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Words that are not words. Avant-garde poetry as a verbal score

Avant-garde practices often explore the musical nature of language: experiments such as Schwitters’ Ursonate or Dada brutuist poems show that poetry becomes less “verbal” and much more “aural”. These practices force us to reformulate the definition of poetical language and search for new terms to describe words which no longer communicate or mean anything.

First, in my paper I would like to examine avant-garde’s tendency to a particular “musicalization” of poetry which can be seen in use of musical terminology (Schwitters’ case) or performing poetry as if it were a vocal piece (Dada concerts, polish futurist idea of “poezokoncert”). As compared to avant-garde ideas for new music (especially Russolo’s noise art), we will see that literary avant-garde transforms words into pure, enigmatic sounds and makes way for sound poetry.

Such an interpretation poses a methodological problem: if avant-garde poetry loses its verbality and becomes completely aural, should we treat it no longer as a literary text? Should we rather analyze it as a musical score for futher performance? In the second part of my paper I would like to reconsider categories such as: the medium of art (is it possible to define the medium in Schwitters’ poem?), sound poetry (futurist or Dada poems still use deformed “words”, therefore cannot be treated as meaningless, purely acoustic performances) and graphic score to propose my own term for those practices – verbal score.

The third part will be an attempt to present and define the term verbal score as a draft made for musical performance which is written down in many kinds of deformed words. The term gives us an opportunity to treat avant-garde poetry simultaneously as a sound practice, performance and a specific interpretation of words themselves.

- Michalina Kmiecik


Ph.D. candidate at Jagiellonian University (Faculty of Polish Studies), writing a dissertation on negative aesthetics in avant-garde poetry and music. In 2013 published her first book Aspects of Place. Topical and Atopical Ideas of Space in Julian Przyboś’s Poetry. Her academic interests concentrate on theory of avant-garde and intermedia, geopoetics and experimental art.

Noise between voice and word? The case of Florian Hecker’s Articulação (2014)

My presentation focuses on the concept of noise, a topic that has (one of) its origins in cybernetics and information theory and has been well-established in the contexts of acoustic ecology and soundscape research as an environmental factor.

In addition to these, noise has also fairly recently emerged in the discourses of new materialist or post-humanist philosophy, sound studies and media theory. As a notoriously hard-to-define and relational concept, I wish to consider noise’s “impact” as material agency from a materialist philosophical perspective and relate it to the context of word and music studies.

In order to approach the materiality of sound in as concrete terms as possible, I emphasize the effect of recording and playback technology to the manipulation of and experimentation with sound. In the phonographic age sound becomes malleable and plastic material. What enables the becoming-material of sound, and thus the detachment of aural elements from the coded domains of language and voice, is the reproduction-assemblage’s acousmatic nature: we no longer need to have a perceived causal relation between sound source and the listening experience – in effect, any sound becomes noise.

In my view, this is what makes the concept of noise a productive object of research also in word and sound studies. Ontologically, noise acts as an intermediary material stratum between voice and signification. This is why the emergence of noise within the speech act or musical voice effectively reveals the material, synthetic grounding of speech. Many works of experimental music have sought to research the material basis of speech, notable examples being Alvin Lucier’s I am sitting in a room or Robert Ashley’s Automatic Writing. As a case study of recent similar artistic research I shall present Florian Hecker’s Articulação (2014), a work combining a philosophical libretto and radical materialization of speech via digital techniques, refashioning the material and the signifying regimes into an unheard synthetic (a)subjectivity.

- Janne Vanhanen 



Janne Vanhanen is a post-doctoral researcher in Aesthetics at the University of Helsinki. The topic of his PhD thesis was the aesthetic relevance of the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze and his current research project addresses the concept of noise in relation to philosophy, music and sound art. Vanhanen has published articles in international anthologies and journals of art research.

