentryinWikipedia.ItalsoincludesMP3demonstrations
andreferencestorecordingsillustratingmanyoftheeffects.
10. DistortionissometimesalsocalledGAIN,atermthathasseveralothermeanings.For
theGUITARDISTORTION=ROCKBIKERDAREDEVILtrope,seeTagg(2011a).
310 Tagg:MusicsMeanings9.Timbre,loudnessandtonality
Filters
FILTEReffectsarethosethatboostorweakenparticularpitchrangesin
anaudiosignal.ThemostwidelyusedfilteringdeviceistheEQUALISER
(abbr.EQ).EQsettingscanbeusedtomakeasignalmoreorlessprom
inentinthemix,togetridofunwantedsounds,ortocreatespecificef
fects like the disconnected, disembodied, boxedin sort of telephone
soundthathassometimesbeenappliedtovocaltracks.
11

The TALK BOX is a filter device that sends input audio through a tube
into theinstrumentalists mouthwhich, shaped to produceany vowel
sound,createsoutputaudiogivingtheimpressionthattheinstrument
istalking.
12

TheWAHWAHpedalcreatesasimilareffecttothetalkbox,exceptthat
itonlycoversonebinaryofvowelsoundsfromOOtoAH[wa]and
back[ao].Wahwahprobablyderivedfromacousticmutingtechniques
developedbyjazzmusicians.Asaneffectsunit,wahwahisusuallyap
pliedtoelectricguitarsoundsandiscommoninpsychedelicmusic,as
wellasincertaintypesoffunkanddisco.
13

TheVOCODERmanipulatesfrequenciesinanaudiosignaltoproducea
nonhuman,roboticsortofsound.
14
Modulationeffects
MODULATIONEFFECTSmixtwoormoreaudiosignalstocreateawhole
array of different sounds.
15
Apart from RINGMODULATION, which, de
pendingontheinputsignal,producesbelllikeorscifisounds,
16
mod
11. TheTELEPHONEFILTEReffectisused,forexample,throughoutCalifornia(Flashand
thePan,1979)andduringtheversepartsofComeTogether(Beatles,1969).
12. TheTALKBOXsmostassiduousexponentwasprobablyPeterFrampton(e.g.1976);it
wasalsousedinHaitianDivorce(SteelyDan,1976).
13. WAHWAHturnsupinrockguitarsolosby,forexample,Hendrix(e.g.1968)and
Clapton(e.g.Cream,1968);and,aswackawackaaccompaniment,inboththe
themefromShaft(Hayes,1971)andBarryWhitesLovesTheme(1973).
14. VOCODERSweremuchusedbyKraftwerk,e.g.inRadioactivity(live,2004).
15. Somemodulationeffectsmix(modulate)aninstrumentsaudiosignalwithasig
nalgeneratedbytheeffectcalledacarrierwave.Othermodulationeffectssplitan
instrumentsaudiosignalintwo,alteringoneportionofthesignalandmixingit
withtheunalteredportion.(WikipediaentryEffectsunit [110906]).
Tagg:MusicsMeanings9.Timbre,loudnessandtonality 311
ulationeffectscanbethoughtofintwomainaesthesiccategoriesthatI
callDIFFUSIVEandOSCILLATORY.
Diffusiveeffects
DIFFUSIVEEFFECTSarethosethatusevarioustechniquestodiffuseasin
glesoundsothatitspositionontheauralstageseemslessprecise,so
that it seems to fluctuate or cover more acoustic space. These effects,
particularly PHASING and FLANGING, create a sweeping, swishing,
swooshing sort of effect. CHORUS effects are similar except that they
soundfullerandoftenseemtoshimmerratherthanswishorswoosh.
DUBBING(orDOUBLING)isnotstrictlyamodulationeffectbutitcan,like
CHORUS,makeaudioinputsoundbigger(notlouder)andcreatetheim
pressionthatthereismoreofthesoundoccupyingmorespace,espe
ciallyiftheoriginalanddubbedtracksareassigneddifferentpositions
ontheauralstage.Digitaldubbinginvolvescopyingtheinputsignal,
detuningitveryslightly,offsettingitbyafewmillisecondsandmixing
thatcopywiththeoriginal.Appliedfrequentlytovocaltracks,dubbing
canbeusedtofleshoutathinvoiceortomakeasinglevoicesoundlike
twoormoreofthesamevocalpersona,orliketwoormoresidesofthe
same vocal persona. Digital dubbing has not replaced real dubbing
practices in which the artist physically rerecords the same passage a
secondtimeontoadifferenttrack.Realdubbingisusefulifaradically
differentoverdubisrequired,forexampleifthesingerneedstowhis
perthewordshe/shehaspreviouslyrecordedinsongsothatlisteners
canhearthemessagebothoutloudandinsidetheirheads.
17

Oscillatoryeffects
OSCILLATORYEFFECTSarethosethataddrapidtoandfromovementtoa
sound. VIBRATO involves microtonal oscillation between two pitches
and is used by classical violin players to give more body to longer
16. Thereismuchintersubjectiveagreementabouttheringmodulatorsbelllikeeffect.
ThescificonnotationisfromMcNamee(2009)whonotesthatringmodulationwas
usedin1963toproducethesoundoftheDaleks(EXTERMINATE!)intheBBCTV
seriesDrWho.StockhausensMixtur(1964)isentirelyringmodulated,asisthegui
tarsolo(01:2401:45)inBlackSabbathsParanoid(1970).
17. ThistechniquewasusedextensivelybyPeterGabriel,forexampletheloweroctave
overdubbedinBigTimeandMercyStreet(1986),thewhispersinIHaveTheTouchand
RhythmOfTheHeat(1982),aswellasthosementionedinfootnote73,p.300.
312 Tagg:MusicsMeanings9.Timbre,loudnessandtonality
tones.Thewide,wobbling,slowvibratothatwasoncefashionableasa
device of heightened emotion among Mediterranean opera singers is
rareinpopularsong,exceptfortheinfamousgospeljawwobbleapplied
totheendoflongnotesbyvocalistsperformingslowballadsinvolving
thepublicpresentationofdeeppersonalfeelings.
18
TREMOLOinvolves
nochangeofpitchbutrapidoscillationsintheLOUDNESS(volume)ofa
note. Tremolo produces more of a pulsating, shuddering, or, as the
namesuggests,tremblingratherthanwobblingsortofeffect.
Loudnesseffects
LOUDNESSEFFECTUNITSincommonuseareCOMPRESSION,LIMITING,GAT
INGandtheVOLUMEPEDAL.COMPRESSIONbasicallymakesloudsounds
weaker and weak sounds louder, thereby compressing the audio sig
nals dynamic range. An audio track can be compressed to make it
soundfullerandtightersothatitstandsoutfromotherinputsources.
Compression is also often applied to the complete mix, to an entire
songoralbum,eventotheentireoutputofaradiostation.Overallcom
pressionisusefulifthemusicistobeheardinspacescontainingalot
ofextramusicalsound,forexamplewhendrivingavehicle.
19
LIMITERs set a ceiling for the maximum strength of a sound and are
mostlyusedtoavoidunwanteddistortion.GATINGdoestheopposite:it
setsaminimumlevelofintensitybelowwhichnothingpassesthrough
into audio output. By excluding certain elements of a sounds attack
and decay, gating alters the timbre of the input signal. A particularly
commongatingpracticeistheGATEDREVERBthathasoftenbeenapplied
to drum tracks in order to create a bigger, more compact sort of
sound.
20
Strongcompressionandgatedreverbonkickdrumtracksare
largely responsible for the voluminous, subbass BOOF sound of elec
tronicdancemusicsfourtothefloorboochyboochyaesthetic.
21

18. Thispopvibratomannerismwasusedby,forexample,thelateWhitneyHoustonin
TheBodyguard(1992).Itscalledgospeljawbecausethesingersjawisclearlyseen
wobblingduringtheproductionofthevibratoeffect.
19. Seealsonextparagraph,incl.ftnt.21.Forexcessiveuseofcompressionandthe
reductionofdynamicrange,seep. 314ff.
20. Gatedreverbfiltersoutthelater,weakerandmorediffusepartofreverberation.
Appliedtodrumtracks,itsoftencalledjustgateddrums.ItcanbeheardinPeter
GabrielsIntruder(1980)andinPhilCollinsInTheAirTonight(1981).
Tagg:MusicsMeanings9.Timbre,loudnessandtonality 313
TheVOLUMEPEDALletsinstrumentalistsadjusttheiroutputlevelwith
out having to take their fingers off the instrument theyre playing.
Churchorganistsusetheinstrumentsswellpedaltoadjustthevolume
ofpassagesplayedontheSwellmanualandguitaristscanuseavolume
pedaltoincreasevolumeduringasolo.Thedeviceisalsooftenusedto
changethetimbreofindividualnotes,mostcommonlybyweakening
or muting their attack and shifting to full volume for the continuant.
This technique, sometimes called violining, can make an overdriven
electricguitarsoundabitlikeabowedviolin:itproducesaswelleffect
thatseemssmoother,softer(notquieter),rounder,lesspercussive,less
brash,moreetherealandmorereflectivethantheuntreatedsound.
22

Loudness
Thewordssofter(notquieter),usedintheprevioussentence,raisethe
first of several problems about the adjective loud. The first of these is
that loud is a bit like light (adj.), whose opposite can be either dark or
heavy,inthatitalsohastwoopposites:softandquiet.Thereisinother
wordsadifferencebetweenthemoretimbraltactile(loud/soft)andthe
more dynamickinetic (loud/quiet) aspect of loud. Dynamickinetic has
obviouslytodowithenergy,powerandmovement,
23
andthatisliter
ally what LOUDNESS is all about, at least in poetic terms. It obviously
takes more energy to produce a loud sound than a quiet one: string
playersbowmoreenergetically,pianistshitthekeysharder,windplay
ersblowmoreforcefully,andyourampusesmoreelectricitytomake
stronger sound waves that have greater amplitude. That means in its
turnthatthesoundssoproducedcovermorethreedimensionalspace
or,tobemoreaccurate,thattheyliterallyoccupyagreatervolume.VOL
UMEandDYNAMICSarecommonlyusedassynonymsforloudnessand
areconventionallymeasuredinDECIBELS(dB),aunitwhich,inacous
21. Sidechainingcompressedorgatedsoundsisalsocommoninthefourtothefloor
aestheticsofelectronicdancemusic.Typicallyitinvolvesapplyingthekickdrums
inexorablepatternofreiteratedsubbassBOOFstoothertrackssoastocreatean
effectofevenmorerelentlesssynchronyandmonometricity;seealsoftnt.24.
22. MarkKnopflerusesthevolumepedaltosucheffectinBrothersInArms(DireStraits,
1985),particularlyat2:152:21,2:392:45,3:584:04and4:114:22.
23. (dynamis)=power/strength;(kinesis)=movement/motion.
314 Tagg:MusicsMeanings9.Timbre,loudnessandtonality
tics,quantifiessoundpressurelevelsinair.Theselevelsrangefromthe
thresholdofhumanhearing(0dB),throughthesoundof,forexample,
rustlingleaves(10dB),awashingmachine(60dB),ascreamingchild
(90dB),ahelicopter(110dB),anaveragelyloudrockband(120dB),to
thethresholdofpain(130dB)andarocketlaunch(180dB).
24

Anotherconceptualproblemwithloudnessisthatitisntjustamatterof
simpledecibels.Manyamplifiersusedtocomenotonlywiththestand
ard volume control regulating the total audio output signal strength
(measured in dB), but also with a knob or button labelled loudness.
Thepointhereisthatsignalsattheupperandlowerendsoftheaudible
frequencyrangeneedtobestrongeriftheyaretobeheardasloudas
thoseinthemiddle.Loudnesscontrolcompensatedforthisidiosyncrasy
ofhumanhearingbylettinglistenersboost(moredB)thosehighsand
lowswithoutsimultaneouslyboostingmidrangefrequencies.Byregu
lating the decibel level of sounds at different frequencies, the amps
loudnesscontrolalsoalteredthetimbreoftheoveralloutput.Morere
cently,however,loudnesshasbeenusedtodenotetheoveralleffectof
compression in a complete audio production (see also p. 312). In that
context its worth noting that the quest for constant maximum loud
ness, using radical amounts of compression, has, in many recent re
cordings of rock and electronica, led to a reduction in the dynamic
range so that its now inferior to that of an Edison cylinder recording
from 1909 (Vickers, 2010: 27). Whether this trend is a mere fad or
whether it meets a need among listeners to block the extramusical
worldfromimpingingonanabsoluteinternalexperienceinanexer
ciseofacousticselfharmisamatterthatcannotbediscussedhere.
25

Soundsignalstrength(measurableindB)isonlyonefactordetermin
ingtherelativeloudnessorquietnessofwhatwehear.Temporal,tim
bral and tonal parameters are all at least as important, especially if
loudnessisconsideredaesthesicallyintermsoftheprominenceandau
dibility of one strand or layer of sound in relation to others. Musical
24. dBmeasurementstakenfromtheWikipediaentrydecibelandfromLoudmusicand
hearingdamageatabelard.org/hear/hear.php [both 110911].
25. Foradiscussionofpossibletonalaspectsofthisissue,seeAntidepressantsandmusical
anguishmanagement(Tagg,2004).
Tagg:MusicsMeanings9.Timbre,loudnessandtonality 315
strandswithclearrhythmic,tonalandtimbralprofilesimplystandout
morethanthosewithoutandcanseemlouder,eveniftheiroutputsig
nal strength (dB) is lower than that of other strands in the music.
26
Loudnessisinshortaparameterofmusicalexpressioninwhichsignal
strength(dB)isacentralfactorbutwhichalsoreliesoncombinationsof
timbre,pitch,toneandtimingtoproducemaximumeffect.
27
Takingloudnessasanaesthesiccategory,theobviousquestionstoask
ofananalysispieceare:Howloudisthemusic?Isthemusicconstantly
loud or quiet? If not, which passages are louder and which ones qui
eter?Arechangesfromloudtoquietorquiettoloudsuddenorgrad
ual?Which,ifany,ofthestrandsinthemusicarelouderthanothers?
Doanyindividualnotesormotifsstandoutaslouderorstrongerthan
others?
28
What effects are created by these differences between loud
andquiet?Areanyfeaturesofloudnessindicativeofaparticulartype
ofmusic?
Pitchandtonality
Pitchandtonality,alreadydefined(pp. 275276),are,alongwithnarra
tiveform(diataxis),theparametersofexpressioncoveredinmostde
tailbyconventionalmusictheory.
29
SinceIvedealtatsomelengthwith
tonaltopicsinEverydayTonality(Tagg,2009),andsincetheirexplana
tionismorelikelytoinvolvepoeticjargonthanhasbeennecessaryso
farinthisbook,thissectionisstrippedtoitsbarestessentials.
26. Thisphenomenonisobviousinstreetdemonstrationswhereslogansarecarried
muchmoreefficientlyabovebackgroundtrafficnoiseiftheyareshoutedatahigher
pitch,withsharpertimbre,andwithclearandconcertedrhythmicscanning.
27. SeealsounderREGISTER(p. 317).Therelationbetweenloudnessandtimbreisclearif
youcomparethesoundof,say,asoloviolinsamplewiththatofarealviolin:thetim
breoftherealviolinplayedloudwilldifferfromthatofthesamenoteplayedsoft
whereasthesamplestimbrewillbethesameforboth.ThankstocomposerRayRus
sell(rayrussell.co.uk),inconversationatHuddersfield,20120113)forthisinsight.
28. SeealsodynamicaccentunderEmphasis/accentuationonpage 292.
29. Forexplanationsofthisgraphocentricphenomenon(thenotatableparameters),see
Notation:Ileftmymusicinthecar(pp.121130).
316 Tagg:MusicsMeanings9.Timbre,loudnessandtonality
Pitch
Pitchandoctave
PITCH,aswealreadysaw,meanstheperceivedlownessorhighness
ofatoneandismeasuredincyclespersecondorHertz(Hz).440Hzis
internationally agreed concert pitch, the frequency of the note a in the
middleofthehumanrangeofhearing.
30
AsmentionedunderTimbre
(p. 277),thefirstharmonicorovertone(2f)hasafrequencytwicethatof
itsfundamental(1f ).Forexample,880Hz(a
5
,thenoteainoctave5)is
2finrelationto1fat440Hz(a
4
,ainoctave4)which,initsturn,is2fin
relationto220Hz(a
3
).Thenotenameforthethreepitches220Hz,440
Hzand880Hzisidenticalaandthepitchdifferencebetweenany
givenpitchandanotherattwiceorhalfitsfrequencyisoneOCTAVE.So,
a
4
(440Hz)isoneoctaveabovea
3
(220Hz)andonebelowa
5
(880Hz).
An octave is the eighth note you arrive at if you ascend a heptatonic
scalestepbystep,forexample a b c d e f g a,wherethefirsta
is1andthesecondais8,or1atthestartofthenextoctaverange.
The OCTAVE is a central concept in music for at least three reasons.
[1] Allknownmusictraditionstendtotreattwopitchesanoctaveapart
asthesamenoteinanotherregister:menareunderstoodtobesingingthe
sametuneaswomenandchildrenifbothpartiesfollowthesamepitch
contour. [2] The register and pitch range of audible fundamental fre
quenciescanbereferredtobyoctave(a
3
,b
4
,c|
5
,etc.)withouthaving
tothinkaboutcyclespersecond(Hz).
31
[3]TheorganisationofpitchIN
TERVALS,themostimportantdeterminantofdifferencesintonalvocab
ulary (see pp. 322332), is conceptualised within the framework of a
singleoctaveandisasaruleapplicabletopitchesinanyoctave.
30. Humanhearingrange20Hz20,000Hz(20kHz).Rangesforothermammals:40
60kHz(dogs),2010kHz(whales),20Hz120kHz(bats),1kHz80kHz(mice).
31. Thepianokeyboardspansjustovereightoctavesfroma
0
(27.5Hz)toc
8
(4186hz).
27.5Hzisnearthelowerlimitofhumanhearing(ftnt.30).4.2kHzisfivetimeslower
thantheupperlimitbecauseperceptionoftimbredifferencebetweenhighnotesis
impossibleiftheirovertonesexceedtheupperlimitofourtotalhearingrange.
Tagg:MusicsMeanings9.Timbre,loudnessandtonality 317
Pitchrangeandregister
PITCHRANGEmeanseither:[1]therangeofpitchesbetweenthelowest
andhighestnotesthatcanbeplayedonaninstrumentorsungbyacer
tain(typeof)voice;or[2]therangeofpitchesbetweenthelowestand
highestnotesinacertainstrandofmusic,orinaparticularpassageor
pieceofmusic.Forexample,thepitchrangeofanoboecoversalmost
three octaves (from b
3
to g
6
), and the pitch range of the tune Happy
Birthdayisthesingleoctavebetweenitsfirstnote(lowest)andthenote
onthethirdoccurrenceofBIRTH[day](highest).Mostpeoplehaveanef
fectivevocalrangeofjustundertwooctaves,arangewhichnowidely
sungmelodyexceeds.Twooctavesmayseemquitepunycomparedto
thetenoctaverangeofahumpbackwhale
32
butthereisanunmistaka
ble difference in gestural affect between tunes that span an octave or
more (expansive) and those that cover no more than a third (con
strained).
33
Although pitch range is more often applied to the sort of
pitchspansjustmentioned,itcanalsobeused(seeChapter12)tode
scribe overall impressions of vertical space in terms of orchestral or
chordaldensityandsparsity.
REGISTERiseasiesttoexplainbyexample.Dependingonhowyoucount
what, the average human voice uses between two and four registers.
Apart from the CHEST REGISTER and HEAD REGISTER, so called because
thats where the sound of low and high notes usually resonate in the
singersbody,itsalsopossibletospeakofaMIDREGISTERbetweenthe
two.Inaddition,thehumanvoicehasa FALSETTOrangethatbothover
laps with and extends higher than the head register.
34
Since different
vocalregistersdrawondifferentpartsofthehumananatomytheyalso
producedifferenttimbres:REGISTERisinotherwordsapitchrangeas
sociatedwithparticulartimbraltraits.
35
The larger the interval between two consecutively sung notes,
36
the
morelikelyitisthattherewillbeachangeofvocalregister.Forexam
32. 20Hz(b
1
)to10kHz(e9),beyondbothendsofapianokeyboard(seeftnt.30).
33. Examplesofrestrictedpitchrange:thefirsttwophrasesinChopinsMarchefunbre
(1839)andthemelodiclineofDaDooRonRon(Crystals,1963)coverathird.Atthe
expansiveendofthespectrum,theMarseillaiseandAuldLangSynespananinth,the
Internationaleatenth,SaintPatricksHymnaneleventh,theUSnationalanthema
twelfth,andGabrielsOboe(Morricone,1986)athirteenth.Forexplanationofthirds,
fifths,sixths,elevenths,etc.,seeunderIntervals(p.322,ff.).
318 Tagg:MusicsMeanings9.Timbre,loudnessandtonality
ple,adeeplyfeltsighofrelief,delightordespairhastodescendatleast
a sixth, but sliding down a mere third, an interval demanding no
changeofvocalregister,willsoundmorelikeanindifferentUHUHof
negation or acknowledgement.
36
Conversely, leaping an octave to a
strong high note involves a more expansive, proclamatory UPWARDS
ANDOUTWARDSgesturethanascendingameresecondorthird.
36
Since
musical instruments also vary in timbre from one register to another,
patternsofvocalintonationandarticulation,includingsighsandGO
GETEMleaps,canbeexpressedwithoutinvolvingthehumanvoice.
37
Melodiccontour
Melodiclines,includingmotifs,basslinesandriffs,allhaveapitchcon
tour, i.e. a pattern of ups and downs of the sort shown in Figure 91.
Contourpatternscanbetypicalforcertainmusicalstyles(e.g.thetum
blingstrainforblues)andsomecanberelatedtoconnotativecategories
likerecitation(oftencentric)ordream(wavy).Initialandfinalmotifs
(melodic cadence figures) can also be indicative of a particular music
cultureortypeofgesture.
38

Hereareafewbasicquestionsthatcanbeaskedaboutpitchinapiece
ofmusic.Whatareitshighestandlowestpitches?Dothehighandlow
34. FALSETTOisnotstrictlyspeakingavocalregisterbecauseitsphonationisdifferentto
thatofthenormalsingingorspeakingvoice.Eachvocalregisteroverlapstosome
extentwiththepitchrangeofitsneighbour[s].Despitethoseoverlaps,itsoftenhard
tocontrolchangesfromoneregistertoanother.Justtryslidingsmoothly(glissando)
fromthehighesttothelowestnoteyoucanproduceand,asyourvoicedescends,
youllnoticenotonlychangesintimbrebutalsothepointsatwhichyouhavetocon
trolyourvocalchordssoastoavoidsuddenbreaksorhiccupsasyouswitchfrom
oneregistertoanother(passaggioorponticello).Youngmenhavetolearnhowtocon
trolthosehiccupsofvocalregisterwhentheirvoicesbreak.Lesscommonlyused
registersare:[1]thevocalfryregister(e.g.Russianchoralbassaroundd
2
);[2]the
whistleregister(e.g.coloraturasopranosatc
6
f
6
).Othervocaltechniquesinclude
thesortsofovertonesingingfoundinMongolia(throatsinging/)and
amongtheInuit(katajjaq,iirngaaq,etc.).
35. Fororganists,registrationmeansthedifferentsoundsobtainedbypullingoutdiffer
entstopsordrawbars(orbyselectingdifferenttabs).Thisuseofthewordunder
linesthetimbralaspectofregister.
36. Intervalsarediscussedonpages322325.
37. Forsighingsixthsandproclamatoryhornwhoopsseeftnt.50(p.325).
38. SeealsoLinguisticanaphones,pp.489491.Alltheseparametersofexpressionare
discussedintheMelodychapterofEverydayTonality(Tagg,2009:5780).
Tagg:MusicsMeanings9.Timbre,loudnessandtonality 319
pitchesoccuratthesametime?Ifso,howwouldyoudescribethetex
ture:thin,full,topheavy,bottomheavy,allinthemiddle,withnomid
dle?Ifpitchtexturevariesinthepiece,where,howandwhydoesitdo
so?Whichstrandsinthemusicareinwhichregister[s]?Istheirpitch
range large and expansive or narrow and constrained? Are there any
noticeableintervallicupsordowns(disjunctmotionandchangesofreg
ister)ordothemusicsdifferentstrandsmoveinsmallsteps(conjunct
motion)? How would you describe the pitch contours of melodic
strandsinthemusic?Dotheysuggestacertainstyleofmusic?Doany
oftheabovesuggestanysortofgesturalaffect?Ifso,which?
Fig. 9-1.Melodic phrase contour types
Tonality
Tonalitymeansthewayinwhichtones(noteswithdiscerniblefunda
mentalpitch)areconfigured.Now,sincetheoctaveiscrossculturally
acceptedaspresentingthesamenoteinanotherregister,differencesof
tonalitybetweenmusicalstylesandculturescanusuallybeunderstood
by examining how tones are arranged within any octave and in how
thosetonesaretreated,forexampleintermsofwhichonesareheardas
soundingappropriateorinappropriatetogetherorinsequence.
Now, if music, as Ive repeatedly argued, is no more a universal lan
guagethanlanguageitself,itcanalsobearguedthat tonalityis,with
theexceptionoftheoctave,theleastuniversalaspectofmusicalstruc
turationandexpression.Forexample,thoseofusbroughtupintheur
banWestarelikelytohearmostnotesplayedongamelaninstruments
320 Tagg:MusicsMeanings9.Timbre,loudnessandtonality
as out of tune, even though gamelan musicians take great care to en
suretheirpitchesconformtotheappropriatetraditionandfunctionof
theirmusic.
39
Closertohome,someofmymusicstudentshaveraised
eyebrowsatoldrecordingsofwhiteAppalachianorAfricanAmerican
vocalistswhotheyhearsingingoutoftune,orinthecracksbetween
noteswhennothingoutoftuneorinbetweenwaseitherintendedor
heardintheoriginalcontext.
40
Asfornormsaboutwhichtonessound
good together or in succession, please listen again to the Bulgarian
women singing their happy harvest song:< they derive much cheer
fromthesortofsemitonedyadsthatweremoreusedtohearasharsh
clashesinunderscoreforahorrorfilm.
41
Inshort,sincetonalityvaries
sogreatlyfromonestyleorculturetoanother,thereisnogoodreason
to assume that the tonal conventions of our own tradition of what
constitutesbeinginoroutoftune,ofwhatsoundsconsonantordisso
nant,pleasantorunpleasant,etc.,howevernaturalorintuitiveitmay
allsoundtousshouldapplytoothers.
42
Tonality is also probably the most difficult aspect of structuration for
nonmusos trying to get to grips with musical meaning. There are at
leastfourreasonsforthisproblem:[1]conventionalmusicologyhasde
velopedasizeablearsenaloftermsrelevanttotonalityintheeuroclas
sical tradition; [2] those terms can be problematic, even ethnocentric,
and need critical discussion;
43
[3] such discussion involves other spe
cialisttermsinneedofexplanation;[4]tonalphenomenaarevirtually
impossibletoexplaininwritingwithoutresortingtomusicalnotation
which, as we saw earlier, developed to graphically encode aspects of
musicalstructurethatarehardtomemorise,especiallysequencesofpitch
(p. 122).Thatswhy,afterafewinitialwordsofpracticaladvice,thenext
fewpagesprovidenomorethananextremelyrudimentarysummary
ofsomeofthemostimportantaspectsoftonality.
39. SeeSimpson(2010)Slendro&PelogTuningsm3Ku9iH2pU9g [110917].
40. Hear QuittinTimeSong1(Lomax&Botkin,1943)andTheLostSoul(Watson,1963).
41. MusikfrnBulgarien(1965)mTagg(2011e),includingdescription.Seealsop.181.
42. Seealsosectiononmusicaluniversals(pp.4750)andonthedifferencebetween
instinctandintuition(pp.6970).
43. SeeTroubleswithTonalTerminology(Tagg,2011).
Tagg:MusicsMeanings9.Timbre,loudnessandtonality 321
So, what can you do as a nonmuso if your analysis piece contains
something you hear in terms of a mood, gesture or connotation but
whichseemstobeatonalissuemorethanamatterofspeed,rhythm,
periodicity, loudness, timbre, narrative form (diataxis), aural staging,
or any of the other parameters more conducive to aesthesic descrip
tion? Could it be a question of mode (major, minor, pentatonic, etc.),
harmonic idiom (e.g. euroclassical, romantic, avantgarde, jazz, rock,
etc.) or what? I would initially suggest the following. [1] Dont be
alarmed: tonal parameters arent necessarily the most important in
your analysis piece. [2] Read relevant passages in Everyday Tonality
(Tagg,2009)toseeifyoucanfindanyanswerstoyourproblem.[3]Use
theUNEQUIVOCALTIMECODEPLACEMENTtips(p.256,ff.)tofocusonthe
tonalfeaturesyouveidentifiedaspotentiallymeaningfuland,ifneed
be,askamusicianforhelpinidentifyingandnamingthem.[4]Make
valianteffortstoreadandunderstandthenextfewpages.
Tuningsystems
Much of the music we hear in the urban West
conformstotheconventionofEQUALTONETUN
ING(a.k.a.EQUALTONETEMPERAMENT)whichdi
vides the octave into twelve equal and slightly
doctoredsemitoneintervalsarrangedonapiano
keyboard in the familiar pattern of seven white
andfiveblacknotes,asshowninfigure92.The
twelvepitchesinJUSTTONETUNING,ontheother
hand,arebasedonmorenaturalfrequencyratios.Justtonetuningis
suitedtostylesinvolvingnomorethansevendifferentnotestotheoc
tave, as with many types of blues, bluegrass, bluesbased rock, folk
rock,nottomentionthetraditionalmusicsofAfrica,theArabworld,
theBalkans,theBritishIsles,theIndiansubcontinent,Scandinavia,etc.
Justtone tuning often sounds more open, bright and clean than
equaltonetuning,especiallyifdronesareinvolved(p. 337, ff.).
Fig. 9-2. Piano keyboard:
one octave
322 Tagg:MusicsMeanings9.Timbre,loudnessandtonality
Intervals
In everyday speech INTERVAL means the horizontal gap in time be
tweentwoevents.Inmusictheory,INTERVALreferstotheverticaldis
tance in pitch between two tones. In Western music theory, pitch
intervals are expressed as ordinal numbers based on the heptatonic
(sevennote)scaleandontheinclusiveprinciplesofRomancounting.
Twonotesatthesamepitch(nodifference)areinUNISON(unum=one),
adifferenceofonetonebetweentwopitchesiscalledasecond,adiffer
enceoftwotonesathird,andsoonuntilyoureachadifferenceofseven
tonesatanintervalcallednotseventhbutoctave.
44
Ofcourse,aquick
lookatthepianokeyboard(fig.92,p.321)revealsthattheoctavecon
tainsnotonlysevenwhitenotesbutalsofiveblackones.Eachofthose
twelvenotesisatanintervalofonesemitone(onefretonguitar)from
its neighbours above and below. This means that some of the seven
standard interval names (especially seconds, thirds, sixths and sev
enths)needsomesortofqualification.Forexample,thedifferencebe
tween a minor and major third in relation to the musics KEYNOTE or
TONIC,anintervalofthreeandfoursemitonesrespectively,isattheba
sisofnotionsaboutthecharacterofminorandmajortonality.
45

