Music and Language: A Fragment – 1

1 a abstract music

Music resembles a language.
Expressions such as musical idiom, musical intonation, are not simply metaphors.
But music is not identical with language.
The resemblance points to something essential, but vague.
Anyone who takes it literally will be seriously misled.

Music resembles language in the sense that it is a temporal sequence of articulated sounds which are more than just sounds.
They say something, often something human.
The better the music, the more forcefully they say it.
The succession of sounds is like logic: it can be right or wrong.
But what has been said cannot be detached from the music.
Music creates no semiotic system.

The resemblance to language extends from the whole work, the organized linking of significant sounds, right down to the single sound, the note as the threshold of merest presence, the pure vehicle of expression.
The analogy goes beyond the organized connection of sounds and extends materially to the structures.
The traditional theory of form employs such terms as sentence, phrase, segment, ways of punctuating – question, exclamation and parenthesis.
Subordinate phrases are ubiquitous, voices rise and fall, and all these terms of musical gesture are derived from speech.
When Beethoven calls for one of the bagatelles in Opus 33 to be played ‘parlando’ he only makes explicit something that is a universal characteristic of music.

( T W Adomo)
(painting – carmen guedez)

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