Unseen Muses. Voice Hearing and Artistic Inspiration in Music and Poetry

Voice hearing is not exclusively a medical phenomenon and often amplifies the ambiguous junction between creativity and mental illness.  While schizophrenics and melancholics hear unbidden voices, poets and musicians have evoked them as a method for developing compositions and poems. In ancient times, inspiration was thought to be an audible influence emanating from mysterious sources outside the mind.  From Greek muses and the Romantic imagination to García Lorca’s awe of the duende, many poets and musicians have felt visited by creative ideas. The notion that voices originate from untraceable sources suggests that inspiration is partly automatic and thus susceptible to the flow of powerful moods.

Hearing voices that may emanate from indeterminate spaces outside the mind is similar to auditioning forms of acousmatic music, like bells ringing from a church, or the sounds of a siren Dopplering off in the distance, where the source of the music or noise remains uncertain. Acousmatic voices and sounds are compelling because unlike visual objects they are not easily located. As Walter Ang observes, “Whereas sight situates the observer outside what he views, at a distance, sound pours into the hearer.”


This presentation will examine the works of poets and composers who believed they heard voices.  It will also feature a musical automaton I built using a visual programming language in a virtual environment for constructing musical instruments.  The musical automaton is a virtual synthesizer that randomizes digital tones across selectable music scales and chords that have been historically associated with moods like melancholia.  Deleuze believed musical scales were living things.  A scale may thus indicate a mode of being, a substrate that influences the mood of the listener in an immersive way, since music saturates physical space, unlike visual objects, which require pointed focus.


Using music as a medium to explore affect via the digital automaton (rather than compositions and musical analysis), this presentation will suggest that inspiration emerges from automatic sound sources, which may generate strong moods that range from melancholic to exuberant.

- Kenneth Alewine


Kenneth Alewine is a doctoral student at the Institute for the Medical Humanities, University of Texas Medical Branch. His current research combines music, mood and consciousness studies. His poems have appeared in Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, UCity Review, Epigraph, Psychic Meatloaf and elsewhere.

The Notion of Musical Gestures in Contemporary English-Language Novels

In the CfP for the present conference, the following sentence is revealing: “Many basic problems of great relevance to the field have not yet been conclusively defined”. The context in which this sentence appears is clear enough; one wonders, however, not only if it is possible, but also whether it is desirable to reach definitive conclusions regarding certain fundamental challenges in our field. Some, yes. Others perhaps no.


One challenge that has proven remarkably resilient in the history of word and music studies is the notion of musical form in the novel. However, analytical practice has shown us that formal comparisons between musical form and novels does not necessarily constitute the best level at which to study the relationship between the two art forms; if we are interested in finding out what a given literary work is trying to communicate by means of music, rather than the formal analogies themselves, it seems we need to consider different analytical approaches.


This paper suggests that one such approach may be to see gesture as a way of explaining some forms of intermedial relationship. While the paper does not make claims for a general solution to the problems that arise from direct analogical comparisons between the art forms, it does offer the view that at least in some music-novels, the notion of gesture can facilitate a better understanding of the collaborations between music and the novel than abstract musical forms provide.

- Jeppe Klitgaard Stricker 



Jeppe Klitgaard Stricker is a PhD student at Aalborg University, Denmark. He is particularly interested in the ways in which certain contemporary novels are drawn to the notion of classical music and musical composition.

Structural Interplay and Discourse of Contrast: Intermedial References to Music in Literature in Violent Contexts

The understanding of intermedial relationships has been greatly enriched by realizing the importance of transmediality, as formulated by Mitchell (2004) and further developed by Elleström (2010). Intermedial interaction thus appears to rely on the transmedial common ground of modalities. However, as Bruhn (2010) has pointed out, intermedial reference points to a certain discourse about the other medium. This discourse, questioned and challenged, does not demand to be overcome by structural analysis: the intermedial interaction also depends on the recipient’s connotations. In this paper I argue that the structural interplay and certain discourses questioned, challenged or merely reproduced should be analysed more in relation to each other, and to the recipient/participant, as part of a complex intermedial interplay.