Intervalscanalsobeexpressedintermsoffrequencyratio,asshownin
column4oftable91(p.323)whichsetsoutthetwelveintervalsinside
anoctavewhosetonic(doh)Ivesettothenotec.Column1showsthe
namesofthetwelvenotes,bothwhiteandblack,column2thenumber
ofsemitonesseparatingeachnotefromthelowtoniconc,andcolumn
3theheptatonicscaledegreeinrelationtothatsamec,forexample3
(flatthree)forthenotee(Eflat),5(five)forg.Column5presents
thefullnameofeachinterval,accordingtoconventionalWesternmusic
theory,alsoinrelationtothelowtoniconc.
44. Roman(inclusive)countingoccursalsoinexpressionslikequinzejours(=15days
andFrenchforafortnightor14days)aswellasinthesubstringfunctionsyntaxof
computersourcecode,e.g.ifx = "Monday" then SUBS(x,4,3) = "day".Notealsothatthe
musicalintervals9th,10th,11th,12th,13thand15thareequivalenttoanoctaveplus
a2nd,3rd,4th,5th,6thandanoctaverespectively.
45. Formoreonmajorandminor,seep.264andp.325,ff.Anotherexampleofinterval
licaffectistheTRITONE,anintervalofsixsemitones,thatwasdubbeddiabolusin
musicafromthemiddleagesuntilthe19thcentury;seealsoTLTT(580588).For
intervallicaffectineuroclassicalmusicseeCooke(1959,passim).
Tagg:MusicsMeanings9.Timbre,loudnessandtonality 323
Table 9-1.Western intra-octave intervals: a selection in just temperament
and descending order with tonic (keynote) set to C.
46
This table reveals, for example, that e (column 1) is three semitones
(column2)abovec.Asshownincolumn5,anintervalspanningthree
semitones is also known as a minor third, or 3 (flat three) for short
(column3).Giventhatconcertpitchformiddlecis261.63Hz,thate
isaminorthird(threesemitones)abovec(columns2,3,5),andthatthe
pitchfrequencyratioforaminorthirdis6:5(column4),eshouldbe
pitchedat313.96Hz({6261.63}5).Andsoitis,atleastnaturally,ex
ceptthat,likethemajorthird(5:4)aswellasthetwosixths,theminor
seventhandthemajorsecond,theminorthirdhasbeendoctoredto
fit into the system of equaltone temperament that has been in wide
spreaduseintheWestsincearound1800.
47
Intervalswithmorecom
1.
Notename
(doh=c)
2.Semi
tones
abovedoh
3.Scale
degree
shorthand
4.Frequency
ratioto
lowertonic
5.Musictheoryintervalname
(hereinrelation
tolowertoniconc)
c 12 8 2:1 octave
b 11 #7 15:8 majorseventh
b$ 10 $7 9:5 minorseventh
a 9 #6 5:3 majorsixth
a$ 8 $6 8:5 minorsixth
g 7 5 3:2 perfectfifth
g$
f#
6
6
$5
#4
45:32
45:32
tritoneordiminishedfifth
oraugmentedfourth
f 5 4 4:3 perfectfourth
e 4 #3 5:4 majorthird
e$ 3 $3 6:5 minorthird
d 2 #2 9:8 majorsecondorwholetone
d$ 1 $2 25:24 minorsecondorsemitone
c 0 1 1:1 primeorunison
46. Pleasenotethatthetoniccanbesettoanyoftheoctavestwelvepitchesbyshifting
theverticalpositionofnotenamesincolumn1butleavingcolumns25unchanged.
Pleasealsobeawarethatmusiciansandmusicscholarsoftenmentionintervals
largerthantheoctave(ninths,tenths,etc.).Theserarelyextendbeyondthethirteenth
(anoctaveplusasixth)andneverbeyondthefifteenth(twooctaves).
47. Equaltonetemperamentstemsbasicallyfromdevelopmentsineuroclassicalhar
mony.Forexample,theg|inanEmajortriadhadtobeatexactlythesamepitchas
theainanFminortriad.PleasenotethatJ.S.Bachcomposedexplicitlyforequal
tonetemperamentasearlyas1721(DasWohltemperierteKlavier)butthatthiswork
didnotappearinprintbefore1801(Bach,1721,1744).
324 Tagg:MusicsMeanings9.Timbre,loudnessandtonality
plexpitchratiosthan6:5inparticulartheminorsecond(25:24),the
major seventh (15:8) and the tritone (45:32) are subjected to greater
adjustment in equaltone temperament, but the fourth (4:3) and fifth
(3:2)areadjustedbyminimalamountswhiletheoctaveratioof2:1is
leftentirelyintact.
Now,itmaywellbethatthesimpleacousticratiosforfourthsandfifths
make them more likely candidates than major sevenths or minor sec
onds (semitones) for crosscultural treatment as consonances. Walter
Werzowa, creator of the famous fournote Intel Inside audio logo
d>g~d>acertainlythoughtso:itsthefourthandthefifththat
arethemostcommonintervalsineveryculture,hesaid.
48
However,as
we already know, fourths and fifths, with their simple natural pitch
ratios, are not used in every music culture even though they may be
commoninmost.
49
Wealsoknow,attheoppositeendofthespectrum,
that semitone dyads, with their complex pitch ratios, are not consid
ered dissonant in every music culture even if they may be treated as
such in many others.
49
Turning to received wisdom about our own
Western tonal traditions, many find the superimposed major and mi
nordyadsconstitutingamajorcommontriad(e.g.ceg, df|a)so
intuitively normal that they assume the sounds to be natural conso
nanceseventhoughbothtypesofthirdhaverelativelycomplexpitch
ratios(5:4and6:5)thathavealsobeendoctoredinequaltonetuning.
Extremecautionisinotherwordsrecommendedsothatculturallyac
quired intuition is not confused with the natural science of acoustic
physics. None of which, of course, prevents particular intervals from
havingparticulareffectsinsideoneandthesamemusicalculture.
Althoughitsimpossibleheretodomorethanscratchthesurfaceofthe
topic,twoaspectsofINTERVALLICAFFECT,bothrelatingtothelinguistic
domain of representation, are easy to observe and useful in semiotic
musicanalysis.
50
Thefirstofthesehastodowiththefactthatsomeone
48. Werzowa(2008).Theintervalbetweendandgisafourth,betweendandaa
fifth.ThejinglesinitialblangchordprecedingthefournotetransscansionIntel
inside(seepp.489490)consistsofallthreeconstituentnotes(d,g,aor1,4,5).
49. Imreferringtogamelantuningsandtothesemitonedyadssungbywomeninparts
ofruralBulgaria;<seepp. 47,ff.,180182,Simpson(2010)andTagg(2011e).
Tagg:MusicsMeanings9.Timbre,loudnessandtonality 325
expressingsurprise,enthusiasm,fright,frustrationorindignationwill
normally speak using a wider pitch range than someone expressing
boredom,depression,indifferenceorresignation.Inotherwords,ame
lodic line, instrumental or vocal, that contains large intervallic leaps
andboundsismorelikelytobeheardintermsofheightenedemotional
energy than one that doesnt. However, the affective precision of that
energy(interestorindignation,surpriseorshock,etc.)willdependon
matters of relative consonance or dissonance, as well as on timbre,
loudness,rhythm,tempo,surfacerate,andofTONALVOCABULARY.
Tonalvocabulary:modesandkeys
TONAL VOCABULARY (a.k.a. pitch pool) means the store of different
pitchesusedtocreatetonalstructuresinabodyofmusic,beitaphrase,
passage,workoranentirestyle.Asmentionedearlier,sometraditions
usetonalvocabulariesunfamiliartoWesternearsinthattheycontain
pitches that dont match the twelve semitones of Western equaltone
temperament, while other traditions use our twelve semitones in
waysthatcanstrikeusasstrangeorexotic.Onewayofgettingtogrips
with these important semiotic differences in tonical music is to distil
tonalvocabularydowntosingleoccurrencesofeachconstituentpitch
andtoarrangethosepitches,normallyinascendingscalarorder,inside
oneoctave.
51
AMODEissimplythemanageableconceptualunitresult
ing from that process of distillation and ordering. Please note that
modes can be used to designate tonal vocabularies in terms of both
melodyandharmonybutthatthefollowingaccountisbasedonsolely
melodictheoriesofmode.
52

50. Detaileddiscussionofintervallicaffectisoutofthequestionbecausethischapter
wouldswelltoevenmoreunwieldyproportionsandwouldhavetocontaintoo
muchmusicologicalgobbledygook.PleaseseeCooke(1959)forintervallicaffectin
theeuroclassicaltradition,Tagg(2000a:188200)forhornwhoopstothefifthand
octave,Tagg(2000b:5059)formoreonthetritone,andTLTTfor:[1]sighingsixths
andsevenths,swoonsanddisjunctiveflooding(pp.217230);[2]minorsixthsand
theanguishambitus(442452);[3]theflatfifthandcrimestories(580588).Cross
domainrepresentationisexplainedinChapter2,pp.6264.
51. Forexample,theascendingsequenceofnotesa b c d e f g[a]correspondstoscale
degrees1234567[8]oftheolianmode(seetable92,p.326).
52. ForaccountsofmodalharmonyseeTagg(2009:115136,173240).Formoreon
modes,seeChapter3ModalityinTagg(2009:4556).
326 Tagg:MusicsMeanings9.Timbre,loudnessandtonality
Structuraltheory
Table 9-2.Western heptatonic modes on the seven white notes of a piano keyboard
53
ThemostcommonlyusedmodesintheurbanWestare,intermsofthe
number of pitches they contain within one octave, pentatonic (5; pp.
330331),hexatonic(6)andheptatonic(7).Allmodeshaveakeynoteor
TONIC, the main tonal centre or reference point for other notes in the
mode. Restricting this part of the account to tonality compatible with
Westernequaltonetuningandtothesevenwhitenotesonapianokey
boardinsideoneoctave,table92showsthesevenpossibletonics(key
notes) in capital letters above and below the contents of the table.
Reading from the bottom up, the table shows each heptatonic mode
starting on each of those seven notes as tonic and each including its
ownsevenstepsascendingfrom1(thetonic)to8=1,thesametonicnote
oneoctavehigher.Thecolumnsfarleftandrightshowthewhitenote
namescorrespondingtothenumbersineachmodecolumn,forexam
plea b c d e f g forscaledegrees1to7intheolian(A)mode,c d e f
g a b for1to7intheionian(C).
Mode A B C D E F G
N
o
t
e

Note 1 olian Locrian Ionian Dorian Phrygian Lydian Mixolydian


f 6 5 4 3 2 8=1 7 f
e 5 4 |3 2 8=1 |7 |6 e
d 4 3 2 8=1 7 |6 5 d
c 3 2 8=1 7 6 5 4 c
b 2 8=1 |7 6 5 |4 |3 b
a 8=1 7 |6 5 4 |3 2 a
g 7 6 5 4 3 2 8=1 g
f 6 5 4 3 2
1
7 f
e 5 4 |3 2
1
|7 |6 e
d 4 3 2
1
7 |6 5 d
c 3 2
1
7 6 5 4 c
b 2
1
|7 |6 5 |3 b
a
1
7 |6 5 2 a
g 7 6 5
1
g
Tonic
sol-fa
A
La
B
Si
C
Doh
D
R
E
Mi
F
Fa
G
Sol
N
o
t
e
~
53. Semitonesteps(bc,ef)havenohorizontalseparatorinthistable.
Tagg:MusicsMeanings9.Timbre,loudnessandtonality 327
The whitenote heptatonic modes on A (olian, the A mode or la
mode)andonC(ionian,Cmodeordohmode)areeasilyrecognised
bymostpeopleintheWesternworld.Theionian(C/doh)modeiscon
figuredexactlyastheWesternmajorscaleandtheoliancorresponds
toonevariantoftheWesternminorscale.
54
Stayingwithonlytheseven
white notes on a piano keyboard, both the ionian (C major) and the
olian(Aminor)containthesamesevennotes(a b c d e f g),but c is
keynoteortonicinCmajor,theionianmode,while a istonicinAmi
nor(theaeolianmode).Thepointisthatthesamesevennoteshavea
differentflavourifthetonicchangesplacefromCionian(major)toA
aeolian(minor),orindeedtoanyofthesevennotesDforthedorian
mode, E for phrygian, F for lydian, G for mixolydian etc. Table 92
showsthestructuralbasisofthoseconfigurationsinseveralways:[1]
thescalarpositionofthetwosemitoneintervalsb-cand e-f isuniqueto
each mode (e.g. 23 and 56 for the olian, |34 and |78 for the io
nian); [2] the pattern of scalar intervals (flat), | (sharp) or unal
teredisuniquetoeachmode(e.g.1234567fortheolianand
noneother,12|345|6|7fortheionianonly);[3]thepatternofwhole
andhalftonescalarstepsisuniquetoeachmode.Usingsemitonesasa
unit for counting intervals (1 = 1 semitone), the ascending interval
stepsofanolianscalecreatetheuniquepattern2122122,thoseof
theionian2212221,thedorian2122212,thephrygian1222122,
thelydian2221221,andthemixolydian2212212.
55

Whenitcomestothemodalspecificityofscalarintervalsinrelationtoa
tonic, table 92 shows that the ionian (C or doh mode), lydian (F/fa
mode)andmixolydian(G/solmode)allcontain|3(sharpthreeorma
jorthird),atraitwhichgivesrisetotheircommonqualificationasma
jormodes,whilethelabelminormodeisgiventothedorian(D/r),
phrygian(E/mi)andaeolian(A/la),sincethesethreeallcontain3(flat
54. TheWesternminorscalehasthreevariantsofwhichonlyone,thedescending
melodicminor(a g f e d c b[a]),istrulyaeolian;seealsofootnote59,p.329.
55. AnascendingolianscaleonAconsistsofthefollowingnumberofsemitonesteps
betweenconsecutivepitches:2semitonesforthewholetonea-b,1semitoneforb-c),
2forthewholetonec-d,2againford-e,1forthesemitonee-f,2forthewholetonef-
g,and2againforthewholetone(g-a),i.e.theuniquepattern2122122.
328 Tagg:MusicsMeanings9.Timbre,loudnessandtonality
three or a minor third). Its also worth noting that the lydian is the
only one of the seven diatonic heptatonic modes to include a raised
fourth(|4)andthatthelocrianisalonewithoutanormalperfectfifth,
whichisthemostlikelyreasonforitbeingusedsorarelyandwhyit
isntincludedinthediscussionthatfollows.
56
All these dry facts about mode may seem nerdy and arcane but they
can be useful in understanding the semiotic potential of tonality, at
leastifthistheoreticalknowledgeisrootedinsomepracticalfamiliarity
withrealsounds.Suchfamiliarityiseasytoacquireevenifyouarenta
musician,orifyouhavenoaccesstoapianokeyboard,becausemany
userfriendlyMIDIkeyboardappscanbedownloadedfreetoyourcom
puter,tabletorsmartphone.Tocheckoutthefeelofamodeusingonly
thewhitenotesofthekeyboard,allyouneedtodois:
1. Holddownorrepeatthetonicnote(cforionian,dfordorian,etc.)
likeadroneinthebassregister.
57

2. Withthekeynote(tonic)soundingconstantly,playshortmelodic
patterns,circlingfirstroundthekeynote,thenventuringfurther
afield,usingrisingandfallingpatterns,oranyofthemelodiccon
toursshowninfigure91(p.319).
3. Listenoutforhowthemodesoundswhenyouincludethesemi
toneintervalse-f orb-c inshortphrasesthatfinishonthekeynote
oronthefifth.
58
4. Applythesewhitenotesonlytrickstoanyofthesevenmodes
shownintable92(p.326).
Each of the seven heptatonic modes in table 92 can be transposed so
thatanyoftheWesternoctavestwelveconstituentsemitonestepscan
56. Mostmusiccultures(butnotall,seepassageongamelan,p.319,incl.ftnt.39)treata
normal(perfect)fifthasaconsonance.Thelocrianmodesdiminishedfifth(5)
meansthatnonormalconsonance,notevenaheavymetalpowerchord,aHighland
bagpipedroneorcommontriad,canbeconstructedonitstonic.
57. Usefigure92onpage321ifyoudontknowwhichnotenamecorrespondstowhich
keyonthepianokeyboard.Rememberthattheblackkeyscaneachbenamedintwo
ways,using|(sharp)tosignalthattheblacknoteisasemitonehigherandasemi
tonelowerthanthewhitenotewhosenameitcarries,e.g.bothc|andddesignate
thesameblackkeybetweencandd.Toknowwhythesenoteshavetwonames,see
theaddendumonenharmonicsinTagg(2009:270272).
58. 5is,forexample,eintheolianAmode,gintheionianCmode,binthephry
gianEmode,dinthemixolydianGmodeandsoon(seetable92).
Tagg:MusicsMeanings9.Timbre,loudnessandtonality 329
act as tonic, just as long as the modes unique sequence of tones and
semitones is retained. For example, the ionian mode or major scale,
withitsuniqueascendingpatternofsteps,2212221(stillcountingin
semitoneunits),andofintervals(12|345|6|7),produces,withcas
itstonic,thenotesc d e f g a b(pluscanoctavehigher).Transposing
thatsamemode,withthosesamepatternsofstepandintervalupone
semitonefromCtoDproducesanionianmodeond(theDmajor
scale):d e f g a b c.Then,ifyoutransposethesamepatterndown
aminorthirdfromCtoAyouendupwiththeionianmodeinA(Ama
jor:a b c| d e f| g|).Ifyoucarryoutthosetwotranspositionsoftheio
nianmode,youwillhaveplayedthesamescaleinthreedifferentKEYS:
Cmajor,DmajorandAmajor.
Minor keys are more problematic for reasons too complicated to dis
cusshere.SimplifyingmattersdrasticallyitcanbesaidthatinWestern
musictheory,basedontheeuroclassicaltradition,anymodeincluding
a minor third (dorian, phrygian, olian, lapentatonic, mipentatonic,
etc.)isunderstoodasgenericallyminorinasimplemajorminordual
ism. The only criterion for qualifying music as major or minor is in
otherwordswhetherthethirdscaledegreeisthreeorfoursemitones
abovethetonic.
59
Infact,ifaeuroclassicalpieceisbilledasbeinginthe
keyofAminor,youareunlikelytohearthedorianorphrygianmodes
andyouwillprobablyheartheolianmodeonlyindescent.
60
Despite
this idiosyncrasy of euroclassical tonality its possible to consider any
musicalpassageorpieceasbeinginaKEYprovidedthatitis[i]tonical
59. Thisblanketcharacterisationofallnonmajormodesasminorcanapparently
extendtomodescontainingnothirdatall.Forexample,TheFemaleDrummer(trad.
English;SteeleyeSpan,1971)isinrpentatonicC(c d f g b,i.e.12457;seetable
93,p.331)withanadditionalunaccented|6(a)usedasneighbourto7(b).When
askedtoidentifythetunesmode,somemusicstudentsreplydorian,despitethe
totalabsenceof3(or|3)throughouttherecording.
Anotherpointofconfusionisthatthereisinconventionalmusictheorynoequiva
lenttothesimplecorrespondencebetweenionianmodeandthemajorscalebecause
theeuroclassicaltraditionusesthreeminorscalevariants,onlyoneofwhich(the
melodicdescending)matchesanyofthethreeminorkeymodesjustmentioned.
60. Ascendingminorkeylinesandharmonieswillcontainmajorsevenths(|7)and
sixthsthatcanbeeithermajor (|6) orminor(6). Aneasy,correctandamusing
explanationoftonicsandkeyscanbefoundonlineinKeyChangeSongsat
losdoggies.com/archives/140 [111218].
330 Tagg:MusicsMeanings9.Timbre,loudnessandtonality
ithasakeynote,acentralpointoftonalreferenceand[ii]thatthe
keynotecanbedesignatedinabsoluteterms(A,B,C,etc.).Indications
ofkeyalsooftenrefertothemusicstonalvocabulary,forexample:God
SaveTheQueenisinGmajor,BeethovensfifthisinCminor,Steeleye
Spans1971versionofTheBlacksmithisinC|dorian.
61
Ofcourse,someintervalsintheheptatonicmodespresentedabovecan
be altered and others added by ornamentation, inflection or through
adjustment to tonal context, but the basic principles just summarised
holdgoodfortheseandforothermodes.Oneofthoseothermodesis
theheptatonicGypsyscaleofflamencomusic,amixtureofthephry
gian and Hijaz modes.
62
Two well known other modes, by sound if
notbyname,arethehexatonicwholetonescale,whoseuniqueinterval
pattern runs (in semitones) 2 2 2 2 2 2, and the octatonic scale which
runsinalternatestepsofwholeandhalftones(21212121).
63
Bothare
commoninHollywoodfilmmusicmysterycues.
PENTATONICISM is the most widespread family of other modes. Its
commonintraditionalmusicsfromsuchfarflungpartsoftheworldas
WestAfrica,theAndes,manypartsofEastAsia(includingChina,Ja
panandIndonesia),theBritishIslesandHungary.Itsalsocommonly
used among Native Americans and the Sami.
64
Moreover, its often
heardinblues,gospelandintraditionalmusicfromtheAppalachians.
Themostwidelyusedtypeofpentatonicismisanhemitonic(=without
semitones),aneasyconcepttograspifyoulookatthepianokeyboards
fiveblacknotes,convenientlyarrangedwithintheoctaveinonegroup
61. Sources:GodSaveTheQueen:NationalAnthems(1986);Symphonyno.5:Beet
hoven(1808a);TheBlacksmith:SteeleyeSpan(1971).
62. SetinE,thescaleascendse f g| a b c d[e](12|34567[8])whichproducesthe
characteristicpatternofheptatonicsteps,countedinsemitones,1312122(|3often
replaces3 indescent).Thepresenceofthreesemitoneandsinglesemitonestepsis
whatmakesthemodesoundGypsyorArabtononRomaornonArablisteners.
EvenmoreArabinWesternearsisthemaqam(mode)Shad 'Araban( ).This
mode,knownundermanydifferentnames,isusedwidelyintheBalkansand
throughouttheeasternMediterranean.Itsownpatternofsevenstepsis1312131
(e f g| a b c d| [e]inE).Misirlou(Dale,1962),usedinPulpFiction(1994),isinthis
mode,asismuchKlezmerandBulgarianchalgamusic.
63. Examples:c d e f|fg a b[c](wholetone);c d e f f| g| a b[c](octatonic).
64. TheSamiliveinnorthernScandinavia,LaplandandtheKolaPeninsula.
Tagg:MusicsMeanings9.Timbre,loudnessandtonality 331
ofthreenotes(g a b)andtheotheroftwo(d e).Thegapbetween
adjacentblacknotesisawholetone(2semitones)whilethatbetween
thetwogroupsofblacknotesisaminorthird(threesemitones).Col
umn 4 in table 93 shows how the five anhemitonic pentatonic scales
containthreeintervalstepsofawholetone(=2semitones),twothree
semitone intervals (3), but no singlesemitone steps (anhemitonic).
Eachofthefivemodeshasitsownuniqueconfigurationofthosetwo
typesofinterval.Thebottomlineintable93isquitedifferent.Itshows
thenotesinahemitonicpentatonicmodeusedintraditionalmusicfrom
Japan. As shown in column 4, it contains two singlesemitone steps
(1), one wholetone step (2) and two steps of a major third or four
semitones(4).
Table 9-3.The five anhemitonic pentatonic modes (doh, r, mi, sol, la) plus
one hemitonic pentatonic mode.
Thedifferentfeelsofthesepentatonicmodescanbetestedusingthe
tricks listed on page 328 for heptatonic modes. Just ensure that you
holddownthekeynote(showninboldfont)inthebassandthatyou
then playno othernotes than those shown in column 2,if you prefer
justblacknotes,orincolumn5,ifyoudrathersticktowhitenotes.
65

