semiotics in music

in my eyes, music compounds a form of communication in which emotions can truly be evoked. it exists in the form of a sign that is more universal to human understanding than the barriers of language. why does the mixolydian scale feel unstable? why not then the most basic blues scale? why are musical modes most easily tolerable in scales of sevens and eights? if that is so, how can a musician shift the root note of a song from chorus to verse without being noticed unless by a trained ear? why does infrasound evoke fear in humans and animals?
i’m going to quote from this pdf article for my words are a bit more lacking.


The advantage of “semiotic” analysis is that signs are not defined by their function or position. Signs are simply classified as “familiar” or “unfamiliar”. Once this sign charting has taken place, it can be combined with other methodologies. Harmonic function, ritornello structure, and even “Sonata Form” can be viewed simultaneously as overlays to the semiotic grid. A variety of sign aggregates and their patterns can be identified, enabling the performer to make more informed interpretive decisions. Moving from the signifier to the signified, or more simply put, understanding the significance of music, will always remain elusive. If we were to define the sign, we would only limit its value and function. Similar to sub-atomic particles, the sign’s exact position or meaning may not exist at all. Who can clearly glean a denotative meaning from a musical phrase? Yet connotations exist if only in the abstract, largely as a jumble of acculturated gestures to which we collectively ascribe meaning

and to back up the argument of music as a sign very comparative to and perhaps the exact same phenomenon as language itself, there is the extreme example known as synesthesia, that is, experiencing a sensation beyond the sense organ associated with it, like hearing music in color. it’s something i’ve always had, even with words and numbers, and i was quite surprised when i found it is not as common as i thought. i refuse to believe it can be classified as a condition or as an unnatural response, for it something we apparently all have as young children but is eventually forgotten. once again, music, tone, pitch, timbre, etc, becomes no more than a signifier which must be broken down into a binary nature, to both synesthetics and non.

a little more on that



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