I will illustrate my point with examples from my current research project on the connection of music and violence in intermedial references to music in literature. Intermedial references to music in violent contexts highlight a common ground of performativity pointing towards the somatic impact on the body; in this light, the formal aspect of music appears as a kind of structural violence. At the same time, the public, scholars, and bystanders consider this connection as contrast, as shocking or at least unsettling. The intermedial interplay thus both depends on a modal common ground but also plays with a discourse of contrast and challenge, something that discourse analysis might help to discuss. This paper’s aim is thus to draw structural and discourse analysis into a constructive interplay, not only in the intermedial interaction but also in its analysis.

- Beate Schirrmacher



Lecturer in Literature at Linnaeus University, Växjö and postdoctoral researcher at Stockholm University (SU). 2012 Ph.D. at SU, dissertation: Musik in der Prosa von Günter Grass. Currently editing the WMA Forum’s 2nd conference volume. Postdoctoral project : “The Common Ground of Music and Violence in Literature”.  

The voice of the mechanical body - Enunciation in a transdisciplinary field.

Many sound art works consists of sounding words presented in a specific installation and they therefore fall between what we normally think of as "music" or "literature" (or visual art for that matter). Consequently they also resist theoretical descriptions by the conventional methods of music or literary analysis. This resistance can prove to be fruitful, because it potentially draws our attention towards other aspects of "music" or "sounding artworks" and "words" than those we normally focus on.

One aspect that is vastly overlooked when it comes to the theoretical description of sounding artworks concerns the artwork's "enunciation". Although the question of enunciation has been interrogated vigorously in textual studies since the 1960'es (Eco, 1994), there has been little to non investigation of enunciation in sounding artworks.

This presentation will focus on "enunciation" as a trans-disciplinary phenomenon by applying this theoretical perspective that has mainly been used to describe written words to an analysis of soundings words in selected sound art installations. The presentation will discuss how the theoretical concept of enunciation has to be stretched or reformulated due to the medial differences between the two forms of articulation (written words and spoken words). As a conclusion the presentation will show how such an investigation bears fruit both to the study of sounding arts, and to our understanding of enunciation as such.  In particular I wish to discuss the relation between enunciation and media, because the selected empirical material puts a focus on the performance of the technological media and its materiality or "grain" (Barthes).

- Anette Vandsø  



PhD Anette Vandsø holds a post doc. position at the Institute of Communication and Aesthetics. Her main fields of research are experimental music and sound art.

Same but different – translating word and melody in Byzantine music

This paper examines different strategies of translating and adapting hymns of the Greek Orthodox Church into modern day English. The Greek Orthodox (neo-Byzantine) church music is almost exclusively vocal and monophonic chant, In contradistinction to the hymns of the protestant Churches, the hymns of the Greek Orthodox Church, many of which date back more than a thousand years, are not metric; that is, rather than following a strict metre in each verse of a stanza, the stanza is closer to rhythmic prose, where most verses of a stanza have a different pattern of acccented and un-accented syllables. Furthermore, the relationship between the words of a hymn and its melody is very intricate. The accentuation and number of syllables in a phrase determines the melodic shape and result in different ”formulae” of common melodic phrases.

This raises a problem when the text of a hymn is translated into another language, for instance English, where words and phrases have different accentuation and number of syllables. In the early adaptations of the 20th century in America, the melody and rhythm of the of the original Byzantine hymn would be kept unchanged and the English translation made to ”fit” the original melody with an at times quite procrurstean result. In the most recent adaptations by for instance J.M. Boyer from Cappella Romana and the monks of St Anthony’s Monastery in Arizona, the melody is recomposed to fit the rhythmical patterns of the English translation. By paying careful attention to the melodic formulae of the enormous treasure of Byzantine hymns (entailing many thousand melodies), melodies are constructed that adhere closely to the tradition of the original hymn and at the same time are completely new.