1.
Modename
2.
Blacknotesonly
3.Heptatonic
scaledegrees
4.tones
betw.notes
5.White
notesonly
dohpentatonic
*
*Thedohandlamodesarealsocalledmajorpentatonicandminorpentatonicrespectively.
g a b d e [g] 1 2 |3 5 |6 [8] 22323 c d e g a[c]
rpentatonic a b d e g [a] 1 2 + 5 7 [8] 23232 d e g a c[d]
mipentatonic b d e g a [b] 1 3 + 6 7 [8] 32322 e g a cd[e]
solpentatonic d e g a b [d] 1 2 + 5 |6 [8] 23223 g a c d e[g]
lapentatonic* e g a b d [a] 1 3 + 5 7 [8] 32232 a c d e g [a]
Trad.Japanese

Thismodeisatposition4intheHirajoshipentatonicsystem.
65

g| a c| d| e [g|]
1 2 + 5 6 [8] 14214 e f a b c[e]
65. ThismodecanbeplayedentirelyonwhitenotesonlyifyousetitstonictoE.Seem
6POutd5xJ3c(sounding),KjU52ZFPeX8(theory)andSapp(n.d.)forfurtherdetails.
Sinceallfivehirajoshimodesarehemitonicnoneofthemcanbeplayedusingonly
theblacknotesofapianokeyboard.
332 Tagg:MusicsMeanings9.Timbre,loudnessandtonality
Modeandconnotation
Anhemitonicpentatonicmodesmaynothavemuchgeoethnicspecifi
city but the Aeolians, Locrians, Dorians, Ionians, Phrygians and
Lydianswereallethnicgroupsheardandseenfromtheperspectiveof
the rulingclass in AncientAthens.Thosepeoples arentaloneinpro
viding mode labels. Several Arab modes also have ethnic or regional
namesHijaz( ),Iraq( ),Kurd( ),forexampleandmix
tures ofthe phrygianand Hijazmodesare often referred to as GYPSY,
FLAMENCO or ARAB. Westerners are also likely to hear the hemitonic
pentatonichirajoshimodevariant,showninthebottomlineoftable93,
astypicallyJapanese.
66
Now,ifyoureJapaneseyoullmorelikelyhear
thatmodeasOLDorTRADITIONALratherthanasjustJAPANbecause,un
like the outsider, youre familiar with all the other modes, including
those of the urban West, that are more widely used in the music you
hearonadailybasisandjustasmuchJAPANtoyouasthetraditional
mode.Totheoutsider,however,Japancannotbemusicallyrepresented
asspecificallyJAPANifitisnttreatedasdifferentfromus,asanother.
Thatswhyexoticinstrumentaltimbre(e.g.koto,shakuhachi)andex
oticmodescontainingscalarstepsoffoursemitones(majorthirds)and
semitonesareheardintheWestasJapanese.Itsalsowhywehearhep
tatonicmodeslikeHijazandShadAraban( ),withtheirthree
semitone and singlesemitone scale steps, as more typically Arab
modesthanAjam( )orRast( )whichresembletheWesternio
nianandolianmodesrespectively.
67

66. Ibasetheseobservationsonethnicconnotationsprovidedbystudentsinpopular
musicanalysisclassesgivenbetween1971and2009.TheGreeknamesformodes
haveformanycenturiesbeenentirelyconventional(arbitrary)signsbecause:[a]the
ethnicgroupsreferredtohaveeitherbeenassimilatedornolongerexist;[b]Euro
peanmusictheorists,whosecenturiesoldlabellingwestillusetodayforthehepta
tonicdiatonicmodes,wronglyidentifiedtheAncientGreekmodes.
67. SeeMAQAMinRefAppxfordemonstrationsofAjam,Hijaz,RastandShadAraban.
Tkachenka(2011)presentsover50differentscalesmanyofwhicharegivenethnic
orregionallabelslikeEgyptian,JapaneseandChineseinthepentatoniccategory,
Persian,Spanish,Neapolitan,Hungarian,Gypsy,Balinese,Arabian,
Hindu,Algerian,Javanese,Hawaiian,Isfahan,andOriental.
Tagg:MusicsMeanings9.Timbre,loudnessandtonality 333
Modescontainingaflatseventh(7)andnosemitonesnexttothetonic
(no2,no|7),i.e.theolian,dorianandmixolydian(seefig.92,p.326)
andhexatonicmodeswithnosixthdegree,are,alongwithdohandla
pentatonicism(p.331),morecommoninthepopularsongrepertoireof
preindustrial Britain, Ireland and Appalachia than in most music of
continental European origin.
68
These sorts of mode are often nebu
louslyassociatedwitheitherCelticoroldanglophonefolktraditions
even though, for example, mixolydian tunes are two a penny in baio
music from Northeastern Brazil.
69
Its worth adding that dorian and
mixolydianharmonies areextremely commonin rock music and that
certaintypesofmixolydianchordprogressionsareoftenusedasstyle
flagsinHollywoodWesterns.
70
Butconnotationsofmodearenotsolelyethnicorregional.Afterall,the
wordsmoodandmodeareetymologicallyinterrelated.
68. Herearesomeexamplesoftraditionaltunesinthosethreemodes.AEOLIAN:God
RestYouMerry,Gentlemen,JohnBarleycorn.DORIAN:WhatShallWeDoWithThe
DrunkenSailor?TheBlacksmith.MIXOLYDIAN(ENG.):TheLarkInTheMorning(Steeleye
Span,1971)mOM7jISbR_ps,and,fromThePenguinBookofEnglishFolkSongs(1959),
TheBanksofNewfoundland(p.16),TheFalseBride(p.37),RoundingTheHorn(p.90),The
YoungGirlCutDownInHerPrime(p.108).MIXOLYDIAN(SCOT.):CampbellsFarewell,
SoorPloomsInGalashiels,TheWeeManFromSkye,TheKiltIsMyDelight,TheAthole
Highlanders,andTheFlowresOfTheForrest(allinCampin,2009),plusA.A.Camerons
Strathspey,Annochdgurfaoinmochodaldhomh(bothinKuntz,2009),TaladhChriosda
(RankinSisters,1999),pluscountlessothers,rememberingthattheHighlandbag
pipechanterissettoproducetunesinAmixolydian.MIXOLYDIAN(IRISH):MugOf
BrownAleandTheLamentationofHughReynolds(inIrishStreetBallads,1939:132).
69. [a]Forthebaiomixolydianandlydianflatseventhmodes,seeFaria(1995:6264).
[b]ThereiswidespreadconfusionwiththegeoethnicidentificationofBritish/Irish
modes.EvenifmusicinsuchamodemaybeofEnglishratherthanScottishorIrish
origin(e.g.thebasicallyrpentatonictuneTheFemaleDrummer:YorkshireTrad.,
SteeleyeSpan(1971)),listeners,especiallyinNorthAmerica,aresousedtopigeon
holingsuchtonalityasIrishorotherwiseCelticastoeffectivelywritetheEnglish
ruralproletariatoutofhistory.SeemTagg(2011b:0:41:05ff.,0:58:18and1:03:22,ff.).
70. Styleflags:seepp.522528;seealsoBigcountrymodalismsandhighplainsharmo
nies,pp.357362inTagg&Clarida(2003).Forolian,dorianandmixolydianhar
monyinrock,seechaptersChordshuttlesandModalloopsandbimodalityin
Tagg(2009),especiallypassagesaboutdorian,olian,andmixolydianshuttles(pp.
177182,185195);aboutmixolydianloops(pp.221226),androckdorianchords
(underMediantalharmony,pp.235240).Forasimpledemonstrationofmixoly
dianchordloopsinrock,seeMixolydianMiniMontage(mTagg,2009b).
334 Tagg:MusicsMeanings9.Timbre,loudnessandtonality
ThemostobviousconventionofmodalconnotationintheurbanWest
is of course the majorminor dualism and the widespread notion that
MAJORKEY=HAPPYandMINORKEY=SAD.Thisnotion,Iarguedearlier(p.
264,ff.),isacommoncauseofmistakenconnotativeidentitybecauseof
allthesadmusicwehearinamajorkey,andhappymusicwehearin
theminor.Thatsaid,themajorminordualismdoeshavesomevalidity
ineuroclassicalandjazzrepertoireswhereaminorkeypieceisproba
bly(butnotnecessarily)morelikelytoinvolvestatesofmindlikedejec
tion,melancholy,sadnessandfury.
71
Othermusicaltraditionsare,orhavebeen,muchmoredetailedabout
linksbetweenparticular modes andparticular statesof mind.Forex
ample,inTheRepublic(c.380BC)PlatoreportsthatSocrateswantedto
banthelydianandionianmodesfromhisidealcitystatebecausethey
wereallegedlytoosad,relaxed,effeminateordrunken,andtopromote
instead the toughness, courage, moderation, prudence, openness and
humilitythatwereapparentlyassociated,inthatculturalcontext,with
thedorianandphrygianmodes.
72

MuchmusicfromtheArabworldandtheIndiansubcontinenthasover
centuriesdevelopedadegreeofmelodicsophisticationnotfoundinthe
CentralEuropeantradition,muchofwhosetonalinterestisharmonic.
This is perhaps why melodic tonality in Arabian and Indian musics
seemtoofferamoredetailedandvariedrangeofconnotationsthanwe
Westerners are used to. For example, the Arabian tonal configuration
Rast is supposedly related to masculinity, pride and a stable mind,
while Bayati is thought to evoke joy and femininity, Sikah love, Saba
painandsadness,andHijazthedistantdesert.
73
Similarly,thergasof
NorthernIndianclassicalmusicweretraditionallylinkedwithcertain
seasons, times of the day and to particular moods or states of mind
(rasa),eachwiththeirresidentdeity,colour,etc.
74

71. Seep.264ff.Fordetaileddiscussionofminorkeyconnotations,seeTLTT:310336.
72. Pleasebeawarethat:[1]themodenamesusedinPlatosRepublic(380BC)donot
designatethesametonalvocabulariesasthosedesignatedbythesamenamestoday
(seefootnote66.);[2]thisparagraphismyownprcisofrelevantpassagesinbook
IVofTheRepublic(partofthedialoguebetweenSocratesandGlaucon).
73. Toumas(1996:4344),citedinWikipediaarticleArabianmaqam[120708].
Tagg:MusicsMeanings9.Timbre,loudnessandtonality 335
Melody
MelodiesareMONODICtonalsequencesperceivedasmusicalstatements
withdistinctrhythmicprofile(p. 291),pitchcontour(p. 318)andtonal
vocabulary(mode).SincemelodyisgivenextensivecoverageinEvery
day Tonality (Tagg, 2009: 5779), this account is limited to: [1] a list of
melodysmostimportantgeneralcharacteristics;[2]anexplanationof
melismatic and syllabic singing; [3] some pertinent questions to ask
aboutthemeaningofamelodicstatement.
Melodyhasthefollowingfiveimportantcharacteristics.
1. Itsusuallytheeasiestpartofthemusictorecognise,appropriate
andreproducevocally.
2. Itsphrasescoverthedurationofanexhalation(theextended
presentagain).
3. Itsnormallydeliveredataraterangingfromthatofmediumto
veryslowspeech.
4. Itsoftenarticulatedwithrhythmicfluidityandunbrokendelivery
oftonalmaterialwithinonesequence.Thesepropertiesmeanthat
melody,astonalmonodicmovement,isoftenunderstoodasa
heightenedformofhumanspeechandasthataspectofmusicmost
closelyconnectedtohumanutterance,bothgesturalandvocal.
75
5. InmostmusictraditionsoftheurbanWest,melodyisthemonodic
musicalforegroundtowhichaccompanimentandharmonyaregener
allyunderstoodasprovidingthebackground.Thesemioticimpor
tanceofthisdualismisdiscussedinChapter12(p.425,ff.).
74. [a]Fourrasaswillserveheretoillustratetheprinciple:Hsyam( )=laughter,jol
lityPramata(thedeity)white;Raudram( )=furyRudra(thegod)red;
Bbhatsam()=disgustShivablue;Vram()=heroic;Indrayellow.Other
rasashavearecharacterisedbydisgust,love,terror,wonder,spiritualdevotion,tran
quillity,andparentallove.Formoreaboutrasaseeftnt.56,p.72.
[b]PleasenotethatneitherIndianrgasnorArabmaqamat(pluralofmaqm(),a
conceptsimilartorga),aremeremodes.Theiridentityisntdeterminedsolelyby
tonalvocabulary,thoughthatisakeyissue,butalsoonthebasisofsuchfactorsas:
[1]therelativeimportanceoftonesinthemode;[2]specificmelodicmotifsconsid
eredtypicalfortherga/maqminuse;[3]specificrisingandfallingpatternsof
melodicstatement;[4]theregisterusedorpitchrangecoveredinperformance.
75. FormoreextensivediscussionofmelodyseeChapter12,(esp.pp.424433)andTagg
(2009:5779).
336 Tagg:MusicsMeanings9.Timbre,loudnessandtonality
AusefulconceptualpairwhenconsideringvocalmelodyisSYLLABIC
MELISMATIC.AMELISMAisastringofseveralconsecutivenotessungto
thesamesyllable;singingonesyllablepernoteissimplycalledsyllabic.
SyllabicsingingiscommoninHOMOPHONIC(p. 338)settingsofhymns,
aswellasintheversepartsofrecordingsbysingersongwriters.Melis
masarecommoninrockandgospelphraseslikeohyeah!,andinli
turgicalsettingsofKyrieeleisonandAlleluia.
76
Apart from profiles of pitch, rhythm, tonality and melisma, together
withwhatevertheymaysuggestbywayofgesture,affectandconnota
tion,itsalsoworthconsideringtheoverallmelodicityofthemusicun
deranalysis.Forinstance:
IsmelodyimportantinyourAOoristheregreaterfocusonriffs
andrhythms,oronlong,heldsonorities?
Isthemelodymixedupfrontandcentrestageorisitmorelikean
equalpartamongalltheotherstrandsofthemusic?
Aremelodiclinesperformedbythesamevoice[s]orinstrument[s]
throughout?Ifnot,dothemelodiclinesoccuratthesametime
(tonalpolyphony),orinsuccession,ordotheypartiallyoverlap?
Whateffectsarecreatedbysuchwaysoftreatingmelody?
Howdoesthetreatmentofmelody(includingitsabsence)relateto
theexpressionofnotionsoffigureandground(seepp.425481)?
Theremayalsobeothersignificantmelodictraits.Forexample:
Areanymotifs,melodiccadences,turnsofmelodicphrase,orany
licksindicativeofaparticularmusicaltraditionorlanguage?
Ifsoisitduetolanguagerhythmortonalvocabulary(mode)?Or
both?Orneither?
77

Doesanyofthemelodicmaterialinanywayresembleanytypeof
vocalstatementormodeofphonation,forexampleaffirming,
announcing,bewailing,celebrating,complaining,confiding,confirming,
cursing,crying,encouraging,giggling,groaning,growling,grunting,
hicupping,laughing,moaning,mourning,mumbling,pleading,praising,
praying,preaching,proclaiming,ranting,reciting,sighing,stammering,
whining?
77
76. Formoreonmelisma,seeTagg(2009:7679).
77. Formoreonthesequestions,seeChapter13underLinguisticvocalanaphones(pp.
489491)andParalinguisticanaphones(pp.492494);seealsoTagg(2009:6770).
Tagg:MusicsMeanings9.Timbre,loudnessandtonality 337
Tonalpolyphony
POLYPHONY(withoutthetonal)simplymeansmorethanonesoundat
thesametime.Singingwithoutaccompanimentismonophonicbutas
soonasyoustampyourfootintimewiththetune,themusicbecomes
polyphonic.Ifyougetoutyourguitarandstrumafewaccompanying
chordstoyoursong,orifsomeoneelsestartssingingalonginparallel
thirds,yourecreatingTONALPOLYPHONY.
78

Drone
Onesimpleandverycommonformoftonalpolyphonyistheuseofa
dronetoaccompanymelody.DRONESareeasiesttounderstandasthe
continuous notes that sound at the same pitch throughout part or
wholeofapieceofmusic.Theyactastonalreferencepointandback
groundforthechangingpitchofthemusicsotherstrands.Dronesoc
cur in bagpipe music from many parts of the world and usually (not
always)featuretheKEYNOTEorTONICofwhichevermelodicmodethey
accompany.
79
Lowerstringsontheguitarorfiddlearealsousedtocre
atedroneeffectsthathaveamorerhythmiccharacterinthatnote[s]of
identicalpitcharerepeatedatshortintervals.Dronesarealsousedin
audiovisualproductionsasasuspensiondevicetosuggesteitherstasis
(e.g.thestillnessofwideopenspaces)or,ifboominginthebassregis
ter,anongoing,oppressivethreat.
80

78. Pleasenotethatthiscommonsensedefinitionof POLYPHONYisnotnecessarilythat


usedinconventionalWesternmusicology.Parallelthirds:sequenceofnotesconsist
entlydoubledbyanothervoiceorinstrumentattheintervalofonethird,e.g.cande
together,thendandforf|,theneandg,etc.
79. Seep. 325ff.forTONICandKEYNOTE.Onthe(Scottish)Highlandpipesthetonic
droneissometimessilencedandthedroneatthefifthisusedonitsowntocaterfor
therangeandmodeofmelodiesincompatiblewithstandarddronearrangement
(Tagg,2011b:07:5008:35).
80. Formoreondrones,seeTagg(2009: 8284).TheDOOMSDAYMEGADRONE,aphrase
coinedinthe1980sbyAndersWintzus(Gteborg)todenotethissortofthreatening
subbassrumble,wasusedextensivelyinpopularTVproductionslikeV(1983)for
theanthropophagousreptilealiensgiantflyingsaucerscastingtheirshadowover
majorworldmetropolesandinTwinPeaks(Badalmenti,1989)fortheomnipres
entevilofBobintheoutwardlyidyllicbutdeeplydisturbingsmalltownAmerican
dream,withitscreepyconsumerism,depravedpromqueensanddepressiveJames
Deanlookalikes.
338 Tagg:MusicsMeanings9.Timbre,loudnessandtonality
Heterophony
Heterophonyispolyphonyresultingfromsimultaneousdifferencesof
pitchproducedwhentwoormorepeoplesingorplaymoreorlessthe
samemelodiclineatroughlythesametime.Heterophonycandenote
everythingfromtheunintentionalpolyphoniceffectofunsynchronised
unisonsingingtotheintentionaldiscrepanciesbetweenvocallineand
its instrumental embellishment that are characteristic of much music
fromGreece,TurkeyandtheArabworld.Anothertypeofheterophony
can occur in the final chorus of trad jazz performances when players
improvisetheirindividualvariantsofthesametuneatthesametime.
Anextremeexampleofmultistrandheterophonycanbeheardintra
ditionalhomeworshipsingingfromtheScottishHebrideswhereeach
floridimprovisationonthesamehymntuneisthoughttopresenteach
individualsrelationtoGodonapersonalbasis.
81

Homophonyandcounterpoint
HOMOPHONY (pp. 453454) is the type of tonal polyphony (different
pitches sounding at the same time) in which different strands of the
musicmoveinthesamerhythmatthesametime.Itstheantithesisof
COUNTERPOINT(pp.454456),meaningpolyphonywhoseinstrumental
or vocal lines clearly differ in melodic and/or rhythmic profile. Most
hymnsandnationalanthemsarehomophonic.
Polyphony is homophonic or contrapuntal only by degree. The less
concurrentsimilarityofrhythmicandmelodicprofilebetweenthemu
sics strands, the more contrapuntal it becomes. For example, Bach
fugues, Renaissance motets, rock recordings, funk grooves and over
lapping callandresponse phrases in gospel music all exhibit varying
degreesofcounterpoint(withsomehomophony),whilehymns,nurs
eryrhymeharmonisationsandSousamarchesdisplayvaryingdegrees
ofhomophony(withsomecounterpoint).
81. SeeKnudsen(1968)andWicks(1989).Forpolyphonyandsocialisation,seep. 446,ff.
Tagg:MusicsMeanings9.Timbre,loudnessandtonality 339
Harmony
Harmonyispopularlythoughtofasthataspectoftonalitywhichhasto
dowithchords.CHORDjustmeansthesimultaneoussoundingoftwoor
moretoneswithdifferentnotenames.Achordconsistingoftwodiffer
entnotesiscalledadyad,ofthreeatriad,offouratetrad,etc.,anda
chordofseveralneighbouringnotesiscalledacluster.
IfCOUNTERPOINTisimaginedasthehorizontalordiachronicaspectof
tonal polyphony, HARMONY is often thought of as its vertical or syn
chronicaspect,asthechords.Thisdistinctioncanbemisleading,not
only because tonal counterpoint produces chords in the sense just
givenbutalsobecauseeventhemosthomophonictypesoftonalpoly
phonyareinevitablydiachronic.Therearetwobasicreasonswhyhar
monyneedsalsotobeconsideredhorizontally,onebeingthefactthat
the individual notes in one chord lead toindividualnotesinthenext
one(voiceleading).
82
Theotherreasonisthatthesamesetofchords,
eachofaparticularnotelengthpresentedinsideaparticularoveralldu
ration, dont sound the same, or have the same effect, as those same
chordssoundedinadifferentorderwithdifferentdurations.Thepoint
hereisthatchordprogressionsconstituteadiachronicparameterofmu
sicalexpressionthatcansignalamusicalstyleaswellasasenseofmu
sicalmovement,flowordirection.Still,letsfirstconsiderthesynchronic
aspectsofharmony.
Chordtypesandharmonicidiom
IfIplaytheJAMESBONDCHORD(Em
9
)onapianoratherthan,aswas
originallyintended,onaFenderStratocastertreatedwithslighttrem
olo and some reverb, many nonmusos are still able to identify the
soundintermsofaSPYCHORD,DETECTIVECHORD,etc.
83
Suchcodalcom
petencesuggeststhatachordstonalinformationcanonitsown,atleast
undercertainconditions,carryculturallyspecificconnotations.Infact,
82. Ifyouveeverbeenanaltoortenorinachoiryoumayhavenoticedthatwhatyou
havetosingissometimesveryboringordifficult.Suchmomentsoffrustrationare
usuallydowntopoorvoiceleadingbyacomposerorarrangerwhohasprobably
thoughttoomuchvertically(aboutchords)andnotenoughaboutcreatingasinga
blelinewithanysenseofitsownmusicalflow(horizontally).
83. FormoreontheJamesBondDETECTIVEorSPYchord,seepp.116and257.
340 Tagg:MusicsMeanings9.Timbre,loudnessandtonality
choosing the right chord type can be just as effective as instrumental
timbre(p. 307ff.)ormelodicmode(p. 325ff.)inestablishingamusical
idiom, as well as in suggesting moods and environments. Ive found
that many students, muso and nonmuso, can, if their attention is
drawntothesonorityinquestion,recognisenotonlydetectivechords
but also other aesthesically labelled sonorities like the BITTERSWEET
CHORD, the ROMANTIC PATHOS CHORD and BURT BACHARACH CHORDS.
They can also usually distinguish between dronebased and busily
overharmonisedarrangementsoffolktunes,betweentheharmonicid
ioms of trad jazz and bebop, between Elizabethan and late Romantic
harmonies,etc.Theproblemisinotherwordsnotoneofauralcompe
tence but of poetic nomenclature (like minor major nine (m
9
)) be
cause aesthesic descriptors like BITTERSWEET, ROMANTIC PATHOS, BURT
BACHARACHandTWANGYFOLKchordshave(asyet,ifever)littleorno
validityininstitutionsofconventionalmusicallearning.
84
Chordprogressions
Likethetypesofchordjustdescribed,CHORDPROGRESSIONSoftenhave
semioticsignificance.Theycanindicateahomestyle,referouttoafor
eignstyleandsometimessuggestamood.Theycanalsoactkinetically
andsyntacticallybycontributingtotheestablishmentofmetre,phrase,
periodanddiataxis.Itmaybeusefultothinkofchordprogressionsas
existingatthreelevelsofduration:[1]shorttermshuttlesorloopscon
tained within one or two bouts of the extended present; [2] medium
termloopsormatricescoveringatleastoneperiod(severalphrases);[3]
longtermharmonicnarrative.
85
84. Forhelpwithauralchordrecognition,seeEverydayTonality(Tagg,2009:141144).
ForchordalcommutationsoftheKojakthemetune,seeTagg(2000a:211221),aurally
illustratedinTheKojakThemeCommutations(Tagg,2011c)as[1]classical,[2]Palest
rinamotet,[3]JamesBond/PeterGunndetective,[4]nostalgicpastoralromancela
Zamfirand[5]bossanovacocktailloungemood.FordiscussionoftheBITTERSWEET
CHORD(m
add9
),seeTLTT(4223,453466,566ff.).TheROMANTICPATHOSCHORDm
75

isdiscussedinTLTT(180216)andillustratedaurallyinTheMinorSevenFlatFive
Montage(Tagg,2011d).TypicalBURTBACHARACHCHORDSare_
7
,m
7
and_
add9
.In
May2012IlearnedfromArisLanaridesthatsomeGreekmusiciansrefertothe
Bacharachstylemajorsevensonority(_
7
)asthepornochord.Formoreabout
dronedfolkharmonisationseeTagg(2009: 130134)and(m2009a).
85. Forlongtermharmonicnarrative,seepp.410411(insectiononsonataform).
Tagg:MusicsMeanings9.Timbre,loudnessandtonality 341
Chordshuttles
SHUTTLEdenotesanongoingoscillationbetweentwochords,LOOPa
repeated sequence of (typically) three or four chords. Chord shuttles
andloopsarecommoninmanytypesofpopularsonganddancemu
sic.Forexample,theAEOLIANSHUTTLE,asheardinAllAlongTheWatch
tower (Dylan, 1968; Hendrix, 1968), Whispering Thunder (Cain, 1972),
Money(PinkFloyd,1973)andChopinsMarchefunbre(1839),is,inslow
tomoderatetempo,ahabitualharbingerofthingsdarkandominous.
86
Ontheotherhand,theFLOATINGDORIANSHUTTLEasheardinHesSo
Fine (Chiffons, 1963), Oh! Happy Day (Hawkins, 1972), My Sweet Lord
(Harrison,1972)and,mostnotablyatseveralBRIGHTNESSpointsonthe
PinkFloydalbumDarkSideoftheMoon(1972)isalessominousand
amuchmoreopenendedsortofaffair.
87

