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RE: [microsound] signifier anxiety

> From: anechoic [mailto:kim@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx]
> >Who said music wasn't a language?  Xenakis?  Kind of a strange comment
> >coming from someone whose compositions could be described by
> statistics.  I
> >suppose it's really that music *can* be used as a language, just as a
> >painting can be used to describe something.  Who can't recall
> the specific
> >lion's roar for Warner Brothers, or Intel's little ditty, or tell the
> >difference in the guitar tone between Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy
> Page?  That's
> >language.
> you're confusing signifying systems with language...the two sets intersect
> but do not union

You're correct, but that wasn't exactly the broader stroke of my point.  I
suppose I need to clarify.  Math has been used merely as a
signifier/metaphor for "real" events (although it is truly nothing but
itself and it's own internal logic), much like the aformentioned lion's
roar, jingle, etc; the sign is the formula->signified (gravitational
effects, flocking behavior, Intel's products, etc.  But a system of signs
(+-*/=, a^2+b^2=c^2, etc) used in complexity to represent a multitude of
signifieds is, by Saussure's definition, language.  So while the variable a
or the formula for velocity is simply a signifier, the collection of
formulas used to describe the astronomical systems, chemical behavior and
fluid dynamics describe a world.  Music can be used individually or
culturally in the same way, constructed in a manner that needs only to have
it's own logic.  If one constructs a system of signs that are musical in
nature, then I think it can still qualify as language (if used as such).

Perhaps the problem is, what is music's signified?  In some music, sound is
the signified, but in much of music, music is signified.  Prokofiev's "Peter
and the Wolf" is a simple example.  He constructs the signs (cat, bird,
duck, wolf, hunters) as music and then uses them to construct a story.  The
story can be "read" not only because of the signs constructed by the
composer, but also because of the conventions that have been created
culturally to describe dramatic intent.  The introduction of folk music into
classical composition, could be considered a sentence or statement about the
class stratification that was present even in music.  Hip hop is often
referencing itself or pop culture, using sound signs to create a language of
sound, which then re-presents itself, which interestingly enough, creates
it's own internal musical discourse (both verbal and nonverbal).  This would
be in direct conflict with how someone like Schaeffer conceived of using
sampling, with the attempt at eliminating the signifier (which is a weird
concept when you think about it, trying to get people to treate sound as
disembodied).  Perhaps that will be possible when and if Marianne Amacher
gets her wish, creating speakers the size of atoms that invade every pore of
our beings, truly destroying the concept of sound source.  At any rate, it
is *possible* for music to be language, and I think at least on broader,
cultural levels, music becomes highly developed language as discourse.  In
some ways the names of the genres of music themselves give chapter titles to
the book being written...

     Christopher Sorg
   Multimedia Artist/Instructor
 The School of the Art Institute of Chicago