Chordloops
AmongthemostfamiliarLOOPprogressionsmustsurelybethethree
chordLABAMBAPATTERN,socommoninmanytypesofLatinAmerican
music and the chordal basis oftunes like Guantanamera, Pata Pata, Do
YouLoveMe?,TwistAndShout,HangOnSloopyandWildThing.
88
Justas
common is the fourchord VAMP loop (also known as vamp until
ready)thataccompaniedcountlessmilksapnumbersrecordedinthe
USAaround1960.ImreferringtoTEENANGELhitslikeDiana,Teenager
InLove,PoetryInMotion,Oh!Carol,HappyBirthdaySweetSixteen,Dream
86. TheFATEFULaeolianshuttlewasfirstdiscussedasanaeolianpendulumbyBjrn
berg(1984:371386);seealsoTagg(2009: 186188).Amongothertunesfeaturingthe
shuttleare:SouthernManandRockinInTheFreeWorld(NeilYoung,1970,1989);1984
(Bowie,1974);WallStreetShuffle(Tencc,1974);WatchingTheDetectives(Costello,
1977);Barnavvrtid(Nationalteatern,1978);California(FlashandthePan,1979);In
TheAirTonight(PhilCollins,1981);SomethingInTheWay(Nirvana,1991).
87. ThefloatingopenendednessofthischordshuttleisexplainedinTagg(2009: 177
182).ThePMFCsforgreateropennessareparticularlyclearinconjunctionatBreathe,
breathetheairandHome,homeagainonthePinkFloydalbum.Manyothercom
monchordshuttletypes(e.g.plagal,quintal,subtonic,mixolydian,nonfloating
variantsofthedorian)arediscussedinTagg(2009:173198).
88. LaBamba(Valens,1958;LosLobos,1987);Guantanamera(Fernandez,1949;Seeger,
1963;Sandpipers,1966;Jean,1997;Cruz,1999);PataPata(Makeba,1967);DoYouLove
Me?(Poole,1963);Twist&Shout(TopNotes,1961;Beatles,1963);HangOnSloopy
(McCoys,1965);WildThing(Troggs,1966).SeealsoGuantanameraEndings(Tagg,
2011g)and,formoreabouttheLABAMBALOOP,Tagg(2009:217225).
342 Tagg:MusicsMeanings9.Timbre,loudnessandtonality
LoverandSherry, aswell as the Asections of jazz standards like Blue
Moon(p. 398)andAtLast.
89

AMEDIUMTERMrepeatedchordprogressioncoveringseveralboutsof
presenttimecanbecalledaHARMONICMATRIXorCHORDMATRIX.Oneof
the mostwellknownchordmatricesisthestandardtwelvebarblues
patternwhosesimplestformrunsI I I I IVIVIIVIVIIwhereI
meansachordbasedonthetonic(keynote,themodesfirstdegree),IV
achordondegree4ofthetonicsmajororminormodeandVachord
basedonscaledegree5.Thatmeansthechordsofasimple12barblues
inErunEEEEAAEEBAEEandinFFFFFBBFFCBF
F.Performedat120bpm,atwelvebarbluesmatrixlasts24seconds,
the matrixs three fourbar periods each occupying eight seconds.
90
AmongothercommoncyclicalharmonicmatricesaretheNewOrleans
R&Beightbarpattern(e.g.I IVII VIVII)andthewidevariationof
chaconne and passacaglia sequences found in the euroclassical tradi
tion,forexampleintheeverpopularPachelbelsCanon.
91

Largescaleharmonicprogressionthatlendsoveralltonalstructureto
themegadurationsofentirepiecesofmusicisdealtwithinChapter11
underGeneraldiatacticschemes,especiallyinthesectionsonthe32
barjazzstandard(p.397,ff.)andsonataform(p.409,ff.).
89. Songreferences:Diana(Anka,1957);TeenagerInLove(Dion,1959),PoetryInMotion
(Tillotson,1960),Oh!Carol(Sedaka,1959),HappyBirthdaySweetSixteen(Sedaka,
1961),DreamLover(Darin,1959),Sherry(FourSeasons,1962),BlueMoon(RRodgers,
1934;Marcels,1961),AtLast(Warren,1940/James,1961).Formoreonthevamploop
seeTagg(2009:202216).Fora12minutebarrageofsongsillustratingthevamp
loopinpop,seeTagg(2007).Othercommonandeasilyrecognisablechordloops
includethemixolydianpatterninpop/rocktrackslikeWithALittleHelpFromMy
Friends(Beatles,1967a),SweetHomeAlabama(LynyrdSkynyrd,1974),andGimmeAll
YourLoving(ZZTop,1983);seealso Tagg(2009:221226and2009b).
90. Thetwelveandeightbarbluesmatricesgivenherearethesimplest,mostgeneral
isedforms.Forafewothervariants,seeTagg(2009:159,167171).Pleasenotethat
theeachofthethreefourbarperiodsinatwelvebarbluesconsistsoftwophrases,
oftenoverlapping,incallandresponsestyle,eachphraseoccupyingnomorethan
oneboutoftheextendedpresent(typically35seconds).
91. PachelbelsCanonhasthesequenceIVviiiiIVIIVV.ItsusedbyHandelinOrgan
ConcertoOp.7No.5,byHaydnintheminuetofStringQuartetOp.50No.2,by
MozartinPianoConcertoNo.23(K488)and,mostnotably,byTheFarminAll
TogetherNow(1991);seealsoParavonian(2008).ThebarnbuildingsequencesinWit
ness(Paramount)areunderscoredusingadifferentpassacagliapattern(Jarre,1985).
FormoreexamplesofPachelbelsCanonseepage413.
Tagg:MusicsMeanings 343
10.Vocalpersona
HEVOICEismankindsprimarymusicalinstrument.
1
Itsimpor
tancehasalreadybeenmentionedinconjunctionwithprosody,
with timbre and aural staging, with pitch range and register,
andofcoursewithmelody.AswellseeinChapter13,voiceisalsoat
the basis of several musical sign types, including transscansions, lan
guage identifiers and paralinguistic anaphones. The purpose of this
chapteristosuggestwaysofdenotingperceptionsofthenonverbalas
pectsofvoice.
BeforegoinganyfurtherIneedtoclarifytwopoints.Oneisthemean
ing of PERSONA, the other an explanation of the mainly vernacular
sourceofideaspresentedinthischapter.
Persona
PERSON, without the final A, means an individual human being and
PERSONALITYthedistinctivecharacterorqualitiesofaperson.InLatin,
ItalianandSpanishPERSONA(withthefinalA)justmeansPERSONbutin
English PERSONA denotes an aspectofthepersonalityas shownto orper
ceivedbyothers.
2
Actors,singersandothertypesofperformerarentthe
onlyonestopresentpersonas
2
becauseweallhavetoassumedifferent
rolesindifferentsituationsatdifferenttimesoflife.Herearesixteenex
amplesfrommyownlife:[1]childinrelationtoparents;[2]parentin
relationtoachild;[3]studentinrelationtoteachersand[4]fellowstu
dents;[5]teacherinrelationtostudentsand[6]colleaguesaswellas[7]
administrators;[8]lover;[9]husband;[10]goodfriend;[11]reasonably
1. Forthecentralityofvoice,see,forexample,theKodlyApproach(n.d.)at
britishkodalyacademy.org/ [120117].ThetermvocalpersonaoriginateswithCone
(1974).ItsvariousmeaningsareinstructivelydiscussedbyFrith(1996:196200).
2. PERSONAisconceptuallyopposedtoANIMA,theindividualsinnerpersonality.Illbe
usingtheEnglish(orSpanish)pluralformPERSONASratherthantheetymologically
correctLatinpluralpersonaewhichisrarelyusedwhentalkingaboutthephenome
non.AllquoteddefinitionsarefromTheConciseOxfordDictionary(1995).
[
N
M
1
0
-
V
o
x
.
f
m
.

2
0
1
3
-
0
5
-
2
6
,

1
2
:
0
8
]
344 Tagg:MusicsMeanings10.Vocalpersona
angry young man; [12] even more reasonably (and cheerful) angry
oldman,latterlyalsobenevolentbuteccentricpatriarch;[13]oneof
theguys;[14]classicalmusician;[15]rockmusician;[16]solitarywriter
ofacademictextslikethis.
Itsnotalwayseasytoadopttherightpersonaintherightsituation,es
peciallyiftheroleexpectedofushastochange,forexamplefromchild
to parent or from student to teacher, but theres nothing intrinsically
dishonestorschizophrenicaboutourabilitytoadapttotheappropriate
roleintheappropriatesituation.Onthecontrary,itsanessentialsocial
skill.ThatswhyVOCALPERSONAshouldnot,inwhatfollows,beprima
rilyunderstoodasroleplayinthesenseofputtingonavocalfront,al
thoughthatmaysometimesbethecase,butasanyaspectofpersonality
asshowntoorperceivedbyothersthroughthemediumofeitherprosodyorof
thesingingvoice.
Vernacularsources
Theideaspresentedinthischapterderivelessfromthewealthofschol
arlywritingonvoice,muchmorefromhavingrunpopularmusicanal
ysis classes for many years. Insights gained from that experience are
supplemented with observations about how voice seems to be de
scribed in music reviews, album inlays, in ads for voiceover artists,
evenincasualconversation.
3
Allthesevernacularsourcesfortheverbal
descriptionofvoiceshareacommontrait:unlikethepoetictermsdes
ignatingmusicalstructuredefinedbyparametersofpitch,tonality,me
tre and episodicity, descriptions of voice, like those of timbre, are
mainlyaesthesic.Thistendencymaywellbeduetothefactthatconven
tionalmusicstudieshaveyettoestablishasystematicandwidelyac
cepted poetic terminology for vocal expression. Theres simply very
little by way of such jargon to intimidate nonmusos, many of whom
maystrugglewiththedesignationofmusicstonalaspectsandwhoare
muchlessinhibitedaboutdescribingtimbreandvocalsound.
3. Tworeasonsforprioritisingpersonalexperienceoverscholarlywritinginthischap
ter:[1]Asufficientlyauthoritativesurveyofrelevantliteraturewouldtakesomuch
timethatIdneverfinishthisbookwhichisalreadylongenough.[2]Immorelikely
toaddtothegeneralbodyofknowledgeaboutvoicebyfocusingonmyownexperi
enceandknowledgethanbysummarisingthoseofothers.
Tagg:MusicsMeanings10.Vocalpersona 345
Anotherdemocraticaspectofvoiceaspartofmusicalanalysisisthat
itsaninstrumentwealluseinamusicalwayprosodicallyevery
timewespeak.Mostofusareexpertsatusingourvoices,notjusttout
terwordsbutalsotopresentourindividualorgroupidentity,andto
expressemotions,attitudesandbehaviouralpositions(vocalpersonas).
ThatswhyIllstartwiththemusicofthespokenvoice,moreprecisely
withmymother,followedcloselybyRobertDeNiro.
Dontworryaboutme
When I was a child my mother would sometimes say DONT WORRY
ABOUTMEIMFINEinaverysadvoice.Iremembertheconfusionthat
statementcausedme.DidshemeanthewordsDONTWORRYABOUTME
IMFINEorshouldIpaymoreattentiontothemusic(prosody)inher
statement:PLEASEWORRYABOUTMEIMMISERABLE?
Thesecondinterpretationwasprobablynearerthetruththanthefirst,
not least because she wasnt always a happy person. She might have
beenfeelingunwellorhavejustbeeninvolvedinadomesticdisagree
ment.Anotherreasonforprioritisingthemusicofherstatementwas
thatherfacialexpression,bodypostureandgestures(inthiscasealack
ofgesture),allalignedwithhervocaltimbre,volume,intonation,dic
tion and speech rhythm but contradicted the meaning of her words.
Withachildsunderstandingofwordsandreasonasprivilegedmodes
of symbolic interaction among grownups (although I wouldnt have
put it that way at the time), I remember opting to take my mothers
DONT WORRY ABOUT ME at lexical face value. That decision once
prompted my father to chide me for being insensitive. I didnt know
what insensitive meant but it didnt sound good, so I reverted to a
moreinstinctive(orchildish?)modeofinterpretation,payingmoreat
tentiontomothersmusicandlesstoherwords.Unfortunately,read
ing her statements on the basis of their music (timbre, volume,
inflexion,posture,facialexpression,etc.)andignoringherwordsalso
turnedouttobewrong,becauseifIrespondedtoherplaintivetoneby
askingWhatsthematter?inasympathetictoneofvoice,Iriskedin
sultingherprideandhearingherretort:IsaidIwasfine.Whydoyou
neverlistentowhatIsay?
346 Tagg:MusicsMeanings10.Vocalpersona
It took me many years to realise that I could interpret my mothers
[plaintivevoice]DONTWORRYABOUTMEIMFINE[normal]asan
integralstatement,despiteitsmixedmessage.Sheactuallymeant:
ImverysadandIfindithardtoputonthebravefaceofselfcontrolI
knowthatgrownupsshould.So,pleaseshowmesomekindnesswhile
respectingthefactthatIatleastknowImsupposedtoputonabrave
face,evenifIexpectyoutoseethroughit.
That statement would have taken mother much longer and have de
manded an unrealistic amount of reflective selfcontrol. Her mixed
message was in that sense more efficient. I was simply slow to learn
thatyoucouldconsiderthenarrativecontext,scene,bodylanguage,the
wordsandthemusicofmymothersmixedmessagesasawhole.Itwas
amusogenicstatementliketheclearbutcomplexmusicalmoodsmen
tioned in Chapter 2. Im referring to those pallid verbal approxima
tionslikeDESPERATELYTROUBLEDINTHEMIDSTOFCALMANDBEAUTY, or
SICKOFTHEWORLDANDFEELINGALIVEBECAUSEOFTHATDISGUST.
4
TheDONTWORRYABOUTMEanecdoteillustratesthreeimportantpoints
aboutmusicalmeaning,thefirsttwoofwhichhavebeendiscussedear
lier.Thischapterfocusesonthethirdpoint.
1. Musicalmeaningisnevercreatedbythesoundsontheirown.They
alwaysexistinasyntactic,semanticandsocioculturallypragmatic
contextuponwhichtheirsemiosisdepends.
2. Precisionofmusicalmeaningdoesnotequalprecisionofverbal
meaningorthatofanyothersymbolicsystem.Musicsapparent
contradictionsofverbalmeaning(pp.6668;167, ff.)shouldbe
understoodasmusicallycoherent.
3. Vocaltimbre,pitch,intonation,inflexion,accentuation,dictionand
volume,plusthespeed,metre,rhythmandperiodicityofvocal
deliveryareparametersofexpressionconveyinginformationabout
thesocioculturalandpersonalidentity(includingmetaidentity)
presentedbyspeakersorsingers,aswellasabouttheirattitudes,
feelingsandemotions(i.e.theirvocalpersona).
4. Formoreontheselinguisticallycontradictoryapproximationsofunequivocalmusical
moodseepp.6668.SeealsotheMendelssohnquoteonpage 237.
Tagg:MusicsMeanings10.Vocalpersona 347
Areyoutalkingtome?
ThethirdpointjustlistedisillustratedinthevideoVocalPersonaCom
mutations(m OL7uc6L5nMQ)whichusesatwelvesecondextractfromthe
film Taxi Driver (1976) to highlight central aspects of links between
voiceandpersonality.Inthattwelvesecondextract,TravisBickle,the
films taxidriving main character played by Robert De Niro, has just
exercised his secondamendment right and acquired a gun to bolster
hisconfidencewhenfacedwiththemiscreantshemeetsinhisjob.In
the clip he prepares to confront such scumbags by rehearsing the fa
mouslineAREYOUTALKINGTOME?inthemirror.Itsworthexamining
thetwelvesecondsittakesDeNirotoaskthequestionthreetimes,in
cludingpauses,inordertodiscoverwhichparametersofvocalexpres
sion communicate what. Its also worth testing which voices can and
cannotbesubstitutedforDeNirosinthatfamousscenesoastoreveal
the extent to which vocal persona is dependent on congruence with
suchfactorsasgender,ethnicity,age,socialposition,personality,cloth
ing,opinionandattitude,acousticdistanceandsetting.
Leaving aside gesture, posture and facial expression for the moment
andconcentratingsolelyonthesoundofDeNirosvoice,minordiffer
ences of inflection, intonation, volume and accentuation can be dis
cernedbetweenthethreevariantsofAREYOUTALKINGTOME?Inthefirst
varianthisvoiceislowkeybutquiterapidwiththequickbutsubstan
tialriseofpitchnormallyusedinEnglishtoposequestionsexpecting
theansweryesorno;butitdoessoundsudden,asifhehadbeentaken
offguard.Thesecondutteranceisslightlyslower,alittlemoredeliber
ateandhasclearerdiction,suggestingthattheimaginarylowlifeinter
locutordidnottakehimseriouslythefirsttime.Thethirdutteranceis
onceagainquitecontainedbutincludesmoreemphasisonmeanda
littlelessontalking.Thisshiftinaccentuationunderlinespersonalin
volvementintheimaginedencounter.Apartfromtheseminorvariants,
itshouldbenotedthatDeNirodoesnotraise(thevolumeof)hisvoice
in anger or frustration, and that his is the normal voice of a young,
probablywhite,NorthAmerican,Englishspeakingmale.Infact,with
outthenarrativecontextandwithoutDeNirosbodylanguage,thereis
nothing remarkable about his vocal persona in this scene any more
348 Tagg:MusicsMeanings10.Vocalpersona
than there is about Travis himself, even though his lack of charisma
maybewhatmakeshimnarrativelyinteresting.
Giventhatthisrelativelynormal,neutralanduncharismaticpersonal
ityhasacorrespondinglynormal,neutralanduncharismaticvocalper
sona,itoughttobepossibletoreplacehisvoicewithothersinorderto
discover which vocal elements are compatible or incompatible with
whichothersimultaneousaspectsofnonverbalcommunication.
ThefactthatwereinanoisykitchenandthatTravisiswhite,unshaven
andwearingwhatappearstobeagreyflannelairforcejackettellsus
quitealot.Itcertainlyrulesoutseveralofthepersonasubstitutionsin
theVocalCommutationsvideo.Itsobviousthatwerenothearing/seeing
achild,norawomanoroldman.ItisntanyoneAfricanAmericanor
East Asian, nor anyone from the higher echelons of society (unless
theyreslummingit).Norcanitbeasamuraiwarriorfromthesixteenth
century or a young executive in Qatar or Saudi Arabia.
5
The visuals
alsoruleoutrobots,deathmetalmonsters,chipmunksoranythingelse
thatdoesntlookorsoundlikeaCaucasianmale,amemberofthepop
ularclasses,andagedbetween25and45.
6
Buttheresmorevisualinfor
mationrestrictingthevocalcommutationpossibilities.
SinceDeNiroisaboutonemetreawayfromthecamera,convincingal
ternativevoiceoverscannotsoundtoocloseortoodistant.Forexample,
the repugnant intimacy of the lecherous DIRTY OLD MAN voice in the
commutationvideoonlyworksifDeNirosfaceisinextremecloseup.
Obviously,then,oneparameterofexpressionforvocalpersonaisper
ceivedproximity.Anotherparameterisacousticspace.Thecommuta
tionvideosMONSTERandEVILGODvoices,forinstance,havebeengiven
cavernousreverbincompatiblewiththesizeandacousticpropertiesof
theclutteredkitchenweseeonscreen.
5. TherearemanyamusingpastichesofDeNirosAREYOUTALKINGTOME?These
include:[1]aninfantimitatinghisauntmLqmeArdgeOI;[2]DeNirolampooning
himselfmepZxUhCE5l8;[3]spokeninArabicbyamaninaSaudithobewhoemerges
fromanairporttoiletandbrandishesabananainsteadofagunmCK7WCKpeVic;[4]
WrestleMania21commercialsmCw39KMcrJBU;[5]inFrenchCestavecmoi
quetuparles?fromLaHaine(1995)mokQJPUTQMqA.
6. Monsterandrobotvoiceoversworkbetterifyoumanipulatethevisuals(6:507:10).
Tagg:MusicsMeanings10.Vocalpersona 349
ThefirsttimeTravisasksthefamousquestionheisatthefarrightedge
ofthescreenwithhisbodyfacingscreenleft.Heturnshisheadtowards
us,asifjusthavingheardsomethingcomingfromthedirectionofthe
camera. He looks surprised, his eyebrows are raised and his head
tossedbackabit.Itsthelookofsomeoneliterallytakenaback.How
ever,thereisnothingexcepttheimmediatenarrativecontextthatrules
outthepossibilityofpleasantsurprise,whichiswhythecommutation
videos first BABY TALK voiceover works well if viewers imagine the
camerabeingthebabyspointofviewandthattheDeNirocharacteris
a proud father, suprised and delighted by his infants contented gur
glingashewalkspast.
ForthesecondversionofthequestionDeNirohashalfturnedtoward
themirror/camera,tossedhisheadbackabitmoreandraisedhiseye
brows higher. Once again, its mainly the narrative context that rules
out a possibly positive interpretation of Traviss body language and
whichleadustobelievethatthismoreclearlytakenabackpostureis
more likely to express affront and irritation than surprised delight.
Evenhisteeth,visibleforashortmomentinanunsmilingmouth,sug
gestconfrontation.Healsoseemstobelookingdownhisnoseathisim
aginedinterlocutor,andsincehisdictionandaccentuationareslightly
moreforcefulthanbefore,theBABYTALKvoiceoverofthedelighteddad
is less convincing here. Furthermore, the despondent, depressed and
weak vocal persona substitutions align badly with De Niros posture,
facialexpression,accentuationanddictionduringthesethreeseconds.
The third version is gesturally the clearest. His body is turned a little
moretowardsthecameraashepointstohisownchestinsyncwithto
me. Again, prior knowledge of the Travis character will likely lead
viewerstoseehisgrinasinsolent,andhishandgestureasexpressing
personalaffront.However,withoutsuchpriorknowledgeandwiththe
additionofafewsoniccorrectivestothenarrative(gurglingbaby,the
mothersaaah!),AREYOUTALKINGTOME?,spokenbyadelightedand
proudfather,alignsquiteconvincinglywiththisthirdvariantofthefa
mousquestion.
Several vocal persona commutations dont work because of problems
withlipsync.Forexample,stereotypicalrobotvoices,aswesawearlier
350 Tagg:MusicsMeanings10.Vocalpersona
(pp.281282),applyequaldurationsforeachsyllable,whiledepressed
anddespondentstatementsaredeliveredataslowerratethanthatof
AREYOUTALKINGTOME?spokennormally.Besides,adepressedvoiceis
usuallyaccompaniedbydepressedbodypostureandfacialexpression
droopingshoulders,headhunglow,eyeslookingdown,noeyecon
tact, etc. Lipsync problems also demonstrate that whispering and
othertypesofvocalcloseupareincompatiblenotonlywiththelackof
extreme visual closeup in the Taxi Driver sequence but also with its
speedofdelivery.Whisperinghastobeslowerthantalkingbecauseit
must compensate for the absence of voiced consonants and the full
transientsthatidentifyvowelsounds,whileintimatestatementsdeliv
eredforcefullyatbreakneckspeedsoundridiculous.
Poetic,acousticandaesthesicdescriptors
Noneof theobservationsjustmade aboutAREYOUTALKINGTOME?in
theVocalPersonaCommutationsclipshouldcomeasasurprise.
[L]isteners who hear voice samples can infer the speakers socioeco
nomicstatus,personalitytraits,andemotionalandmentalstate
Listeners exposed to voice samples are also capable of estimating the
age,height,andweightofspeakerswiththesamedegreeofaccuracy
achievedbyexaminingphotographsIndependentratersarealsoca
pableofmatchingaspeakersvoicewiththepersonsphotographover
75%ofthetime.(Hughesetal.,2004:296)
Indeed, the relationship between an individual voice and its unique
personalidentityhasgivenrisetothevoiceprintbranchofthesecurity
industrywithitsbiometricclaimsaboutdefeatingcreditcardfraudor
ensuringthatprisonersincarceratedintheirhomesoroutontempo
rarypasses[are]wheretheyweresupposedtobe.
7
Whetherornotthe
sales spiel of voice print marketeers has any validity isnt the point
here,althoughincredulitymaybewarranted,bearinginmindthetech
nicalcrudityandsociolinguisticstupidityofmostcorporatevoicerec
ognitionsystems.
8
Thepointisthatinsightsaboutcongruencebetween
7. SearchSecurity.comsearchsecurity.techtarget.com/sDefinition/0,,sid14_gci944937,00.html
[2008-02-11].Voiceauthenticationproducts,thesiteinformsus,areavailablefroma
numberofvendors,includingVocent,CourionCorp.,andVoiceVault.
Tagg:MusicsMeanings10.Vocalpersona 351
individual voice and personal identity are nothing new. Indeed, the
very word person contains the morpheme son, meaning sound, and
Latins personare literally means to sound (sonare) through (per), to
soundforth,etc.Moreover,theoriginalmeaningoftheLatinwordper
sona is a mask as warn by actors in Greek and Roman drama.
9
Its
transferred meanings of performed role, personality, etc. derive from
thefactthatrevealingthetruenatureofadramaticcharacterinvolved
projecting the voice of that individual through the mask worn by the
actorplayingthatrole.Hisorhervoicehadliterallytosound(sonare)
through(per)themaskvoxpersonansoutintotheauditorium,into
theaudiencesearsandbrains.
Linksbetweenvoiceandpersonalityarealsoclearfromnumerouson
linesearchesfortermslikeVOICE,VOCAL,PERSONAandPERSONALITY.Al
thoughdescriptiveadjectivesofvoiceswere,asweshallsee,farfrom
uncommon,anotherfrequentlyrecurringtypeofvoicecharacterisation
related,unsurprisingly,voicetopersonality.Amongthemorestriking
examples found of persona descriptors of AngloUS singing voices
were (artists in brackets) HARDEDGED SEXUAL EXUBERANCE (Chaka
Khan), IMPISH CHIRP (Katryna in The Nields), [they looked and sang
like] BARBIE DOLLS (Wilson Philips), CUDDLY VOCAL PERSONALITY (Bev
erly Sill), a NERVOUS TEENAGER, FEARFUL OF BEING REJECTED (Buddy
Holly), an ANGRY SMURF (Eminem) and THE WESTERN MYTHICAL GIRL/
WOMAN,HEARTBROKENYETRESILIENTANDENTIRELYFEMININE[withan]
EDGEBETWEENVULNERABILITYANDWILLFULNESS(LindaRonstadt).
10
The voice descriptions just listed sound neither serious nor scientific.
Theyremorelikelytocomeacrossasspuriouslysubjective,atbestas
amusing or imaginative. Thats an understandable objection but it
needs to be moderated in the light of four points made so far: [1] the
fact that [i]ndependent raters are capable of matching a speakers
voicewiththepersonsphotographover75%ofthetime;[2]theappar
ent commercial success of voice print companies; [3] the patterns of
congruenceandincongruenceintheTaxiDrivercommutationclip;[4]
8. FordocumentaryevidenceofvoicerecognitionincompetenceseeTagg(2008b).
9. CassellsLatinEnglishDictionary,London,1968.SeealsoLacasse(2000:4246).
352 Tagg:MusicsMeanings10.Vocalpersona
the etymology of the word person[a] itself. Those four points suggest
that patterns of linking voice with personality do exist and that such
linkscanbeverifiedintersubjectivelyingivenculturalcontexts.Well
returntotheselinksandtotheirusefulnessindiscussingthemeaning
ofsingingvoices,butitsusefultobefirstawareofotherapproachesto
theissueofdescribingvocalsound.
Themusicalpropertiesofvocalsound,spokenorsung,caningeneral
beunderstoodandverbalisedusingoneormoreofthreemainperspec
tives:[1]thephysicaltechniquesofitsproduction(poeticperspective);
[2]itsmeasurablephysicalattributesassound(acoustic);[3]itspercep
tion,interpretationandeffects(aesthesic).
ThePOETICPERSPECTIVEfocusesbydefinitiononhowparticularpartsof
thehumanbodyareusedtoproduceparticularvocalsounds,e.g.lar
ynx, throat, mouth, jaw, tongue, nose, lungs, diaphragm, shoulders,
chest, head. Recurrent concepts are breathing, control, projection and
register (chest, mixed, head, falsetto). Now, as well see later in this
chapter (p. 376 ff.), the ability to reproduce, at least roughly, a vocal
soundcanhelpusunderstanditsmeaning.Thatswhysomefamiliarity
withthephysicalimplicationsofthetermsjustmentionedcanbeuse
fulinidentifyingthebodyposture(shoulders,chest,head,etc.)andfa
cial expression (mouth, jaw, nose, etc.) most conducive to the
productionofaparticularvocalsound.Thatknowledgeinitsturncon
tributes to insights about the emotional state of the person[a] behind
thevocalsoundinquestion.
10. Thefirstthreecommentswereonlineat:[1] rollingstone.com/artists/chakakhan/albums/
album/243746/review/5945280/chaka;[2]furia.com/page.cgi?type=twas&id=twas0196;
[3]whiteperil.com/posts/1093202710.shtm.TheBuddyHollycommentisinBradby&
Torode(1984)andtheEminemdescriptioncomesfromoneofmystudentsinLiver
pool(c. 1997).TheRonstadtwordswereatsuperseventies.com/spronstadt.html .Here
areafewmorecolourfuldescriptorsofpopularmusicvocalpersonasculledfrom
theinternet:Dylanontoomuchcoffeeandnotenoughsleep;forlornfoghorn;
aboutashumanasavoicemail;smoothsailingloveman;flittingfromfolksy
romantictocutelittlegirltoabrasivespitemonger;jauntilydevilish;husky,mor
dant;downanddirty;alldressedupforalatenightsmokyjazzcluboran
upscalebluesjoint;worldwearycoolkitty;ultrasnideandconfrontational;
fromplayfulcoquettetovintagejazzdiva;vulnerabletoughguy;schizobarmy
[and]speedballbonkers;fromtheolddogcroontothegruff,staccatobark
(sourcedetailssearchableintagg/articles/VocPersUnsystNotes.txt [120117]).
Tagg:MusicsMeanings10.Vocalpersona 353
The ACOUSTIC PERSPECTIVE focuses on the physical properties of vocal
sound,i.e.onvolume(dynamics,intensity)andtimbre(attack,decay,
fundamentalpitch,overtones,etc.).Thenumberofpossiblevariations
inthesequantifiableparametersisvirtuallyinfinite;theircombination
formsthephysicalbasisoftheenormousvariationofsoundsthathu
manvoicescanproduceandofhowthosesoundsareperceived.Now,
theresnoroomheretoexplaineventherudimentsofacousticphysics
inrelationtothehumanvoiceanditsperception.Readersareinstead
referredtoawealthofliteraturedealingwithcorrelationsbetweenthe
measurablephysicalpropertiesofparticularsoundsandtheirpercep
tion.
11
Thatsaid,basicawarenessofparameterslikefundamentalpitch,
overtones,intensity,attackandenvelopecan,bydrawingattentionto
thephysicalpropertiesofaparticularsound,refineproceduresofcom
mutation (e.g. changing timbre to check on possible changes of per
ceivedeffect)andleadtogreaterprecisionofsemioticanalysis.
12

The AESTHESIC PERSPECTIVE is characterised by how sounds are per


ceived,interpreted,reactedtoandusedbythosewhohearthem.Since
thisbookisaimedprimarilyatmusicsusersIlltry,inwhatcomesnext,
tosortoutthevariouswaysinwhichweseemtoverbaliseourpercep
tionofdifferentvoices.Then,afteranexcursiondiscussingbasicdiffer
ences between speaking and singing, the chapter will end with
suggestionsabouthowcategoriesofvocalpersonacanbeusedinthe
semioticanalysisofmusic.
Aesthesicdescriptors
Between 2005 and 2008, I trawled cyberspace for websites containing
various combinations of VOICE, VOCAL or VOICEOVER and including
wordslikeQUALITY,TIMBRE,PERSONA,PERSONALITY,ATTITUDEandCHAR
ACTER.Inadditiontohavingannoyedstudents,friendsandcolleagues
byaskingthemtodescribevoicestome,Ialsotookaninterestinvocal
casting, a specialist profession in which verbal descriptions of voice
playanessentialpart.Forexample:
11. SeeSundberg(1987);seealso,forexample,Bouchard(2010),Lacasse(2000),Lomax
(1968),McHughetal.(1997),McPherson(2005),Mossberg(2005),Ridingetal.(2006).
12. SeeChapters8and9,especiallypp.277283,305315,317318.
354 Tagg:MusicsMeanings10.Vocalpersona
Seekingvoiceovertalentwhocanrecreateafemalewitchvoice[The]
project involves an English dub of a Russian animated feature The
witch is very old, around 70.
13
Also seeking a counsellor voice. High
pitchedandwhiny,middleaged.
13
HeresacharacterdescriptioncirculatedbyaHollywoodagencylook
ingforcomputergamevoiceoverartists.
Xisthecomicallyannoying,shapeshiftingspiritofanancientDruid
Priestwhoservesasakindofguideto[thehero]throughouttheages,
aswellasbeingabothersomepest.Hepopsupunexpectedlytogivead
vice,frequentlyatlessthanopportunemoments,althoughhebasically
meanswell.Hehasasarcastic,drywitandisanirritating,amusing,oc
casionally caring and sincere presence that [the hero] has little choice
but to tolerate throughout time. Since he can become anyone or any
thing,heexhibitsawidevarietyofvoicesandpersonalities.[Thischar
acteris]asophisticatedeldervoiceintherangeofSeanConneryor
IanMcKellan,asGandalfinLordoftheRings,withcomedicundertones.
VocalQuality:shouldbeolderandwisesounding,butalsowithaCelt
ictypeaccent.
14
Thatneitheroftheseadvertsdescribevoicefromthepoeticoracoustic
perspectiveishardlysurprisingsincethejobsarentformusicologists,
singingteachersoracousticians;butthepaucityofaesthesicsoundde
scriptive words does seem a little strange just HIGHPITCHED and
WHINYforthecounsellorandnothingelse.Isthistypeofdescriptorless
relevantthanotherswhenadvertisingforavoicerelatingtoaspecific
dramaticpersonality?Toanswerthatquestionitsbesttohaveanover
viewofthebasiccategoriesofaesthesicvoicedescription.Thesecate
goriesarebasedonobservationsmadefrom:[1]studentcommentsin
popularmusicanalysisseminarssince1992;[2]onlinedescriptionsof
speakingandsingingvoices;[3]commentsfromavoicecastingagent
indirectresponsetospecificquestions(p. 359).
14
Examplesofdescrip
tors from these three sources are shown in Table 101 (pp. 356357)
wheretheyaregroupedintothefollowingthreeprincipalcategories.
13. voice123.com/lv/3093614.html [2006-04-20] (errors of English corrected).
14. ThankstoDawnHersheyofBlindlight(blindlight.com,December2007),forinvaluable
helpwithchartingvoicedescriptivelanguageinthecastingprofession.Thanksto
PeterDKaye(SantaMonica)forputtingmeintouchwithBlindlight.
Tagg:MusicsMeanings10.Vocalpersona 355
[1]SOUNDDESCRIPTORSdenoteperceivedqualitiesofsoundandareof
twotypes:[1a]DIRECTLYSOUNDDESCRIPTIVEADJECTIVESANDVERBS;[1b]
GENREDESCRIPTORSreferringtothemusicalstyleandbyextensiontothe
genreassociatedwithparticulartypesofvoice.
[2]TRANSMODAL/SYNAESTHETICMETAPHORSlikeROUGH,SMOOTH,VELVETY
and GRAVELLY connote sound on the basis of homologies from senses
otherthanhearing.Thesesynaestheticdescriptorsarelikeanaphones
15
inreverseinthattheydenotemainlykineticandtactilesensationsthat
aretransferredtotheperceptionofsound.
[3] PERSONA DESCRIPTORS seem to be the most common type of vocal
characterisation.Theycanbedividedintofoursubcategories.
Subcategory3ainTable101(p. 357),NAMEDPERSONSWITHDISTINCTIVE
VOICES,isoftenfoundinreviews,presumablytogivereadersanideaof
what sort of vocal sound to expect from a recording they have yet to
hear.MyunjustifiablydisparagingremarkthatPortisheadsBethGib
bons, in Western Eyes (1997), sounds like an underage Billie Holiday
belongstothisdescriptivesubcategory.
16
Subcategory 3b in Table 101, DEMOGRAPHIC DESCRIPTORS, covers the
gender and age, as well as the ethnic, cultural, social and economic
background, of the vocal persona in question. These descriptors are
verycommonincharacterisationsofbothsingingandspeakingvoices.
Subcategory 3c, PSYCHOLOGICAL, PSYCHOSOMATIC AND EMOTIONAL DE
SCRIPTORS(p. 356),arethemostcommonofall.Theyqualifyoralludeto
thefeelings,attitudeandmorality,andtothestateofmindorbodyof
thevocalpersonainquestion.
17
15. AnaphonesarediscussedindetailinChapter13,pp.487514.
16. Tagg&Clarida(2003: 456).
17. EarNoseThroatspecialistsdocumentlinksbetweenphonationandemotionalstate.
Dearyetal.,(2003: 374)describehow[v]oiceproductionissubjecttoandindicative
ofpsychologicalstatus.SeealsoMcHughMunieretal.(1997)onlinksbetweencop
ingstrategies,personalityandvoiceinfemalesubjects.
356 Tagg:MusicsMeanings10.Vocalpersona
Table 10-1. (a) Aesthesic voice description categories with examples
18

Subcategory3d,ARCHETYPALDESCRIPTORS,combinestraitsfromallthe
othercategoriesintopersonalitytropes,sometimesintheguiseofpro
fessions (priests, teachers, etc.), more often as narrative roles (heroes,
villains, victims, lovers, parents, sages, witches, wizards, fools, trick
sters, etc.). This subcategory has obvious advantages and drawbacks.
Consider,forexample,thefollowingextractfromareviewofthe2005
AudioBullysalbumGeneration.
[T]he intro welcomes back Simon Franks potsmoking, pillpopping,
wifebeating,bottlelobbing,yesIdoliveonacouncilestatethankyou
verymuch,vocalpersona
19
1. Sound descriptors
1a.Directly
sound
descriptive
adjectives
andverbs
highpitched,
*
whiny;*squeaky,booming,lowpitched,deep,full
throated,gruff,breathy,husky,guttural,distinct,harsh,indistinct,
muffled,plaintive,rasping,roaring,shrill,stammering,loud,declam
atory,soft,quiet,monotone,lispy,birdlike,hoarse,throaty.
* Wordtakenfromthevoiceoveradscitedonpage354.
babble,bark,bawl,belch,bellow,bleat,blubber,boom,buzz,cackle,
caterwaul,chant,chatter,chuckle,chirp,cluck,complain,cough,
croak,croon,cry,declaim,denounce,drone,exclaim,gargle,gasp,gig
gle,growl,grumble,gurgle,hiccup,hiss,hoot,howl,hum,lament,
laugh,lilt,moan,mumble,mutter,praise,preach,proclaim,pro
nounce,quack,quip,rant,rap,recite,roar,scream,screech,shout,
shriek,sigh,snap[at],snarl,snigger,snore,snort,sob,spit,splutter,
squawk,squeak,stammer,stutter,twitter,ululate,wail,warble,weep,
wheeze,whimper,whine,whinge,whisper,whistle,whoop,yammer,
yap,yawn,yell,yelp,yowl
1b.Genre
specific
descriptors
e.g.bluesshouter,Bollywoodvocalist,cantautore,cantor,chanson
nier,crooner,deathmetalgrowler,dramaticballadstar,fadista,folk
singer,gospelartist,Irishtenor,jazzvocalist,lyricalsoprano,muezzin,
operadiva,payador,rapper,singersongwriter,troubadour
2. Transmodal descriptors (anaphonic/synaesthetic descriptors)
abrasive,angular,bouncy,brassy,clean,clear,creamy,effortless,full(bodied),grainy,
gravelly,hollow,laidback,meaty,piercing,rasping,relaxed,robotic,rough,rounded,
sandpapery,scratchy,shaky,sharp,smooth,stilted,strained,sweet,textured,thick,
thin,velvety,wobbly,
18. Theaesthesicdescriptorsinthistablearemerelyexamplesthatinnowayconstitutea
reliablescientificsample,letaloneanexhaustivelisting.
19. ReviewbyJamilAhmadmusicomh.com/albums/audio-bullys_1005.htm [070225].
Tagg:MusicsMeanings10.Vocalpersona 357
Table 10-1. (b) Aesthesic voice description categories with examples
18

EventhoughPOTSMOKING,PILLPOPPING,WIFEBEATINGandBOTTLELOB
BINGmayderivefromtheduoslyrics,thoseepithetsalsoconnotethe
sortofvoicemanyurbanUKresidentswould,in2005,associatewith
(male)slobbehaviour(uneducated,careless,thoughtless,selfcentred),
notleastbecausetheactivitiesofwifebeatingandbottlelobbingimply
aparticular(andparticularlyimpaired)emotionalstate,aswellasspe
cific body postures, breathing patterns, etc.
20
Restricting ourselves to
wordslistedinTable101,itsmuchmorelikelythatthevocalpersona
in question is loud and booming rather than soft or muffled, brassy
3. Persona descriptors
3a.Named
personswith
distinctive
voices
e.g.SeanConneryorIanMcKellan;*ClintEastwood,theCLINTEAST
WOODISDIRTYHARRYguy,TheSmurfs,DonaldDuck,R2D2,Richard
Attenborough,OrsonWelles,MorganFreedman,BillieHoliday;Elvis
Presley,Adele,KateBush,Bjrk,MariaCallas,ElbaRamalho
3b.Demo
graphic
e.g.|female,male;|veryold,around70,middleaged,older;young,
child|Celticaccent;AfricanAmerican,French,Asian,Southern
[US],British,upperclass,workingclass,wellspoken,fromthecoun
try/slums,slang,regionalaccent
3c.
Psycho
logical,
psycho
somatic&
emotional
traits
meanswell*,caring*,sincere*,kind,friendly|cute,cuddly,sweet,nice
|wise,intelligent,controlled,confident,regal|arrogant,dramatic,
overthetop,extravert,provocative,ecstatic,orgasmic|willful,deter
mined,courageous|energetic,flamboyant,bubbly,cheeky,cheery,
comical*,coquette,jaunty,playful,keen,eager,sassy,interested|inter
esting,complicated,quirky,annoying,*bothersome,*eccentric,car
toony|hip,cool,sophisticated,*sensual,seductive,sexy|vulnerable,
embarrassed,scared,edgy,nervous,angry,frustrated,irritated,exas
perated,bitter|dark,mysterious,introvert|sad,depressed,heart
broken,miserable,anguished|melancholy,bored,bland,nonde
script,neutral|intimate,subdued,laidback,relaxed,softspoken,
humble,simple,innocent,childlike|angelic,ethereal|raw,rude,
tough,rugged,gritty,macho,aggressive|devious,slimy,sleazy,
nasty,evil,petty|sardonic,sarcastic,*drywit,*ironic,acerbic
3d.
Professions,
rolesand
archetypes
witch,*counsellor,*DruidPriest,*guide,*elder*|littlegirl,heroine,
leadingwoman,lovingmother,devotedwife|evilqueen,witch,vio
lentbitch,prettyprincess,Barbiedoll,vamp|villain,bigboss,gang
ster,lagerlout,hooligan,dirtyoldman|littleboy,hero,fatherfigure,
leadingman,wiseoldman|monster,alien,robot|sissy,miser,imp,
evilchild,suicidalstudent,nervousteenager,wiseguy,nerd,geek.
20. Thisvoicehasalotincommonwiththenarcissisticaggressivetype(Benis,2005).
358 Tagg:MusicsMeanings10.Vocalpersona
rather than wobbly, workingclass rather than upperclass, arrogant
ratherthanhumble,overthetopratherthansubdued,etc.,infactthe
sortofvoiceassociatedwithfootball(soccer)hooligans(typicallyloud,
male and workingclass) and lager louts (vocally similar to football
hooligansbutwithbottlelobbingasalikelyadditionaltrait).
TheadvantageofepithetslikeBOTTLELOBBINGandLAGERLOUTisthat
theyeachencapsulateinasingleconceptawealthofbehavioural,psy
chosocial and vocal characteristics. The disadvantage is that descrip
torslikeLAGERLOUTareculturallyrestrictive:onlythosefamiliarwith
particularaspectsofUKpopularcultureinthepostThatchererawill
grasptherelevantsocialandvocalimplications.Asforthefinalepithet,
theYESIDOLIVEONACOUNCILESTATETHANKYOUVERYMUCHvocalper
sona, it would take another chapter to convincingly explain COUNCIL
ESTATE and its relevant connotations, yet another to provide a viable
sociolinguistic analysis of YES I DO LIVE and the final THANK YOU
VERYMUCH.
21
Inshort,whilethesemanticefficiencyofsuchepithetsis
undeniablewithinarestrictedsocioculturalsphere,theirconnotations
may well be meaningless to the rest of humanity, unless adequate
equivalentscanbeidentifiedinotherculturalcontexts.
22

Despite problems of cultural specificity, there is little doubt that aes
thesic descriptors are in much wider general use than their poetic or
acoustic counterparts and that persona descriptors, especially the de
mographic, psychological and archetypal subcategories, are particu
larlypopular.ThisobservationwassubstantiatedbyDawnHershey,a
Hollywood professional specialising in vocal casting for video games
and animated productions for film and TV. Here are two abbreviated
extractsfromemailcorrespondenceIhadwithDawnonthesubject.
23
21. Heresadrasticallysimplifiedandpallidsummaryofimpliedconnotationswith
whoselogicIdontnecessarilyagree.Councilestatesareareasoflowcostrentable
housingintheUK.Livingonacouncilestateimplieslowereconomicandeduca
tionalstatus.ProclaimingyesIdoliveonacouncilstateimpliesbeingproudofnot
aspiringtohighersocialstatus.Addingthankyouverymuchtothestatementis
ironic.Thespeakerseemsproudtobeignorant,happytobeaslob,etc.
22. Formoreonthisrecurrentproblemofculturalspecificityinaesthesicdenotation,see
thewetechoissueonpage216.
23. ThankstoDawnHersheyofBlindlight(blindlight.com,December2007).
Tagg:MusicsMeanings10.Vocalpersona 359
Whatproblemsdo[producers]haveindescribingthetypeofvoicetheywant?
Thebiggestproblemtheyhavewhentheyfirstcontactmeisthatthey
describe body type, hair color [etc.] I often need to ask more ques
tions,suchasage,accent,vocalquality,personalitytraits,quirks,and
temperament
Howoftendoyouortheyrefertovoicesintermsofcharacterarchetypes?
Almostalways.MostfrequentlyrequestedareLITTLEBOY,LITTLEGIRL,20S
HEROINE, 20S HERO, LEADING MAN, EVIL QUEEN, VILLAIN, MONSTER, ALIEN,
SOLDIER,WISEOLDMAN,BIGBOSS,FATCAT,GANGSTER.
Ofcourse,noneoftheaesthesicvocaldescriptioncategoriesdiscussed
sofararemutuallyexclusive.Forexample,aparticularkindofWITCH
voice (description category 3d) might also be described as HIGH
PITCHED and CACKLING (category 1), SCRATCHY and PIERCING (2), as
soundinglikeanANGRYandEVIL(3c)EIGHTYYEAROLD(3b)versionof
theANNETTEBENNINGCHARACTERINAMERICANBEAUTY(3a).Moreover,
manydescriptorsbridgetwoormorecategories:RASPING,forexample,
maybemostcommonlyusedtoqualifysound(category1),buttheact
ofrasping(usingaraspasacoarsefileintheoriginalsenseoftheword)
has as much to do with touch and movement (category 2) as with
sound. Similar observations apply to words like SCRATCHY, PIERCING,
CLEAN,SHAKY,STRAINEDandGRAVELLY.Infactthetheideabehindintro
ducingthecategoriesjustmentionedisnttocreatesomesortofwater
tight taxonomy a fruitless task in view of musics synaesthetic
properties(p. 62ff.)buttoprovideinsightsintothevariouswaysthat
vocalsoundispopularlyperceivedanddescribedonaneverydayba
sis.Theaimofthatexerciseisinitsturntodevelopricherandmorenu
anceddescriptionsofwhatavocalsoundcancommunicate.
Asendnotetothissectionitsworthmentioningtherichstoreofvocal
personasexploitedinconsumeristpropaganda.Youonlyneedthinkof
the MOTIVATIONAL FOOTBALL COACH voice hyperventilating about all
thefantasticbargains(Only99.99!Andthatsnotall!Hurry!
Get yours now!, etc.), or of the HARDBOILED SERIOUSBUSINESS TOUGH
MANofactionfilmtrailers(CLINTEASTWOODISDIRTYHARRYetc.)toget
the idea. Then theres the FEMALE BESTFRIEND voice telling the girls
how to lose weight by buying lowfat cereal brand X, the HUSKY
360 Tagg:MusicsMeanings10.Vocalpersona
TONGUEINYOUREARvoiceseducingyoutobuysupersilkyshampooY
ortostuffyourfacewithsupersmoothcreamychocolateZ.Anddont
forget the CHEERFUL BUT MATTEROFFACT YOUNG MOTHER enthusing
aboutsupermarketAormicrowavemealbrandB.Thelistcouldgoon
forever.Thepointisthatthissupplyofregrettablyrecurrentandoften
regressivevocalstereotypesincommodityfetishismcanbeaveryuse
fulsourceofvocalpersonadescriptors,aslongasyouresharingyour
observationsaboutvoice,spokenorsung,withothersinvoluntarilyex
posedtothesamesadsortofconsumeristculture.
24

Vocalcostume
[C]lothingforaparticularactivityoranactorsclothesforapartare,
accordingtoTheOxfordConciseEnglishDictionary(1995),twocommon
meanings of the word COSTUME. With expressions like NATIONAL COS
TUME, notions of group identity are added to the concept. In simple
termsofperception,someonewearingaswimmingcostumeisproba
bly dressed for swimming (although it may be just a photo shoot),
someone wearing the garb of a sixteenthcentury Italian nobleman
might be acting in Shakespeares Romeo and Juliet (or just going to a
fancy dress party), and a man in a tartan kilt and tweed jacket might
haveintimatetieswiththeScottishHighlands(orbe atartanryfake).
COSTUMEisetymologicallyrelatedtoCUSTOM(aparticularestablished
wayofbehaving)andsemanticallytothenounUNIFORM,meaningdis
tinctiveclothingwornbymembersofthesamebody,i.e.anothertype
ofcostumesignallinggroupidentity.
Vocalcostume
25
isametaphoricalexpressionmeaningthoseaspectsof
phonationservingthethreesamesortsoffunctionasliteralcostumes
do:[1]tomoreeasilycarryoutaparticularactivity;[2]toassumearole
ortoactapart;[3]tosignalaparticulargroupidentityand/ortocon
form to a given set of cultural norms. Vocal costumes are something
peopleputonlikeclothesforanyorallofthereasonsjustmentioned:
24. Adsforthesameproductareoftenmarketeddifferentlyfordifferenttargetgroups.
SeealsoculturalspecificityofLAGERLOUT(p.358)andWETECHO(p. 216).
25. Ittookayearofsporadicreflexiontocomeupwiththetermvocalcostume.Vocal
mould,uniform,habitus,template,etc.werealldumpedforavarietyofreasons.
Tagg:MusicsMeanings10.Vocalpersona 361
theyareusedonaneverydaybasisinbothspeakingandsinging,as,I
hope,thenextsectionwillillustrate.
Spokencostumes
PHONE VOICES provide a rich resource for studying vocal costumes,
mostprobablybecausetalkingonthephoneinvolvesaparticulartype
ofsensorydislocation.Itsonetooneaudiocloseup(ifthelineisgood)
butwithoutthevisual,kineticandpotentiallytactileaspectsofoneto
onecloseencounters.Aphonecalltakesplaceintheintimateacoustic
spacedeterminedbytheminimaldistancesbetweenearpieceandear
drum,betweenlipsandmouthpiece.Likeitornot,weareatsonickiss
ing distance from our telephonic interlocutor down the road or on
another continent. Such sensory dislocation may be less problematic
whenphoningfriendsandfamilybutitrequirescorrectivemeasures
if were on the phone to someone we dont know, maybe talking to a
representative for a large corporation or public institution. In these
typesoftelephoneencountervocalcostumescancomeinhandy.
When phones were a novelty in UK homes after World War II, many
peopleofmyparentsgenerationputonaspecialvocalcostumewhen
answeringthephone.Itwasamoreposh,moreofficialsoundingvoice
whosediction,vowelsoundsandintonationresembledthatofBBCra
dio announcers or newsreaders of the day. These closely miked but
widelybroadcast official voices, byoccupying thepublicspace ofthe
thencontemporarymedia,seemtohavebeentakentorepresentasort
ofcommongroundforcloseupspeakingwithwhicheveryonewasfa
miliar.Ofcourse,sincethisvocalcostumewasalsothatoftheoldBrit
ishestablishment,itwasnotthemostcomfortableclothingtowearand
wasusuallydroppedwhenthepersonattheotherendofthelinewas
identifiedasmorefriendsandfamilythanauthority.Moreover,the
oldestablishment BBC voice later became an anomaly in the wake of
socioeconomic change leading to the use of other vocal costumes.
Technologicaldevelopmentplayedacentralroleinthisprocess.
Asthenumberofradiochannelsincreased,andasTVandhifirecord
ings became part of both individual and domestic acoustic space, the
362 Tagg:MusicsMeanings10.Vocalpersona
repertoireofcloselymikedbutwidelydisseminatedvoicetypesavail
ableforuseasvocalcostumesexpandedradically.Consumeristpropa
gandawasnotslowtostartusingparticularvoicetypescorresponding
totheintersubjectivelyverifiableandexploitabledesiresofaparticular
demographic. Those voice types are often used today in automatic
phone dialogue and voice recognition systems. Or, as one EU
fundedeCommercedocumentputsit:
26
Advertisersadoptdifferentstrategiesdependingontheproductthey
aresellingandtheintendedaudience.Thesameistrueforcreatingau
tomatedtelephoneservicedialogues.Twoofthe[phoneanswering]
personalities [John and Kate] were created with the intention that
theywouldportrayyounger,morestreetwise[bank]agentsandthere
forewouldappealtoyoungerusers.
Thissortofvocalcostumemarketinghasledtotelecommunicationsca
tastrophes like Simone (Virgin Mobile USA), Claire (Sprint), Julie
(Amtrak)andEmily(BellCanada).Whileeachpreprogrammedvo
calpersonainitiallysoundslikeanattractive,engaging,educated,help
fulyoungwoman,sheturnsout,intherealityofdialogue,tohavethe
brainsofapeaandthesociolinguisticskillsofadrainpipe.Soblindis
thefaithofcorporationsinthehocuspocusofvocalpseudopersonali
sationthathugeamountsofconsumertimeandcorporatemoneyare
wasted by replacing human beings with machines.
27
That said, al
thoughJohn,Kate,Simone,Claire,JulieandEmilyaremerevo
caldrapescoveringdummiesinasonicshopwindow,vocalcostumes
canservesomepurpose,eveninsidethefieldoftelephony,aslongas
nofalseclaimsaremadeaboutinteractivedialoguesystems.Forex
ample,callingMilansRadioTaxi8585in2008triggeredaholdmessage
advisingyounottoloseyourplaceinthephonequeue.Therecorded
voicesoundedlikethatofacoquettishfemalesecretarywithahidden
laughofflirtatiouscomplicityinhertone;or,asaMilanesefriendputit:
ItsasifshessayingtomalecustomerswhoknowswhatyouandI
couldgetuptowhileyouwait?Itsnotthevoiceofamotherthat
26. Spotlightproject199910314:MassMarketeCommerceServicesusingMultilan
guageNaturalSpokenDialoguesspotlight.ccir.ed.ac.uk/ [080224].
27. BellsEmily(2003)cost$10million;seespeechtechmag.com/Articles/Editorial~Fea-
ture~Its-a-Persona,-Not-a-Personality-36311.aspxandtagg.org/zmisc/FidoCallTranscr.htm.
Tagg:MusicsMeanings10.Vocalpersona 363
wouldsoundtoooldorofawifebecausethatwouldbenofun.Its
closertothevoiceofanattractiveandwellspokenloverTheyassume
ofcoursethatmostcustomersaremeninneedofflattery.
28

Outside the weird world of brandfixated, marketdriven automated


telephony,vocalcostumesaresimplyaveryrealpartofeverydaylife.
Ifyouhavetoaddressacrowdofpeopleandtheresnomicrophone,or
if you have to keep order in a primary school class, or if you have to
makeyourbidheardinacapitalistcasino(stockexchange),youllhave
toputonavocalcostumetodoyourjobandtoavoidcausinglongterm
damagetoyourlarynx.Hopefully,youllchangeintoasofter,happier,
more singsong costume (motherese) when you talk to your baby
child, into something less lilting when you have to answer important
jobinterviewquestions,intosomethingmoreCONTRITEYETCOMPETENT
when you have to explain why you are late delivering work to your
boss, and so on. Or perhaps youre a psychoanalyst dealing with a
highlystrungpatient,inwhichcaseyoumaywellbetemptedtoputon
yourpsychologistsVOCALVALIUMcostume.Ifyoudo,yourpatientwill
hopefullybelesslikelytothrowafitand,evenifhe/shedoesstartkick
ingandscreaming,youcanatleastpretendtokeepyourcalm.
Attentive readers will already have noted that PUBLIC SPEAKING voice,
PRIMARY SCHOOL TEACHER voice, a lilting PARENT voice (motherese),
29
the PSYCHOLOGIST voice (vocal valium) and the EARNEST INTERVIEWEE
voice are all aesthesic vocal descriptors, more precisely persona de
scriptors designating professions, roles or archetypes.
30
Those labels
actasshorthandnotjustforatypeofperson(teacher,trader,psycholo
gist,parent,etc.)butalsoforthetypeofvoiceassociatedwiththattype
ofpersoninparticularcircumstances.Onefinalexampleofspokenvo
calcostumeshouldclarifytheissueonceandforall.
BeforeIfirstwentsearchingforvocalpersonarelatedconceptsin2005,
IdneverheardoftheGIRLFRIENDVOICE.TheonlineUrbanDictionaryde
28. ThankstoAlessandraGallone(Milan)foransweringquestionsaboutprerecorded
phonevoicesinItaly[080225].Stiamocercandoilvostrotaxi.Restateinlineaper
nonperderelaprioritacquisitaiswhattheflirtingsecretaryvoicesays.
29. Moreaboutsingsongmothereseonpage368.
30. SeeTable101,p. 357,subcategory3d.
364 Tagg:MusicsMeanings10.Vocalpersona
finesitas[t]hechangeinpitchortoneofamansvoicewhentalkingto
theirsignificantother.
31
Thedictionarycontinues:
Thegirlfriendvoiceischaracterisedbya higherpitch and amoreef
feminatetonewithspeechpatternsscatteredwithpetnamesandchild
ishwords.Thistypeofspeechisusuallyfrowneduponwhenusedin
the presence of other men. When he answers his phone and its a
guy,heuseshisnormalvoice,butwhenheseesthatitshisgirlfriend
calling,hisvoiceinstantlyclimbsseveraloctavesandacquiresawhiny,
pleasedontbemadatmetone.Hesalsothekindofguywho,when
he gets on the phone with his girl, immediately walks away from the
group,leavestheroom,ortellseverybodytoshutupsohecantalk.
Evenifseveraloctavesisagrossexaggeration,thisexplanationofthe
girlfriendvoiceprovidesaclearexampleofallthreefunctionsofvocal
costume. It involves traits of phonation that firstly enable the man
adoptingittomoreeasilycarryoutaparticularactivity,inthiscasethatof
talkingtohissignificantotherinthewayheimagineswillpleaseher.
Secondly,thesamemanvocallyassumestheroleandactsthepartofboy
friendratherthanthatofoneoftheguys.Thirdly,hesignalsthathe
belongstothesocialsphereofthecouplebyvocallyconformingtothecul
tural norms of conversation considered appropriate for that sphere of
interaction,eventotheextentofwalkingawayfromhismalepeersand
tellingthemtoshutup.
Sungcostumes
Althoughpitch,loudness,timbreandtempoareparametersofexpres
sioncommontobothspeechandmusic,andalthoughprosodyisakey
element in musics crossdomain mode of representation (p. 62 ff.),
32
there is apparently no language unable to distinguish in some clear
waybetweenwhatwecallspeakingandsinging.
33
Ifthatisso,whats
theactualdifferencebetweenthetwo?
31. urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=girlfriend+voice [080224].
32. Forneurologicalbasisofthesesimilarities,seezdemiretal.(2006).
33. [I]tisusuallyeasytotellwhensomeonestartssinging.Anthropologistssaythisis
trueinallcultures.(Sparshott,1997:199).
Tagg:MusicsMeanings10.Vocalpersona 365
Singingascostume
Differences between speaking and singing can be understood in two
generalways:[1]intermsofuse,function,contextandconnotation;[2]
insonicterms.Wellstartwiththefirstofthose.
If someone changes vocal mode from talking to singing you can say
theyburstintosongbutnooneeversaysthattheyburstintospeech
fromsongbecausespeechisinmostsituationsthedefaultvocalmode.
Theideaofsongasanexceptional,specialorheightenedformofvocal
expressioncanbeunderstoodinfourways.
1. Beingairborne.Thisisthepopularnotionofsongasvocalexpres
sionatliterallyahigherlevel,eitherasair(AIRisasynonymand
aria(=air)theItalianforatune),orassomethingcarryingusupinto
theair,sothatweareborneonthewingsofsong,flying(volare),
singing(cantare),intheblue(nelblu),happytobeupthere(felice
distarelass),etc.
34

2. Specialoccasions.PeopleintheurbanWesttendtosingmoreonspe
cialoccasionsthanintheirdaytodaylives.Wedontusuallyburst
intosongwhilefillingouttaxreturnsorhavinglunchwithwork
mates;butwemightwellsingatbirthdays,weddings,funerals,the
NewYear,oronanightoutinakaraokeclub.Wearealsomore
likelytosinginpatrioticorreligiouscontextswheresomeaspectof
ritualisedtranscendenceistheorderoftheday.
35

3. Heightenedemotion.Circumstancesofheightenedemotionsuchas
lullingyourlittlechildtosleep,fallinginoroutoflove,righteous
indignation,eroticarousal,deepsympathyorsorrow,painfulsepa
ration,greatelation,bitterresentment,angryalienation,wondrous
amazement,blissfulcontentment,etc.aremoreliabletobringona
34. High,high,likeabirdinthesky(Abba,1977b).ForWingsofSong(AufFlgelndes
Gesnges):seeMendelssohn(1833).Flying,singing,etc.isaliteraltranslationofthe
hooklinesinVolare/Nelbludipintodiblu(Modugno,1958).Volareisoneofthemost
frequentlycoveredpostwarsongs.The1958DeanMartinversionincludesother
vocallyairbornelines:Letsflywayuptotheclouds,Awayfromthemaddening
crowds,Nowondermyhappyheartsings,Yourlovehasgivenmewings,etc.
SeealsotheextremelypopularGipsyKingsversionontheCDMosaque(1989).
35. Suchvocaltranscendenceoccursinreligiousandnationalisticritual(e.g.Christmas,
internationalsportsevents),aswellasingrouptribalistsituationslikefootball(soc
cer)matches,e.g.YoullNeverWalkAlone(LiverpoolFC,1972).
366 Tagg:MusicsMeanings10.Vocalpersona
songthanwhatyoufeelwhenreadinganinstructionmanualor
attendingacommitteemeeting.Puttersely,itcanbeworthmaking
asonganddanceaboutsomeexperiencesbutnotaboutothers.
36

4. Religiouschanting.BeforetheadventofPAsystems,speakingwas
forcenturiesreplacedbychantinginreverbrichvenueslikecathe
dralsandlargemosques.TheWordofGodmerelyspokenbyan
officiantundersuchacousticconditionscouldeasilyendupasan
incomprehensiblesonicblurintheearsofthecongregation.
37
The
fixedpitchesandmeasureddeliveryofchantinghelpedovercome
thisprosaicproblem.Thishistoricalobservationreinforcesthe
notionofsongastranscendent,moreotherworldlythanspeech.
Althoughthosefourobservationsclearlysuggestthatsongisaspecial
orheightenedmodeofvocalisation,itcouldalsobearguedthatsinging
is more downtoearth, more somatic, or at least more directly emo
tional,thantalking,thedominantordefaultmodeofvocalinteraction
amonggrownups.However,justasfallinginlovecanberegardedas
regression to emotions of infancy and at the same time an important
step forwards in the personal development of adults,
38
singing pro
vides an instantaneous direct connection between, on the one hand,
preverbaland/ornonverbal(infantand/oranimal)vocalisationand,on
theother,verbalvocalisation,allinthesociallyconstructedculturalen
vironmentofamusicalgenre.
39

36. Formoreonbasicdifferencesbetweensingingandtalking,seeSparshott(1997),
37. Thisphenomenoncanbestillbeobservedtoday,evenwithPAsystemsinplace.For
example,announcementsinlargeVictorianrailwaystationscanbeverydifficultto
understand.Theyaremoredecipherableinlessreverbrichplaceslikeairportsand
supermarkets,evenincathedralsifdecentspeakersareplaced,asinYorkMinster,at
headheightoneverypillarinthenave.
38. Fallinginlove(Wikipedia)referringtoGordon(2008:xivxv)andSalonia(1991:58).
39. Whatpassesasmusicorsinginginonecultureneednotcorrespondwithphe
nomenalabelledsimilarlyinanother.Forexample,ifIvisitaMuslimownedcorner
shopatthetimeoftheeveningcalltoprayer,Iheartherecordedmuezzinsinging,
butsince,accordingtoclericslikeImamAbuHanifah,singingisharam(forbidden,
anabomination)islamnewsroom.com/news-we-need/493 [120124],Icannotbehearing
song.Muslimdefinitionsofsongmay,however,bechanging,atleastiftheBBC
reportIstanbulstunelessmuezzinsgetvoicetraining(20100511)isanythingtogo
bynews.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/8665977.stm [120124].Ineithercase,theobserva
tionaboutsocioculturalspecificityofwhatpassesforsongisstillvalid.
Tagg:MusicsMeanings10.Vocalpersona 367
Turningtosonicdifferencesbetweenspeechandsong,itspossibleto
makethefollowingfivegeneralobservationsabouttypicaltraits.
1. Singingismoretonalthantalking:sungpitchesarelongerand,if
freefromwidevibrato,morestablethanspokenpitches.
2. Whenwordsaresung,vowels(and,sometimes,voicedcontinu
ants)tendtobecomelongerwhiledurationsofnoncontinuant,
unvoicedconsonantsremainmuchclosertothoseofspeech.
40
3. Sungstatements(phrases)tendtobelongerandmorefluidthan
thoseofspeech.
4. Disjointed,staccatodeliverycontainingshortbreaksislesscom
moninsongthaninspeech,whilebreaksbetweenphrasesorperi
odsaregenerallylongerinsongthaninspeech.
5. Singingusesmoreregularandrecurrentpatternsofaccentuation,
metreandperiodicitythandoesspeech.
There are of course hybrid vocal modes mixing traits from both speech
andsong.Imthinkinghereoffoursuchmodes:metricchanting,recit
ative,intonedchantingandSprechgesang.
1. InMETRICCHANTINGspeechreplacesthetonaltraitsofsongwhile
rhythmicandmetrictraitsofsongremainintact,asinrap,inthe
scannedslogansofstreetdemonstrations,andinsometypesof
poetryreading.
2. InRECITATIVE(recitativo sungsolodialogueinoperaororatorio)
thetonaltraitsofsong(fixedpitches)areretainedandafull
melodictonalrangeisinoperationbutspeechrhythmreplacesthat
ofsongandthereisnoclearmusicalmetre(parlando;senzamisura).
3. InINTONEDCHANTING,where,asinrecitative,speechrhythmsdom
inateandthetonaltraitsofsongareinclearevidence,melodic
rangeiseitherveryrestricted(sometimestojustonenote)and/or
highlyformulaic(e.g.consistingofastartmotif,arecitationtone
andafinalmotif).Nonmetricpsalmandcanticlesinging,syna
goguecantillation,aswellasQuranicrecitationandcallstoprayer
areallexamplesofintonedchanting.Incantationusuallytakesthe
formofintonedchanting.
41
40. Voicedcontinuants:/n/,/n/etc.;unvoicedcontinuants:/l/,/s/etc;noncontinuant
voicedconsonants:/b/,/d/,/g/etc.Unvoicedconsonants(/p/,/I/,/k/etc.)consonants
areproportionallyevenshorterbecausetheycannotbesung.
368 Tagg:MusicsMeanings10.Vocalpersona
4. InSPRECHGESANG,atechniqueusedonlybyindividualvoices,pitch
rangecanbeextensive,theoverallpitchprofileofaphrasewell
definedandtherhythmicpatterningmoresimilartothatofsong
thanspeech,buttheindividualpitchesofeachsyllableareunfixed
andmuchclosertothosetypicalofspeech.
42

Toendthissectionitsworthconsideringtheuseofsungtonesoncer
tainwordsineverydayspeech.Oneofthemostcommonexamplesin
standard UK English must surely be the sudden application of sing
songmothereseintonation,featuringadescendingthird
43
deliveredin
ahighishregister,ontoaparticulardisyllabicinutteranceslike:Baby
gobyebyes!,Ohoh!,Thatsnaughty,Youllbesorry!,[I]loveyou!,
Boring!(singsongdisyllabicsinitalics).Thisuseofoverintonedkid
diespeak can have effects ranging from humorous and childish to
rudeandpatronising.Howsucheffectsarecreatedandwhytheyare
usedwouldbethesubjectofanotherentirebook.Thepointhereisthat
there is a momentary but marked change from normal speech into
song,intoademonstrablydifferentvocalisationmodetocreateapar
ticulareffect.
Talkingisdefinitelymorecommonthansinging.Thatswhy,whenwe
burstintosong,wereadoptingaspecialhumanmodeofvocalisation
in a way that to some extent resembles changing clothes for a special
occasion.Itsinthatsensepossibletothinkofsingingitselfasavocal
costume.Now,theresmoretoitthanthatbecausetheresacleardiffer
encebetweenthegeneralsingingcostumethatweveallwornatsome
timeandthatofasingerperformingforanaudience.However,since
musicsemioticsratherthanpsychosocialroleanalysisisatthecoreof
41. EnchantmentandincantationbothderivefromLatinincantare,meaningliterallyto
sing(cantare)someoneinto(in)anotherstateofmind.
42. Sprechgesang(literally=speechsong)originallymeantwhatIjustcalledrecitative.
SprechstimmewasthetermSchnbergandBergwouldhaveusedtodenotewhat
mostpeopletodaycallSprechgesang.Act3scene4ofBergsWozzeck(1925)contains
dramaticexamplesofSprechgesang(e.g.Blut!DasWasseristblut!).Sprechgesangis
morewidelyknownasthemeasuredtalkingvoiceoftenusedinasidesbyGerman
cabaretartistslikeLotteLenyainDreigroschenOpfer(Weill,1928).Thetechniquewas
parodiedbyMadeleineKahninTiredfromBlazingSaddles(1974).
43. Minorormajorthird.Adescendingminorthirdisthesameintervalastheding
dongFriedlanddoorchimesusedinUSsitcomsc.1960:Honey,Imhoome!
Tagg:MusicsMeanings10.Vocalpersona 369
thisbook,Illleaveissuesofvocalstardomtocolleaguesinmediastud
iesandfocushereonvocalcostumeandpersonaintermsoflinksbe
tweenmusicassoundanditsperceivedmeanings.
Suitingupforopera
Many vocal costumes used in singing relate to the first definition of
COSTUME(p.360)inthesenseofwhatyouweartocarryoutaparticular
task(theswimmingcostumefunction).CLASSICALOPERASINGING,for
example,demandstechniquesofbreathing,dictionandphonational
lowingtheunmikedvoicetobeprojectedacrosstheorchestrapitand
stalls to reach listeners high up and far away in the opera house bal
cony.Itcantakeyearsoftrainingtomasterthesesomaticamplification
andprojectiontechniques.Insidethattraditiontherearecostumevari
antslikethedramaticsoprano,theheroictenor;andinside,oracross,
thosecategoriesthereareidiosyncraticdifferencesofvocaltimbreand
style letting youdistinguishbetween,say,dramatictenorslike Pavar
otti, Domingo and Carreras. If you enjoy and listen to a lot of opera
youllhearthosedifferencesinstantaneously;ifnot,youmaywellhear
nomorethangenericmaleoperasingers.
44

AlthoughIoughttoknowbetter,Ivealwayshadaproblemwithclas
sicaloperasdislocationofvocalsoundfromnarrativerealityandpsy
chologicalverisimilitude.Imthinkinghereofthefollowingtwotypes
ofintimatescene.[1]Onstageloversembraceandperformaduetde
claringtheirundyingdevotiontoeachother.Thispatentlyprivatedec
laration is even more patently public because the soloists belt out the
duetforthebenefitoflistenersfiftymetresawayinthebalcony,notfor
the narratively realistic nearest and dearest partner who, if the role
and situation were real, would surely take offense if his/her beloved
weretobellowinhis/herear.[2]Aheroineinasmallroombreathesher
last fewfaint breaths but nevertheless manages to muster maximum
lungpowertoperformafinalariaforalargecrowdinalargeaudito
44. Avisualanalogy:trydistinguishingatadistancebetweenuniformedsoldiersina
group.Ifyoudontknowthenicetiesofrankindicatedbyminordifferencesontheir
uniforms,orifyoucantseetherelevantinsignia,andifyoudontknowthesoldiers
asindividuals,youdbehardpushedtotellalancecorporalfromasecondlieuten
ant,letalonepickoutSteve,Dave,KieranorevenAmyfromtherestofthecompany.
370 Tagg:MusicsMeanings10.Vocalpersona
rium.
45
Suchoperaticanomalies,howeversillytheymayseem,aresim
plydramaticconventionsthatcauseoperaloversnoproblem.Afterall,
it could be argued, the sheer power and drama of operatic vocal cos
tumecanbeheardascongruentwiththepowerofemotionsfeltinsuch
dramatic circumstances as falling in love or dying: both are in that
senseworthshoutingabout.Theanomaliesareinfactnomoreabsurd
thanthoseofhearingextremevocalcloseupscarryingintimatelyrics
thataresung,recordedandbroadcastorsoldtomillionsofpeopleall
overtheworld.
SowhydoI,andmanyothersbesidesme,accept,withoutbattingan
eyelid,PeterGabrielsdubbingofawhisperontoafullthroatedvocal
linethevoicesimultaneouslyinsidetheheadandoutloud(p. 311)
butnotoperaswayofdealingvocallywiththedynamicbetweeninter
nalprivatesubjective and externalpublicobjective aspects of expres
sion?
46
Ithinkmyproblemwithoperatreatmentofthatdualitystems
from being born a generation after the invention of coil microphones
andtheamplificationtechniquesthatbroughtsingingvoicesupclose
totheearsofindividuallisteners.Havingreachedadulthoodintheera
ofmultitrackrecording,Imsimplyusedtohearingavocalistbreathe,
whisper,croonandsoon,notjustdeclaim,exclaimorproclaim.Iex
pectintimacytosoundintimate.
47

The wealth of vocal detail audible, and manipulable, through multi


trackrecordingisaprerequisitefortheinfinitevarietyofvocalperso
naswhichhavebecomekeyelementsintheaestheticsofpopularmu
sic.Thisisatopictowhichwellshortlyreturn(p.376).Here,though,
it serves as an example of how differences in the perception of vocal
costume,and,byextension,inthefunctionsandmeaningofthatcos
tume, can arise. Put simply, lovers of classical opera hear operatic
voices as standard VOCAL CLOTHING SUITED TO A PARTICULAR ACTIVITY
45. Examples:theloveduetattheendofAct1inVerdisOtello(1887);theheroines
deathariaCononormuoreinAct3ofMadameButterfly(Puccini,1904).Forillustra
tionoftheproblemIhavewithattitudestooperasingingtrytheFlorenceFoster
JenkinscollectedrecordingsMurderontheHighCs(n.d./2003).
46. SeealsoformalandinformalzonesofcommunicationinLeeuwen(1999:27).
47. SeeunderAuralstaging,p.299ff.Myproblemwithoperasingingisntsomucha
symptomofcodalincompetenceasofcodalinterference(pp.174,179185).
Tagg:MusicsMeanings10.Vocalpersona 371
(singingopera)anddifferentiateeasilybetweenindividuals,bothper
formersandtherolestheyperformwhilewearingthatvocalclothing,
inthesamesortofwaythatalaboratoryassistantrecognisesthediffer
ent roles and identities of other whitecoated individuals working in
thesamelab.Imean:mostofuswilljustseewhitecoatsinalaband
think of, say, microbiology or genetics, unaware that one coworker,
Emily,gramstainsbacteriaandlikeshillwalking,whileanother,Ryan,
modelbuildsphenotypesandplayscricket.Thesemioticsofvocalcos
tumeareinotherwordsdependentondegreesoffamiliaritywiththe
realorpotentialvariationsoffunctionandmeaninginsidethesphereof
activity linked with the costume in question. Less familiarity and
greaterdistancetendtoshiftthetypeofperceivedvocalcostumefrom
SUITED TO A PARTICULAR ACTIVITY (more familiar) towards SIGNALLING
GROUPIDENTITY(lessfamiliar).
Groupandgenreidentitycostumes
The GROUPIDENTITYFUNCTION of vocal costume perception is perhaps
clearest when vocal styles are heard by unfamiliar ears. In the urban
WestweoftenapplyethniclabelstosingingstylesArabic,Bulgar
ian, Indian, Mongolian, Native American, etc. as ETHNIC VOCAL
COSTUMES,sotospeakbecauseweseemtoheartheunfamiliarsing
ingvoicesprimarilyintermsofotherpeopleelsewhere.Thatpercep
tion of otherness filtered through our own familiar frames of vocal
referencetendstomakeusdeaftovariantsofstyleorgenrethatmem
bersofthoseforeignmusiccultureshearasdistinctiveandsignificant.
Indeed,aswesawinthecrossculturaldeathmusicexperiment(pp.
4950), were liable to identify particular functions and meanings in a
foreign music culture not with those functions and meanings FU
NERALandDEATHinthatcasebutwiththeforeignnessweperceivein
themusicAFRICA,ARAB,CHINA,GREECE,INDIA,TURKEY,YEMEN,BA
ZAAR,DESERT,JUNGLE,etc.
Wealsotendtoprojectthesemioticnormsoffamiliarvocalstylesonto
unfamiliarones.HearingBulgarianwomensingingtraditionalsongsin
semitonedyadsasharshanddiscordantratherthanasstandardproce
dure or goodnatured fun (pp. 180182) is one example.< Another is
372 Tagg:MusicsMeanings10.Vocalpersona
when we talk about the Bollywood GIRLIE VOICE, even though Indian
films most famous female singers were in their seventies when they
were still, quite recently, recording vocals for roles lipsynced by ac
tressesintheirtwenties.
48
ItsalsoworthnotingthatLataMangeshkar
and Asha Bhosle, preeminent vocal doyennes of Bollywood, were
trainedintheIndianclassicalmusictradition.Inthattraditionastrong,
straighthighsopranovoiceispreferredbecauseittracesacleanerand
clearer melodic profile against the overtonerich instrumental drones
thanwouldadeeper,moremellowvocaltoneandtimbresubjectedto
Westernstylevibrato.
49
Ifthatisso,theGIRLIEVOICEnotionmakeslittle
sensebecausewerenotdealingwithaparticularfemalevocalpersona
(GIRLIE),butwithavocalcostumeSUITEDTOAPARTICULARACTIVITY,that
of presenting the female vocal line in tune and harmony with the
dronefilledaccompanimentsothatthemelodyisclearlyaudible.
NoneofthismeansthatwerewrongtohearBulgariansemitonedia
phony as discordant or Bollywood female vocals as girlish any more
thanIamtohearoperaticvoicesastonallyblurred,wobbly,loudand
generallyoverthetop.
50
Itsjustthatcodalincompetenceorinterfer
enceisinactionpreventingusfromhearingtheunfamiliarsortofvoice
inanunfamiliarsettingaswewouldifitwereafamiliarsortofvoicein
afamiliarsetting.
51
Now,ifyoufindsuchculturalrelativity(orrespect)
uncomfortable,youmightliketoconsidertheworkofAlanLomaxand
his Cantometrics collaborators who, in Folk Song Style and Culture
(1968),
52
documentedcorrelationsbetweenvocalstylepreferencesand
48. AGooglesearchfor|+Bollywood +voice +("girly voice" OR "girlie voice")| producedover
14,000hits[120119].AsfortheGIRLIE=OLDWOMANissue,see,forexample,young
actressGracySinghlipsyncingvocalistLataMangeshkarsrenderingofARRach
mansOPaalanhaareinLagaan(2001).LataMangeshkarwas72in2001.
49. Thisexplanationandanothersuggestingthatcleardifferencesofsoundbetween
maleandfemalevocalistswasnecessarybecauseofmediocreaudioplaybackwhen
filmswereshownbyitinerantmovieprojectionistsinIndianvillagesareat
ask.metafilter.com/168017/Shiva-me-Timbres[120119].
50. Tobequitefrank,IknowforafactthatImnottheonlyonetochangechannelsas
soonasIhearanoperaticsopranoonradioorTV.Ifindthesoundoverbearingand
hysterical,oftenoutoftune(duetoexcessivevibrato!)andgenerallyunpleasant.
51. Codalincompetenceandinterference:seepages179189.
52. SeealsothousandsofLomaxsrecordings,freeatresearch.culturalequity.org [120909].
Tagg:MusicsMeanings10.Vocalpersona 373
modesoffoodproductionindifferenttypesofpreindustrialsocietyin
differentpartsoftheworld.Theirfindingsdescribehow,forexample,
thehuntingcommunitiesstudiedintheprojecttendedtoshowagen
eralpreferenceforaraspysolomalesound,whilethehorticulturalso
cietiesseemedmorelikelytofavourmellowmixedvoicechorality.To
conclude,unlikeLomaxandhiscollaborators,thattheseobservations
demonstratetheexistenceofauniversallyviablevocalpersonaforthe
hunterandanotherforthegardenerwouldbeoutoforderbutsome
oftheprojectsfindingscouldprovidesomeideasaboutcrossoversbe
tweenvocalcostumeandvocalpersona.
Genrespecificvocalcostumes
Malesingersongwriters
FabriziodeAndr,WolfBiermann,JacquesBrel,JohnnyCash,Leonard
Cohen, Bob Dylan, Serge Gainsbourg, Socrates Mlamas, Caetano
Veloso,TomWaitsandAtahualpaYupanqui,tonamebutafew,areall
male singersongwriters, each with a very distinctive voice. So, what
vocalcostume,ifany,dotheyallwearthatcouldpossiblyidentifyeach
oneasbelongingtothesameoverallgenre?
Inthecanzonedautore[singersongwriting],thingsthatmightbecon
sidered as mistakes of intonation, delivery and bad pronunciation in
other genres are accepted as characteristics of individual personality,
whichisofprimaryimportanceinthisgenre.(Fabbri,1982:67)
Difference and nonconformity can in other words be understood as
thesingersongwritersvocalcostume.
53
Itsasortofantiuniformuni
formattheoppositeendofthespectrumfromtherelativeuniformity
ofoperaticvocalcostumes,aswellasfromthatofallthoseyounghope
fulsgiventheMelodyneautotuningtreatmentonTVtalentshowslike
TheXFactor(2011).
54
Beingoccasionallyoutoftune,ortooshy,ortoo
53. Examplesbytheartistsjustmentioned:KhorakhanandDolcenera(Andr,1996),
Ermutigung(Biermann,1968),Lavalsemilletemps;Lemoribond;Nemequittepas(Brel,
1959,1961,1972),IWalkTheLineandRingOfFire(Cash,1964,1963),Suzanneand
Hallelujah(Cohen,1967,1984),BlowinInTheWindandSubterraneanHomesickBlues
(Dylan,1963,1965),LesamoursperduesandGlassSecurit(Gainsbourg,1961,1987),
(Mlamas,2000),Voclinda(Veloso,1981),MarthaandShoreLeave
(Waits,1973,1983),CaminodelIndio(Yupanqui,1973).
374 Tagg:MusicsMeanings10.Vocalpersona
shouty,writesFabbri(2005:145),arevocaltraitscontributingtothe
singersongwriterscredibilityasarealperson,anauthenticvoice,a
true character, complete with all the imperfections that inevitably
comewitheveryoneofusandwithourvoices.Itdoesntseemtomat
ter if the male singersongwriters voice covers only a limited bass
range(e.g.Cash,Cohen,Gainsbourg,Waits),orifhestaysinmidregis
ter (e.g. Biermann, Dylan, Yupanqui), or if he covers a much wider
range(e.g.DeAndr,Brel,Mlamas,Veloso).Nordoesitmatterifhe
soundslikearantingpreacher(Dylan),oraruefulruminator(Cohen),
oragruffdrunkardonsixtycigarettesaday(Waits),orlikeadegener
ateroguewithlittlemorethanaDIRTYOLDMANGROWLleftbywayofa
voice(lateGainsbourg), orlike awise andsimplebutenigmatic bard
(Yupanqui),orlikeafullbloodedbutvulnerablethinkerwithamellow
voicethatcanbreakoutintopassionateexclamation(DeAndr,Brel,
Mlamas).
55
Almostanyvoicewillwork,justaslongasthefollowing
stylisticconditionsaremet:[1]thevoiceisnooneelsesanddoesnot
appeartoconformtonormsestablishedthroughformaltrainingorau
diotechnology;[2]thewordsareintelligentorenigmatic,thoughtfulor
provocative,poeticorwittyandusuallyaudible:theartistsvoiceisup
frontandcentrestage;[3]thesong,recordedorperformedlive,should
notbearobvioustracesofintricatearrangement,orchestrationoraudio
signalprocessingevenifitmaywellhavebeensubjectedtosuchtypes
of treatment. And the singersongwriters nofrills performance, live
or recorded, will be even more effective if reinforced by sartorial, be
havioural,linguisticandotherrulesofthegenre,especiallyifthelines
betweenperformingandnonperformingpersonaareblurred.Withall
theseattributesthesingersongwriteriseasytoidentify,notjustasan
honest artist but also as the song lyrics authoritative and authorial
firstperson(Fabbri,2005:145).
54. FordemonstrationofautotuningseeXFactor:HowAutoTuneworks(m2010).
55. ThethumbnailcharacterisationscomepartlyfromaninformalphoneconversationI
hadwithFrancoFabbriinJanuary2012.
Tagg:MusicsMeanings10.Vocalpersona 375
Othergenrespecificvocalcostumes
Itgoeswithoutsayingthatothervocalgenrecostumesexhibitdifferent
traits to those of the singersongwriter. Nevertheless, whether it be a
cantautore, a chansonnier, a fadista, a payador,
56
or an opera diva, or fe
male Bollywood singing star; or, in the anglophone world of popular
song,asingersongwriter,adeathmetalgrowler,afemalegospelartist,
a dramatic ballad star, a blues shouter, a crooner, a rapper, a main
stream jazz vocalist, a riot grrl or a folk revival songster, one thing is
certain: every one of those different types of vocalist will be wearing
some sort of vocal costume identifying him/her with the style and
genreinquestion.Asexplainedearlier,somevocalcostumesmayexist,
atleastpartly,outofacousticnecessity(operaticvoices,theBollywood
girlie voice, intoned chanting etc.),
57
but every one of the vocal cos
tumesjustmentionedwillbesignallingsomekindofgenregroupiden
tity.But,astheadvertiserssay,thatsnotall.
Ifyourefamiliarwiththemusicalgenreandstyleinquestionyoullnot
onlyrecognisethevocalstyleasagenrecostume:youllalsobeableto
distinguishthevoicesofindividualsingersandtorecognisedifferences
of vocal persona performed by those singers in those genres. Vocal
genrecostumestendtobebettersuitedthanotherstothepresentation
ofcertaintypesofvocalpersona.Forexample,adeathmetalgrowler
(e.g.Carcass,1990)isincompatiblewiththesmoothMrNiceGuysort
of persona a convincing crooner can create (e.g. Bowlly, 1933); and a
crooner,inhisturn,wouldbenotbemuchuseasahoodiegangstarap
pingaboutslappinupdehoesnbitches(e.g.EazyE,1987),whoin
histurnwouldbeuselessasasincerelovestrucktorchballadpersona
(e.g.Houston,1992),whowouldmakealousyriotgrrl(e.g.BikiniKill,
1996),andsoon.

56. Cantautore(Italy),chansonnier(francophoneworld),fadista(Portugal),payador
(Argentina,Uruguay,southernBrazil),trubadur(Sweden)arealltypesofsinger
sharingmanytraitsincommonwithsingersongwritersoftheanglophoneworld.
57. Seetheswimmingcostumefunctionsuitedtoaparticularactivity,pp.369372.
Intonedchantingisexplainedonpp.367367.
376 Tagg:MusicsMeanings10.Vocalpersona
Graspingvocalpersona
Despitethevernaculartermsstudentsuse,oftenwithconsiderablein
sightoflateral(transmodal)thinking,todescribethecharacterofvocal
sounds,Ivealsooftenregisteredblankfacesinresponsetoquestions
likeWhatdoesthevoiceactuallyexpresshere?orWhatsortofperson
issingingtous?Ineverinterpretthoseblankfacesasasignofincom
petence because Ive learnt that all hearing individuals intuitively
know,withinthesamebroadmusicculture,whatavoiceiscommuni
catingandwhatsortofpersonisbehindit.Theblankfacesseemrather
toexpressareticencethatprobablystemsfromthediscomfortofbeing
askedtoverbalisepersonalimpressionsofemotionsinfrontofacohort
offellowstudents:noonewantstoriskmakingafoolofthemselvesby
revealing too much of their emotional sensitivity in the company of
peers.Thatpeerpressureproblemiscompoundedbythefactthattalk
ing about voice in terms like NERVOUS TEENAGER, BARBIE DOLL or SUI
CIDAL STUDENT isnt regarded as commensurate with the serious or
grownupsortofimpressionimaginedappropriateinthesupposedly
serious grownup context of a university analysis seminar. The reti
cenceisinotherwordsasymptomofthedualconsciousnessinwhich
oursenseofidentityandagencyinprivateisdissociatedfromwhatever
sensewemayhaveofourselvesinthepublicsphere(p.2).Forwhilewe
seemtoacceptthatasuccessfulartistcanusevoicetoexpressallsortsofin
timate,emotionalandpersonalthings(private)tomillionsoflistenersall
overtheworld(public),someindividualsstillfindtheverbaldescriptionof
feelingsandimpressionsevokedinthembythesameartistsvoicetooper
sonal,tooprivatetotalkaboutlive,eveninfrontofjustasmallgroupof
people,andeventhoughthosesubjectiveimpressionsarealmostcertainly
shared by thousands of other human subjects. This contradictory vicious
circle of dual consciousness has to be broken in semiotic music analysis.
Discussionofvocalmeaningtacklestheproblemheadon,aswellsoonsee,
inaclearandtangibleway.So,howcantalkingaboutvocalpersonahelp
breakthatviciouscircleofdualconsciousness?Thereare,Ithink,twomain
waysofapproachingtheproblem,onetheoretical,theotherpractical.
Tagg:MusicsMeanings10.Vocalpersona 377
Fromthetheoreticalangleitsfirstlyreasonabletoassumethatfamiliar
ity with issues of dual consciousness (see Preface) and intersubjectivity
(Chapter6)willmakethediscussionofvoicelessembarrassing.Thats
because understanding the socially objective character of subjectivity
(intersubjectivity) gives greater confidence in considering personal
emotions and impressions in relation to those of others. Secondly,
knowledgeaboutpsychosomaticlinksbetweenvoice,mindandbody
canhelpliberatenotionsofsubjectivityfromtheirconceptualisolation
and bring them out into contact with the external, objective, material
world.Herearefivebroadcategoriesofsuchlinks:[1]thevocalbehav
iour of trauma sufferers;
58
[2] the vocal characteristics of depression
and of Parkinsons disease;
59
[3] connections between voice disorders
andotherphysicalorpsychosomaticconditions;
60
[4]gendervariation
and attractiveness in voice quality;
61
[5] personality inference from
voicequality.
62

Thoseareallareasinwhichitsabsurdtoactasifpersonal,subjective
experienceshadnoempiricallydemonstrableconnectionwithexternal,
objective,physicalrealities.
58. Parson(1999)discussesthesubjectiveelementsofvoiceintraumaforvictimsof
extreme,catastrophicevents.Thesetypesofvoicecapturedissociatedrepresenta
tionalexperiencerepletewithtraumamessagesfromthedepthofsomatopsy
chicprocesses,expressedinthepatientsnonverbaltalkingingestures,toneof
voice,posture,silences,facialexpressions.
59. SeeVocalIndicatorsofMoodChangeinDepression(Hellgring&Scherer(1996);
Breslow(2007)onParkinsonsdisease;thearticleDoyougetdepressed?(n.d.),etc.
60. Foraselectionofbooksonthisbroadtopic,visitbooks.google.co.uk/books/about/
Understanding_and_treating_psychogenic_v.html?id=ShMBq6LwHp0C[120116].Seealso
GastroenterologicalConditionsthatcanaffecttheVoice(Bowen,2012b),aswellas
studiesofvoicedisordersinchildren(Bowen,2012a;Hooper,2004).
61. SeeGendervariationinvoicequality(Biemans,2000)andarticlesdiscussingthe
traitsofvocalattractiveness,e.g.DeBruineetal.(2005,2006);seealsoHughesetal.
(2004)andRidingetal.(2006).
62. SeePersonalityandVoiceInferenceitself(Hellgring&Scherer,1996);Scherer
(1987)ontheextravertvoice,andAudiovisualPersonalityCuesforEmbodied
Agents(Krahmeretal.2003),whichincludesdiscussionofextravertandintrovert
vocaltypes;seealsoHughesetal.(2004).Therearenumerousothertypesofconnec
tionbetweenvoice,mind,bodypersonalitythatthereisnoroomforhere.More
detailscanbegleanedfromperusingtherawtextfileUnsystematicnotesfrom
vocalpersonasourcesattagg.org/articles/VocPersUnsystNotes.txt [120116].
378 Tagg:MusicsMeanings10.Vocalpersona
Turningtothepracticalsideofanalysingvocalpersona,Ivefoundthe
followingtensimplestepsusefulinteachingsituations.
1. IsolateashortpassageintheAOwherethevocalcharacteristicsto
bestudiedareparticularlyclear.
2. Playbackthatpassageasaloop.
3. Listeningeyesclosedtotherepeatedloop,useyourownvoiceto
impersonate(i.e.toimitateandtoappropriate)thevocalsound[s]
whosemeaningyouwanttofocuson.Youdontneedtoactually
sing,justtomakethegeneralsoundofthevoicewhosemeaning
youwanttodescribe.DoNOTsingthelyricsatthisstage!Theobject
ofthisexerciseistounderstandtheconnotativemeaningofavocal
sound,notthelexicalmeaningofwordscarriedbythatsound.
4. Whenyourereasonablysatisfiedthatthesoundsyouremaking
sufficientlyresemblethevocalsoundintheloop,stopplaybackbut
carryondoingyourvocalimpersonationwithyourhandscupped
roundyourearsasyoucontinuetogrowl,moan,chirp,bellow,
warbleorvocaliseinanyotherappropriateandconvincingmanner.
5. Stillimpersonatingtheappropriatevocalsound,runaquickpoetic
check.Areyouusingfalsetto,headregisterorchestregister?Isthe
soundyoureproducingatallnasalorguttural?Isyourvoice
pitchedhigh,loworinbetween?Areyouusinganarroworwide
pitchrange?Doesthepitchofyourimpersonationchangeoften,
suddenly,gradually,ornotatall?Doesyourvocalimpersonation
soundloudorsoft?Isyourbreathingshortandfastordeepand
slow,orinbetween?Ifyouaddwords,howisyourdiction?Muf
fledandmumblingorcrispandclear?Howmuchofyourimper
sonationislikesongandhowmuchlikespeech?
6. Freezefaceandbodyatsomepointwhileimpersonatingthe
recordedvoice.Isyourheadheldhigh,hungdown,tossedback,
leaningtooneside?Areyoureyeswideopen,shutorsquinting?
Aretheycastdown,rolledupwards,lookingstraightinfrontorto
oneside?Isyourmouthopenorshut?Areyourlipspursed?What
shapeisyourmouth?Areyourteethclenched?Areyourteethvisi
ble?Areyourfacemusclestautandwrinkledorrelaxed?Areyou
frowning?Isyourchinpointingforwardsorhasyourjawdropped?
Istheretensioninyourshouldersoraretheyrelaxed,ordrooping?
Tagg:MusicsMeanings10.Vocalpersona 379
Areyourarmsoutstretched,folded,byyourside,orheldinfrontof
you?Areyourfistsclenched?Areyourhandscupped?Areyour
fingersstretchedandsplayedoraretheyrelaxedandtogether?Are
thepalmsofyourhandsopenandvisibleorclosedandhidden?Do
yourpostureandfacialexpressionfitbetterwithstanding,sitting,
kneeling,lying,walking,running,etc.?Inshortdoesanythingin
yourfacialandbodilyexpressioncorrespondtoanyparticular
emotion,stateofmindorattitude?
7. Whatwordsbestfitthevocalsoundyoureimitating?Isitanyof
these?ILOVEYOU.IHATEYOU.LIFEISPOINTLESS.THISISFUN.IM
BORED.DONTMESSWITHME!DONTYOUTHINKIMSEXY?IMACREEP.
IMCOMINGTOGETYOU.COMECLOSER!GOAWAY!YOUREGORGEOUS.
YOURESTUPID.THISMAKESMELAUGH.IDESPISEYOU.IMSICKOFIT.
IMWORRIED.IMTERRIFIED.IWONTGIVEIN.IDONTCARE.THISISFAN
TASTIC.Whatwordssoundridiculousorareimpossibletosaywith
thefacialexpressionandbodypostureyouveadoptedtoproduce
yourimpersonation?Iftherearelyrics,howdoestheirmeaningfit
withthewordsyouthinkbestcorrespondtothevocalsound?
8. Whatsortofperson(age,gender,nationality,occupation,etc.)
mighttypicallybetalkinginthatway?Isitalover,sister,brother,
teacher,preacher,bestfriend,enemy,trickster,philosopher,orany
ofthoselistedinsection3ofthetableonpage356?Orisitsomeone
orsomethingcompletelydifferent?Perhapsitsananimalora
machine?Whomightthevocalpersonayoureimitatingbe
addressing?Him/her/itselforsomeoneelse?Justoneotherperson,
orseveral,ormany?Whatsortofrelationshipcouldtherebe
betweenthevocalpersonaandwhoevertheyreaddressing?
9. Whereisthevoiceyoureimpersonatingmostlikelytobeheard?
Indoors,outdoorsorinsideyourhead,orallthree?Inabedroomor
achurch?Inabar,carorclub,oratschool?Inthestreetorcountry
side?Atthefarendofalongcorridororbreathinginyourear?
63
10. Whatwordsbestdescribethevocalsoundyoureimpersonating?Is
itanyoftheconceptsshowninTable101(pp.356357)?
63. Seepp.298303fordiscussionofspatialparametersinmusic.
380 Tagg:MusicsMeanings10.Vocalpersona
Themainvalueofthistenstepexerciseisthatittangiblyrelatesnon
verbalvocalsoundwithothertypesofexpressioninsidethelistening
subject. Vocal impersonation concretises the attitude and emotional
stateofthevoiceunderanalysis.Theexerciseprovidesdirectaccessto
theidentificationandmeaningsofvocalpersonaandmakesiteasierto
overcomethenegativeeffectsofdualconsciousness.
Andfinally:parody
If, despite the tips just presented, the task of denoting vocal persona
still seems difficult or embarrassing, why not try some humour? Just
look on line for parodies of the sort of voice youre struggling to de
scribe. Parody involves the humorous exaggeration of stylistic traits
which,likecaricatures,becomelargerthanlifeandwhichmakesalient
featuresofthestyleandgenreextremelyclear.Hereareafewexamples
ofvocalpersonaparodythatIfoundusefulwhileputtingthischapter
together:[1]ReggieWattssrapspoofFuckShitStack,hisIrishfolkbal
lad Fields Of Donegal (both 2010a), and, sharpest of all, BigAss Purse
(2010b); [2] vocalinstrumental gags by Bill Bailey, for example his
Bryan Adams lampoon Hats Off To Zebras, or his Billy Bragg parody
Chip Shop, or Dr Qui, the Jacques Brel/Belgian jazz version of the Dr
Whotheme(all2000);[3]JonLajoiesboybandparodyPopSong(2009),
completewithobligatoryrapperforasliceoftheurbanmarketanda
verseforthegayvoicetoletyouknowImsensitive.
Then there are the acrobatic, ecstatic, postgospel princess caricatures
inNileRodgersSoulGlospoofadinComingtoAmerica(1988)andin
Stevie Van Langes orgasmic Whoaa! for the 1993 Bodyform TV ad
(Tagg, 2008c). Add to that the looped coloratura phrase from The
QueenoftheNightsariainTheMagicFlute(Mozart,1791)settovisuals
ofperfectlygroomedyoungwomeninthebackarching,pupilsdilat
ingthroesofcarnalabandon(Service,2008)fortheDurexPlayOTV
advert (2008), and you have a fascinating but genderpolitically dis
turbingcanofsemioticwormsthatshouldbe,ifitisntalready,thesub
jectofacompletebookdiscussingauditeurism,theaudioequivalentof
voyeurism (see Corbett and Kapsalis, 1996).
64
I cant deal with any of
thatherebuttheissuecertainlysuggeststhatthepowerofvocalper
sonashouldneverbeunderestimated.
Tagg:MusicsMeanings10.Vocalpersona 381
Ofcourse,musicalparodyisntjustlimitedtothehumorousexaggera
tionofvocaltraits.Vocal,instrumentalandcompositionalstylearepar
odiedindifferentwaysbydifferententertainerswhodrawlargerthan
lifemusicalcartoonsofsoundsyoumayneedtodescribeinyouranal
ysis.Therefore,toendthischapteronausefullyfrivolousnote,Itake
the liberty of listing a few artists from the anglophone world whose
musicalparodiesmightbeusefulifyouneedtopinpointstylespecific
musicaltraits.Inadditiontotheinstrumentalaswellasvocalmanner
ismsparodiedbyReggieWatts,BillBaileyandJonLajoie(p.380)those
few examples would be Dudley Moore (1961), Peter Schickele (1967,
1971),StanFreberg(1957)andFrankZappa(1965,1967,1981).Iwould
alsorecommendmockumentarieslikeTheRutles(1978)andSpinalTap
(1984), as well as sketches from Mad TV, not to mention stylespecific
noveltysongssuchasDiscoDuck(Dees,1976).
65
Finally,differentstylis
ticversionsofthesametuneautomaticallydrawattentiontoparame
ters of musical expression like instrumentation, vocal persona and
auralstagingthatcanbemissedwhenthemelodiclineanditslyricsare
themainfocusofinterest.Onestrikingsetofmultipleexamplesofthe
sametunewasbroadcastintheAustralianTVseriesTheMoneyorthe
Gun(19891990).ItfeaturedaradicallydifferentversionofStairwayTo
Heaven(LedZeppelin,1971)everyweekoverasixmonthperiod(see
StairwaystoHeaven1992).
65
Whosaidmusicanalysiswasadrag?
64. Howdoesthisissuerelateto:[1]songslikeBlackSnakeMoan(Spivey,1926)and
MoaninLow(Holman,1929);[2]religiousecstasyandblackfemalegospelsingers
fromBessieJohnson(e.g.1927)toMahaliaJackson(e.g.1947);[3]thesecularisation
ofgospelfemalevocalstyleintosoul(e.g.ArethaFranklin,1967)anditsovertsexu
alisationindisco(e.g.DonnaSummers1975LoveToLoveYouBaby)?Andwhatabout
GloriaGaynor(e.g.1978)returningtogospelfromdisco?Then,whataboutopera
vocalacrobatics,lesdanseusesduCorpsdeballetandthesimultaneousprivatisation
andprostitutionalisationofCoventGardenandLOpradeParisinthenineteenth
century?Anotherquestion:whatlinkistherebetweenthedivaasvocalpersonaand
thediva(maleorfemale)astypicalofthenarcissisticaggressivetype(Benis,2005)
and,ifthereisany,whatcouldthattellus,ifanything,aboutgenderrelations?
Finally,whyarethemalesorgasmicgruntsandyellsseeminglysomuchlessinter
estingthanthesoundsofasexuallyarousedwomanwhenitcomestosellinga
recording,aperformanceoranyotherproduct?
382 Tagg:MusicsMeanings10.Vocalpersona
65. OnBeyondTheFringe(1961)DudleyMooreparodied:[1]BenjaminBrittenssong
writingandPeterPearstenorvoiceinLittleMissMuffet;[2]aninterwarGerman
cabaretsongcompletewithSprechgesangpassages(TheWeillSong).
PeterSchickele,aliasPDQBach(1967,1971),recordedtheSchleptetinE Major
(classicalchambermusicgonemad),NewHorizonsinMusicAppreciation(Beethovens
FifthSymphonywithsportscommentary),WhatsmyMelodicLine?(thesameone
chordextractfromfictitiousConcertigrossi),cigarettecommercialsasPurcellian
groundbassarias(DoYouSuffer?,IfYouHaveNever),theTootFugue(Bachfuguever
sionoftheVolgaBoatmensongoncalliope),thecantataIphigeniainBrooklyn,fake
madrigals,TheStonedGuest(halfactopera)andTheSeasonings(oratorio).
StanFREBERG(1957)lampooned1950steenagepopinHeartbreakHotel,TheGreat
PretenderandRockAroundStephenFoster.
LargepartsofZAPPAsearlyrecordingsweredevotedtoparody,forexample
WowieZowieandYouDidntTryToCallMeonFreakOut!(1965)andvirtuallyall
ofWereOnlyInItForTheMoney(1967);seealsoYouAreWhatYouIs(Zappa,1981).
SpinalTap(1984)isarockmockumentarywhichspoofseveryconceivableaspectof
heavymetalwhileNeilInnesBeatlespastichesforTheRutles(1978)aresoconvinc
ingthattheyhaveoverwrittenseveraloftheBeatlesoriginalsinmyhead.
MadTVhaveparodiedBritneySpears(LickMyBabyBackBehindmJkJXuckuJ0w)and
Shakira(WhateverDontMattermw8QH93jWZbk).
FrenchandSaunders(2002)spoofedAlanisMorissetteinAimlessMorrisMinor.
FrankSatsuma,theJapanesecrooner(n.d.)parodiedFrankSinatra(andJapanese
pronunciationofEnglish)inIWantYouToGetUnderMySkin(mj4dHPS8gvLA).
PeterSellers(1958)sentupBritishfolkmannerismsinSuddenlyItsFolkSong.
ThefunniestormostconvincingStairwaystoHeavenintheAustralianTVshow
were,Ithink,byRolfHarris,TheAustralianDoors,TheBeatnix(Beatlestribute
band),TheWhipperSnappers(laBangles/Pretenders),TheFargoneBeauties(blue
grass)andVegimiteReggae.
STSandersbandshredsarehilariousremusicalisationsofrockvideos(e.g.Roll
ingStones,Eagles,BruceSpringsteen)stsanders.com/www/pages/videos.php [121018].
FlightoftheConchords(20072009)wasaTVseriesbasedlargelyonmusicalparody.
IdalsoliketorecommendaspoofadforthefictitiousBestofalbumArnieSchn
bergandhisSecondVienneseSchool(1977);butitsnotreallyrelevanthere.
Tagg:MusicsMeanings 383
11.Diataxis
Threetypesofform
YNTAX,DIATAXISandSYNCRISISarethreedifferentaspectsofFORM
inmusic.FORMmeanstheshapeorpatternintowhichdifferent
partsorelementsarearranged,ordered,orotherwisecombined
intoawhole.Forinstance,thethreewordsinthetwosentencesTimhit
TomandTomhitTimhave,inaccordancewiththenormsofEnglishsyn
tax,thesameformSUBJECTVERBOBJECTbutdifferentmeanings.
Syntax also exists in music in that melodic phrases consist of at least
twomotifs(usuallyelided)which,whenordereddifferently,produce
thesameformbutdifferenteffects.
1
Now,conventionalWesternmusic
theoryrarelyconsiderssuchsyntaxasformintheproductionofmean
inginmusic.Insteaditusesformalmostexclusivelytodesignatethe
wayinwhichepisodesratherthanphrasesareorderedalongtheunidi
rectionalaxisofpassingtimetocreateextensionalpatternsofmusical
change and recurrence like sonata form or rondo form. This long
term,linear,horizontalordiachronicsortofformneedstobedistin
guished from the shortterm horizontal type of syntax. DIATAXIS
[daio'Iksis](whichoriginallymeanttheorderofserviceinByzantine
Orthodoxliturgy)wastheleastambiguouswordIcouldfindtomark
thatdistinction.
2
Butthatisneithertheonlynormostimportantreason
forhavingtousetheterm.
1. AtheoreticalbasisfortheseobservationsaboutmusicalsyntaxisgivenunderThe
interpretationofmusicalphrasesinTagg(2000a:291312).Toconcretisethepoint
madehere,trychangingtheorderofthetwomotifsconstitutingthefirstphraseof
theUSnationalanthem(inB).Normallythefirstmotiff1_d1 b(descending)
setsthewordsO_ohsayandthesecondmotifd1 f1 b(ascending)is
assignedtocanyouhear?NowstartwithO_ohsayusingtheascendingmotifd1
_f1 bthatnormallysetsthewordscanyouhearandfollowitwithcanyouhear
settothedescendingmotiff1_d1 bnormallyusedforO_ohsay.Thatchangeof
syntaxhasadistinctlylessupliftingeffectthantheoriginal!
2. Diataxiscomesfrom=disposition,arrangement,orderofevents,running
order,orderofservice,etc.,asofprocessions,prayers,chants,biblereadings,sacra
ments,andotherepisodesinByzantineOrthodoxliturgy.Seealso2,p.385.
N
M
1
1
-
D
i
a
t
a
x
i
s
.
f
m
.

2
0
1
3
-
0
5
-
2
6
,

1
2
:
0
8
384 Tagg:MusicsMeanings11.Diataxis
FORMinconventionalpainting,sculptureandphotographyhasnodia
chronic aspect because its constituent elements do not unfold over
time,asinmusic,danceorfilm.FORMinthevisualartsisusuallycalled
composition
3
andrefers,atleastinitsperception,tothesynchronicar
rangement of a works constituent elements which are, so to speak,
fixed on the canvas, or in the sculpture or photo. Neither those ele
mentsnortheforminwhichtheyarepresentedchangeonceyoustart
viewingthework,evenifyouinterpretthemdifferentlythelongeror
moreattentivelyyoulook,orifyouviewtheworkinadifferentcontext
orunderdifferentcircumstances.Amongtheparametersdefiningform
(composition)inthevisualartsaresize,proportion,perspective,posi
tioningandorientationofconstituentelements,theviewerspointand
angleofentry,colour,negativespace,contrast,symmetryandlighting.
Several of these parameters are relevant to music, not least the syn
chronicplacementandrelativeimportanceofconstituentelements.
4
Indeed,
asnotedinthediscussionofSTRUCTUREinmusic(p.235):
[E]xplanationsofmusicalsemiosisneedtoconsiderseveralindividual
lymeaningfullayersthatsoundsimultaneouslyThesecompositelay
ers of simultaneously sounding musemes are called museme stacks
and, as nowsound form (or syncrisis), are particularly useful in
forminghypothesesaboutwhichstructuralelementsinanAOmaybe
linkedtowhichsortofinterpretants.
We are in other words dealing with an aspect of form that is neither
shortterm syntax nor diataxis. Since such form is perceptible within
thelimitsoftheextendedpresentforexampleasacompositeofau
rally staged, simultaneously sounding motifs, riffs, chords, instru
ments,voices,timbres,pitches,rhythms,etc.inaparticularmetreata
particular speed and dB level it can be considered SYNCHRONIC.
Moreover, since stacking (as in museme stack) implies height rather
thanlength(musemestring),thissynchronictypeofmusicalformcan
also be thought of as more vertical than horizontal, more intensional than
3. Sincethisabookaboutmusicwherecompositionmeanssomethingquitedifferent
(thoughrelated)tocompositioninthevisualarts,Imstickingheretothetermform.
4. MostofChapter12isdevotedtothistopic.SeealsoSpatialanaphonesinChapter
13(p.500,ff.)aswellasSpaceandAuralstaginginChapter8(pp.298303).
Tagg:MusicsMeanings11.Diataxis 385
extensional. It takes the form of a state more than of a process or narrative
eventhoughitcancontainelementsofshorttermsyntax.Incontradis
tinctiontodiataxis,formconsistingofacompositeofnowsoundswill
be calledSYNCRISIS ['siqkrisis].
5
To summarise, its essential to distin
guishbetweenthreeaspectsofmusicalform.
[1] SYNTAX denotes aspects of form and signification bearing on the
temporal relationship of constituent elements. It normally covers the
shortterm ordering of elements inside the extended present (syn
chronic).
[2] DIATAXIS is the longterm, diachronic, processual and episodic as
pect of syntax covering the extensional ordering of events over dura
tions exceeding that of the extended present. It can be thought of in
termsofoverallNARRATIVEFORM,
6
andashorizontalratherthanverti
cal. In conventional Western music theory diataxis is usually called
form,asifnoothertypeofmusicalformexisted.
[3] SYNCRISIS denotes aspects of form and signification bearing on the
synchronic,intensional,arrangementofstructuralelementsinsidethe
extendedpresent.Itcancontainelementsofshorttermsyntaxandbe
thoughtofasverticalstackingratherthanasahorizontalarray.
Thischapterdealswithdiataxis,Chapter12withsyncrisis.Theyarethe
twomainmacroparametersconfiguringthewaysinwhichapieceof
musicscomponentparts,themselvesconstructedusingthesortofpa
rameters discussed in Chapters 810, are combined to create a whole
withaparticularoverallshapeandform.
Havingdefinedbasicterms,letsseehowdiataxiscancreatemeaning
inmusicalreality,usinganAbbatuneastestcase.Welltakeitfromthe
bottomup,startingwithmusemes,identifyingepisodesanddiscussing
themeaningofitsdiataxis.
5. Syncrisisderivesfrom=aputtingtogether,aggregate,combination
(lsj.translatum.gr/wiki/),diataxisfrom=arrangementoftopics
(lsj.translatum.gr/wiki/).
6. NARRATIVEn.aspokenorwrittenaccountofeventsinorderofhappening.MUSICAL
NARRATIVEmeanstheoverallpresentationofmusicaleventsinorderofhappening.
386 Tagg:MusicsMeanings11.Diataxis
DiataxisinFernando
Figure111(p.387)chartstheoccurrenceoftheelevenmainmusemes
heardinAbbasFernando(1975).
7
ThemusemesandtheirPMFCswere
identified using the procedures set out in Chapters 6 and 7. Museme
numbersappearinthediagramsleftcolumnandtheirnamesinitsbot
tomthreerows.Forexample,museme2(symbolised<andlabelled
sunrise)occursonlytwice:justbeforethestartofVerse1at0:25and
justafterRefrain1at2:01.
8

EpisodesareeasytospotinapiecelikeFernando,firstlybecauseofthe
recordings obvious verserefrain duality: words for each of the three
versesaredifferentwhilethoseoftherefrainsarethesameeachtime.
Secondly, the diagram shows (with the exception of museme 6, the
hook motif Fernando) that musemes in the instrumental plus verse
sections(IandVforshort)andintherefrains(R)aremutuallyexclu
sive.ThatfitsthedictionarydefinitionofEPISODEasapassagecontain
ing distinct material as part of a larger sequence of events: next to
nothingofwhatyouhearinIorVispresentinRandviceversa.Fern
andosepisodicrunningorderistherefore,asshowninFigure111:In
strumental1plusVerse1,Verse2,Refrain1,Instrumental2plusVerse
3,Refrain2,Refrain3,Refrain4withfade;or,inabbreviatedformwith
timings,I+V(0:000:55)V(0:551:24)R(1:242:01)I+V(2:012:49)RRR
(2:494:12). Stripped to its bare essentials and with I+V and V repre
sentedbytheletterA(becausetheycomefirstinthesong)andthere
frainsasB(becausetheycomeafterA),thediataxisornarrativeformof
FernandocanbedistilledtothesimpleformulaAABABBB.Sowhat?
Theresnotmuchpointinreducingapieceofmusictoastringofcapital
lettersunlessyoueitherneedtoshowyoucanthemespotinaconven
tionalmusictheoryexamquestion,or,moreseriously,unlessyoucon
siderdiataxisasaparameterofmusicalexpression.Infact,astringofletters
likeAABABB(B)orVVRVRR(R)canbemeaningfulintwoways(contin
uedonpage388).
7. Source:Tagg(2000b:1976).ThediagramisadaptedfromTagg(2000b:27).
8. FordifferencebetweenREFRAINandCHORUSseep.395.
Tagg:MusicsMeanings11.Diataxis 387
Fig. 11-1. Fernando (Abba, 1975): Table of Musematic Occurrence
388 Tagg:MusicsMeanings11.Diataxis
Firstly,Fernandosepisodicordercanactasastyleindicator(p.523)sig
nalling that the song was probably written after 1970 because until
sometimeinthemid1960svariantsofthe32barAABApatternofjazz
standards(p.397ff.)werestillincommonuseinanglophonepop.
9
Sec
ondly, the distinct character of episodes, of how much durational
spaceeachofthemoccupiesatwhichpointsinthepiece,andofhow
much overlap there is between the two in terms of both simultaneity
andsharedmaterial,etc.arefactorsofserioussemioticpotential.
Forexample,thevirtualexclusivityofmusicalmaterialbetweenverse
and refrain (VR or AB) in Fernando contrasts starkly with another
workshuttlingbetweenmusicalrepresentationsofEuropeandindige
nousSouthAmerica.InMorriconesscoreforTheMission(1986)thein
itiallyalienpanpipepunctuations(0:00:560:03:31)havebytheendof
thefilmbeencombinedandharmonisedwithmusicalideasassociated
withEuropeanhumanism(e.g.justbefore2:00:15).Verylittlesyncretis
ingofthatsortoccursinFernandowhoseEuropeanandNativeAmeri
canspheresliveinvirtualmusematicsegregation.
InFernandotheLatinAmericansphereishintedatbyasinglereference
inthelyricstoTheRioGrandebutmadeabundantlyclearbymuseme
1,thecharangoandquenaflutesoundsfrom0:00to0:55andfrom2:18
to2:49.Museme1isanexampleofgenresynecdochebyethnicconno
tationofforeign,worldmusickyinstrumentalsounds.Inthiscaseits
areferencetothehuaynoorFlteindiennestylesoftheAndesandtothe
sortofmusicheardinthepeasofChilesUnidadPopularperiod,orper
formed by refugees in exile after the 1973 fascist coup.
10
But theres
9. ForanaccountofchangeinBeatlesdiataxis196270seeFabbri(2009:1019).
10. Genresynecdoche:seep.524ff;instrumentsandethnicstereotyping,p.306,ff.Allassoci
ationsareexplainedinTagg(2000b:2935;90104).Laflteindienne(1968):anearly
worldmusichitalbumthatincludedthealtiplanotraditionaltuneElcondorpasa,
whosebackingtrackwasusedintheSimon&GarfunkelcoveronBridgeoverTrou
bledWaters(1970).Pea:aChileannofrillstypeofvenuewheremusicpopularised
byartistslikeVioletaParraandVictorJaracouldbeheardinthe1960sandearly
1970s.UnidadPopular:thedemocraticallyelectedChileangovernmentunderSalva
dorAllendewhichcametopowerin1970andwas(19730911)overthrowninafoul
coupbyCIAbackedelementsoftheChileanmilitarywho,underMrsThatchers
buddyPinochetandinthenameoftheHolyMarket,terrorisedtheChileanpeople
forseventeenyears.
Tagg:MusicsMeanings11.Diataxis 389
moreto Fernandosverseepisodesthanjustthat.Theyalsoincludea
variantofoneoftheeuroclassicaltraditionsmostfamoustropesthe
SUNRISE motif (museme 2) near the start of Also sprach Zarathustra (R
Strauss,1896),ANGELHARPSandTIPTOEBASS(museme3),DISTANTBO
LERO DRUMS (museme 4) and a particular type of vocal delivery from
AnnifridLyngstad(museme5a).
Asexplainedelsewhere(Tagg2000b:3850),theANGELHARPSandTIP
TOEBASS(museme3),haveconnotationsofsincerity,innocence,grace,
devotion,transcendence,heaven,etc.,andtheBOLERODRUMS(museme
4) of things Hispanic and military. The vocal track of the verses
(museme 5a with variants), adds even more connotative detail to the
sonicpictureofFernandosverses.Thewordsaredeliveredlessmetri
callythanintherefrainsandgreaterlibertiesaretakenintermsofin
flection of rhythm and pitch, giving the delivery an element of
recitative(p.367).Thisparlandoaspectisreinforcedbyirregularperio
dicity:theversesfivephrasescover2,3,2,3and3barsrespectively,
comparedtotherefrainsfourphraseseachcoveringfour]bars.
11
These
asymmetrical aspects of vocal delivery signal sincerity and involve
mentinthemeaningofwordsbecausetheyarentsubjectedtoregular
scanningpatterns,nortoaconsistentmetreorlengthofperiod.They
tellthelistenerthatTHEWORDSAREIMPORTANT,aneffectreinforcedby
thefactthatwordsaredeliveredatafasterrateintheversesthaninthe
refrain.
12
Moreover, the verses melodic phrases contain no interval
greaterthanasecond(conjunctmotion)whiletherefraincontainssev
eral.Finally,theversesmelodiclinesconsistentirelyofappoggiature,a
commondeviceofrhythmictonalarticulationineuroclassicalsongbut
quite exceptional in Englishlanguage pop or rock music and, unsur
prisingly,absentinFernandosrefrains.
13

TheoverallconnotationsofmusicalmaterialinFernandosinstrumental
andversesections(theI+VorAepisodes)can,intheearsofageneric
NorthernEuropeanurbanlistenerinthemid1970s,becrudelysumma
11. Seepp.284287ff.fortheeffectsofregularandirregularperiodicity.
12. Averagesyllablespersecondforverseandrefrainare2.2and1.7respectively.The
WORDSAREIMPORTANTeffectisunderlinedbythefactthatbackingtracksintheverse
aremuchsparserthanintherefrain.
13. Appoggiatura:seeGlossary;seeFabbri(2009)forrecitativotraits.
390 Tagg:MusicsMeanings11.Diataxis
risedasAndean,rural,faraway,outdoors,devotional,transcendent,a
tiny bit classical, honest, sincere, involved, ethnically exotic (not
here)andoldeworlde(notnow,nottoday,notmodernpop).
14
Its
a geoethnic and historical ELSEWHERE, a picturepostcard THEREAND
THEN.ThisepisodicsphereisreducedvisuallyinFigure112(p.391)to
thestereotypeofaNorthAmericanorNorthernEuropeansolosong
stress(lagringavocalista)cladinafashionableponchoandflankedby
twoindigenousquenaplayers(losindiosquenistas),inlessfashionable
ponchos,allsetagainstanAndeanaltiplanobackdrop.
Therefrainsareentirelydifferent.Notonlyisthesingingcollective(a
manhasjoinedthefemalefirstpersonvocalistinasingalongmanner)
and metrically/periodically regular, the general scene (accompani
ment)nowincludesmusemes9and10,astackofSOFTDISCOfeatures
including a synthesised string pad, regular guitar strumming, a Fats
Domino goodtime secondline riff, and full drumkit featuring hihat
patternslikethoseusedlaterinStayingAlive,allendowedwithplenty
ofdiscodancereverb(musemes910).
15
Connotationsforthesemuse
mes were glistening, romance, urban mating rituals, indoors, dance
hall/disco,Saturdaynight,familiar,recreational,pleasant,fun.Theres
nothing geoethnic or historical here for the mainstream 1970s home
audience in urban North America or Northern Europe. Its a NON
THREATENING HEREANDNOW ENTERTAINMENT situation that is visually
caricaturedinFigure112bysilhouettessinging,playinganddancing
againstthestarry,twinklingbackdropofaslowlyrotatingdiscoball.
With each episode identified in terms of both musical structure and
PMFCs, we can now ask what the string of letters AABABB(B) or
VVRVRR(R)actuallymeans.Ifwesplitthestringintotwoat2:01,the
tuneshalfwaypoint,thesongcanbeheardandseentoconsistoftwo
narrativeprocesses:[1]frommoreofV(faraway,anothertimeandan
otherplace)tolessofR(happyathomeinthehereandnow),and[2]
fromlessofV(thereandthen)toalotofR(hereandnow).Asshown
inthetophalf(i)ofFigure112,thosetwoprocessestogetherformthe
singleoverallprocessfromAtoB(versetorefrain).Thesemioticsignif
14. FormoreaboutthereceptionofFernandoseeTagg(2000b:8790,103107).
15. FormoredetailseeTagg(2000b:5962).StayingAlive:seeBeeGees(1977).
Tagg:MusicsMeanings11.Diataxis 391
icanceofthisdiataxisbecomesclearwhencomparedtotheprocessual
commutation shown in the lower half (ii) of Figure 112, where what
waspreviouslyRorB(therefrainepisodes)hasbecomeA(whatwere
theinstrumentalandverseepisodes)andviceversa.Itsobvious:pro
ceedingfromTHEREANDTHENtoHEREANDNOW(i)isntthesamething
asgoingfromHEREANDNOWtoTHEREANDTHEN(ii).
Fig. 11-2. Overall diataxis in Fernando, with commutation:
(i) THERE/THEN to HERE/NOW; (ii) HERE/NOW to THERE/THEN
ThecommutationjustsuggestedinFig.112(ii)assumesthatthefamil
iar home sphere is given some typically verselike traits and that the
unfamiliarforeignsphereisturnedintosomethingalittlemoremetri
callyregular,refrainlikeandconducivetosingalong.Thesalientpoint
in either instance is awareness of which musical sphere, in terms of
both sonic material and connotation, is home and which is away.
Identificationofthesesphereshastobeaesthesicallybasedbyreferring
tothegeneralculturalhabitatofanaudience,
16
allofwhichraisesthe
issueofhowdiataxisisconceptualised.Thatsnotascomplicatedasit
sounds,aswellseenext,butitcanbeimportant,asinthecaseofFern
ando,fordeterminingthesemioticeffectsofdiataxis.
392 Tagg:MusicsMeanings11.Diataxis
Cyclicalprocessuality
Fig. 11-3. Centripetal (recursive) process: (a) on a unidirectional time axis;
(b) as centre and periphery; (c) from centre to periphery and back;
(d) with centrifugal ending (Eisler, 1931).
InWesternmusicstudiesitis,asalreadynoted,customarytovisualise
narrative processes running along a time axis from left to right, as in
figure113a.Theproblemwiththischronologicalvisualisationisthat
theusualfocalpointofrecursivediataxis,theAsection,theepisodees
tablishing the home key as well as the central rhythmic and melodic
ideas of the piece, is located at its extremities while the B section, the
episodewhosematerialdivergesfromthatofthecentralcore,appears
in the middle. To overcome this paradox and to cater for the cyclical
characteroftheepisodicrecurrence(repeatsandreprises)thatoccurin
somanytypesofmusic,itcanbeusefultoconceptualisediataxiscycli
callywiththemusicscentralepisodeplacedmoreexperientially,asin
figure113b,atthemusicalcentreofthepieceratherthanattheextrem
itiesofexternaltime.Thiscyclicalconceptualisationletsustrackasim
pleAABAorderofeventsinthecardioidshapeshownasFigure113c.
16. AbbaandMichaelBTretow(Abbasrecordingengineer)seemtohavebeenawareof
thisissue.IntheSpanishversionofFernandotheflutesaremixedlouderandmore
centrallythanintheEnglishversion.MaybethatsbecausebothFernandoandthe
flutessoundLatinAmericanandbecauseLatinAmericanlistenerswillbelesssym
pathetictotherecordingifthey(asLatinAmericansandtheirLatinAmericanflutes)
arepannedasexoticextrasoutinthestereophonicperiphery.
Tagg:MusicsMeanings11.Diataxis 393
A, the first episode, runs (anticlockwise) once round the inner circle
fromstarttoend,returnstostartandrunsroundthesamecircleto
theendpointasecondtime,whereuponitlaunchesintotheoutercir
cle,theBsection,returningtothestartofAandtoathirdandfinallap
oftheinnercircle.
Figure113dshowsanotherbasicallycentripetalmodel(R=refrain,V=
verse)butwithacentrifugalending.ItrepresentsthediataxisofEislers
Solidarittslied (1931) which starts with the refrain (R
1
, Vorwrts und
nichtvergessen),launchesoutintoverse1(V
1
),returnstothesamere
frain (R
2
), out into verse 3 (V
3
) and so on until, after verse 5 (V
5
), it
reachesthesixthoccurrenceoftherefrain(R
6
).R
6
startsasdidrefrains
15 but ends quite differently (Wessen Welt ist die Welt?), taking the
musicanditslistenerstoanewplaceoutsidethepreviouslypresented
material.Thiscentrifugal,nonrecursivegesturecontrastsstarklywith
theusualcentripetalreturnoffinalityinVRdiataxistothecentralcore
ofthemusicsmaterialandmeanings.WithSolidarittslieditsasifwe
spinroundcumulativelyinpatternsofrecurrentverseandrefraintobe
finallyhurledlikeadiscusoutoftheestablishedcomfortzone:
VRVRVRVRVRVR???
TheoverallcentripetalprocessfromversetorefrainepisodesinAbbas
Fernandoisrepresentedasaskewedfigureofeightshapeinfigure11
4 (p. 394). The HERE AND NOW AT HOME sphere R (Refrain) is placed
closertoextramusicaltime(theaudienceshomeground)atthebottom
ofthediagram,theTHEREANDTHENELSEWHEREsphereV(versesinclud
inginstrumentals)furtheraway.ThemusicspickuppointisatX,the
startofthetuneat0:00,whichfadesandzoomsinliketheinitialestab
lishing shot of a films foreign location: the scene is set for two clock
wiselapsoftheTHEREANDTHENversecircle(V
1
andV
2
).Wethencome
closertohomeforasingleanticlockwiselapoftheHEREANDNOWre
fraincircuitafterwhichwearebackintheTHEREANDTHENspherefor
onemorelap.ThenwereturntotheHEREANDNOWrefrainspherefor
good,runningnotjustone,nottwobutalmostthreeanticlockwiselaps
roundtheHOMEcircuitbeforeweareeasedsmoothlybacktoextramu
sicaltimeathomewiththehomebasedrefrainfadeoutendingatmu
sicaldropoffpointY,4:12aftertheinitialpickuppointX.
394 Tagg:MusicsMeanings11.Diataxis
Fig. 11-4. Verse-refrain pattern in Fernando as centripetal process
The main advantage of cyclical modelling is that it more adequately
representsthecyclicalaspectsofdiataxis.Whileweoftentalkofreturn
ingtoaphysicallocation,evenifbothweandithavechangedsincewe
last visited, we are more likely to dismiss the idea of returning to a
pointintimeassciencefictionfantasy.Butinmusicitsasselfevident
asitisbothrealandcommontogobacktothestart(dacapo)ofapiece
orepisode:itjustdoesntmatterthatdacapoisimpossibleinexternalre
ality.Thewayinwhichmusiccanfreezeirreversibletimeinanongoing
seriesofmesodurationsallowspointsintimetoberevisitedwithout
difficulty. The chief disadvantage is that cyclical models are virtually
impossible to create in two dimensions flat on the screen or on the
printedpage.Althoughthatsthemainreasonwhynomoresuchdia
gramsappearinthisbookitcanstillbesemioticallyrevealing,asinthe
caseofFernando,toconsiderthenarrativeofananalysispieceincycli
calterms.
Tagg:MusicsMeanings11.Diataxis 395
Generaldiatacticschemes
Popularsong
Figure115(p.396)suggeststhattherearethreebasictypesofcommon
diataxisinpopularsong:[1]STROPHIC(AAA);[2]VERSEREFRAIN(VR
or AB, like Fernando); [3] [VERSE ] CHORUS BRIDGE CHORUS (AABA or
CB).Beforediscussingthesethreebasictypesitswisetofirstpositgen
eraldefinitionsofCHORUS,REFRAINandVERSE.
17
Chorus,refrain,verse,etc.
In Ancient Greek theatre the CHORUS () was a troupe of artists
who danced, sang or recited between other parts of the drama that
wereplayedbyindividualactors.Inlatterdaymusicalsthechorusalso
involvesgroupsofpeoplebothsinginganddancingbutthewordother
wiseusuallydenotesagroupofpeopleconcertedlysingingorchanting
ratherthandancing.InEnglish,CHORUSalsomeansarecurrentmusical
passage,sectionorepisode(orsetofepisodes)thatis,orcanbe,sungcon
certedlybyagroupofpeopleasopposedtoapassagesungsolo(orasa
duetortrio).ThisSINGALONG(ordancealongorplayalong)aspect
ofconcertedperformanceiscentraltoallepisodicnotionsofchorus.As
weshallshortlysee,thisgeneralmeaningisappliedquitedifferentlyto
differenttypesofchorussectionsindifferenttypesofpopularsong.
REFRAINisalessgenericconceptthanCHORUS:itssimplyatypeofchorus
episodewhosewordsandtunechangeverylittle,ifatall,eachtimeitoccurs
inasong.
18
REFRAINispairedwithVERSE,bywhichisingeneralmeant
asongepisodewhosetuneremainsthesame(orsimilar)eachtimeitoccurs
butwhosewordsdifferoneachoccasion.TheproblemwithVERSEisthat,
likeCHORUS,itmeansdifferentthingsindifferentcontexts,aswilleven
tuallybecomeclearinwhatfollows.
Figure115(p.396)showsthreebasictypesofdiataxisheardinalarge
proportion of Englishlanguage popular song. STROPHIC FORM is pre
sentedinthetoplineusingBillHaleysRockAroundTheClock(1955)as
anexample.Inbasictermstherecordingislittlemorethanaseriesof
17. MuchofthissectionisbasedonFabbri(2008:155208)andonFabbri(2009:passim).
18. AninstrumentalrefrainiscalledRITORNELLO,ItalianforREFRAINandRITORNELLO.
396 Tagg:MusicsMeanings11.Diataxis
uptempotwelvebarbluesperiodsAAAAAAA(p.342).Itbeginswith
eightbars(or11)ofsungintroduction(1,2,3oclock,etc.).Thenthere
are two sung verses (starting Put your glad rags on and When the
clockstrikes2)followedbyaguitarsolooccupyingthesameduration
(12barsor15)andfollowingthesamechordsaseachverse.Verses3
and4(Whenthechimesring5andWhenits8,9,10)comenext,fol
lowedbytheonenotehornriffversionofthesame12bar,15second
period. The recording ends with a final sung verse (When the clock
strikes12)andabriefcadentialcodawithoutvocals.
19

Fig. 11-5. Common types of recursive (cyclical) diataxis in popular song:


(i) strophic; (ii) verse-refrain (VR); (iii) chorus-bridge (CB) or AABA
(32-bar jazz standard)
ThesmallHsinFigure115(i)denotetheoccurrenceofthesongsHOOK
LINES
20
(Weregonnarockaroundtheclocktonightetc.)whichoccupy
thelastpartofeachtwelvebarperiodorverse.WhilemostHOOKShave
thechoruscharacterofarefraininthattheypresentrecurrencesofthe
sametunewiththesamewords,theyarenomorethanjustoneelement
intheepisodecontainingthem,beitverse,refrainorchorus:hooksdo
19. EpisodetimingsinRockAroundTheClock:0:00Intro;0:11V11;0:27V2;0:43Guitar
solo;0:58V3;1:14V4;1:30Hornriffs;1:46V5;1:59Coda(endsat2:07).
20. Fordefinitionofhook,

seeGBurns(1987)andGlossary.
Tagg:MusicsMeanings11.Diataxis 397
notinthemselvesconstituteachorusorrefrain.Theycanoccuratthe
startofachorus,asintheAABAsongBlueMoon(p.398)or,asinthe
caseofthetitlemusemefromAbbasFernando,onthelastthreesylla
blesofphrases1and2(of5)intheversesandphrases1,2and4(of4)
in the refrain, or in fact virtually anywhere in the song, though most
commonlysomewhereintherefrain(ifVRpattern)orchorus(ifCB).
The middle line (ii) in Figure 115 is a generic representation of the
VerseRefrain(VR)pattern.FernandosoverallVVRVRRshapeisjustone
variantoftheVRVRVRRshowninthediagram.StayingwithAbba,the
IVRVRV
i
R
+
I of SOS (1975a) is another variant, the IRVVR
+
VR
++
(I) of
Dancing Queen (1976) another, and the IVRVRR of Hasta Maana
(1974b)yetanother.
21
HoneyHoney(Abba,1974a)isadifferentkettleof
episodicfish.LikemanyearlyBeatlessongsitfollowsanAABAorCB
(ChorusBridge)ratherthanaVR(VerseRefrain)pattern:itsICCBC
B
i
C (AABABA) resembles, for example, the ICCBCC
i
BCI order
(AAAABA)ofFromMeT