- Uffe Holmsgaard Eriksen



Uffe Holmsgaard Eriksen holds an MA in Theology and PhD from the Faculty of Arts, Aarhus University.  In his disseration, Dr Eriksen analyzed the dramatic dimension in the hymns of the Byzantine poet Romanos the Melodist. 

Listening, Reading, and Performing Decolonization: Music in African and African-American Literature

In Decolonising the Mind, Ngũgĩ Wa Thiongo emphasizes that song infuses rituals and daily speech in African culture. From talking drums to a chief’s recitation of lineage, communication and music are intricately linked. Similarly, African-American culture fused tribal and Christian music that began with slavery. In turn, African- American music such as spirituals, blues, and jazz permeate and celebrate every facet of African-American literature. Music is an essential thread in the fabrics of African and African-American literatures, yet music also reveals and critiques what bell hooks refers to as “white supremacist capitalist patriarchal” systems of power. Austin T. Graham asserts that music in texts “asks its readers to ‘do’ something beyond merely reading it” (3). Specifically, music in literature calls for historical and cultural awareness. Drawing on these cultural readings of music, the proposed essay examines Bessie Head’s A Question of Power (1974) and Pauline Hopkins’ Of One Blood (1903). Music in these novels calls upon the reader/listener to re-explore the historical contexts of oppression and participate in the performance of creating personal memory and collective history that challenges white washed narratives. Hopkins’ noveltravels from nineteenth-century Boston to the American South, to ancient Ethiopia to more deeply understand the history of the spiritual “Go Down Moses” that echoes throughout the novel. Head’s novelmoves into Elizabeth’s painful physical and mental life where music records represent dangerously visceral forms of colonization in Botswana. In both novels, the site of music resides in the biracial woman. Dianthe performs “Go Down Moses,” where she becomes the projection of a Black Nationalistic American history. Elizabeth’s biracial identity is connected with madness, where the music records in her nightmares emphasize colonial technology. Both texts offer a rich interdisciplinary and international inquiry for word and music studies indicating the diverse ways in which music in literature enjoins the reader/listener to critique colonial histories, and, perhaps, offer a different alternative.

- Alexandra Reznik



Alexandra Reznik is a PhD student at Duquesne University’s English department where she explores music's function in literature through an interdisciplinary lens of race, class, and gender. Her conference paper topics span from Pa’s performances in the Little House series, to the piano sheet music of Godey’s Lady’s Book, to Italian-American drinking habits in the reality show Jersey Shore. Alexandra recently travelled to the Spiritan University College in Ijitsu, Ghana, where she plans to teach next year.

Words and music for communism

The period between 1944 and 1949 was characterized in Romania by a sharp shift towards communism its values, under the influence of the Russian liberators. This influence was mainly political, but extremely visible in arts, where writers and singers alike became social fighters and workers in the field of culture. In 1945 and 1946, arts in communist states in general and in Romania in particular became increasingly obedient towards the political regimes. All Westerndecadent tendencies were criticized and music, as well as literature became means to advertise for communism and its great achievements. Thus, the construction site literature was transposed on music and the poems with the working class and peasants as main subjects becamethe music of great achievements. The Romanian national anthem was changed both in music and words. The new words were in fact a poem to the communist regime and the marching music that accompanied them was meant to create a feeling of emulation and of pride of belonging to the country of the great leader. However, it did not represent anything that the Romanians identified with and therefore it remained only a song void of meaning for many Romanians

Starting with the 70’s, when Nicolae Ceausescu consolidated his power and started building his personality cult, poems ad music were given the mission to contribute to consolidate his image. Romanian traditional folk music, traditionally depicting landscapes, people, and the active village life received new words, where Ceausecu was seen as the protector of the people and the guarantee for a better life in the Golden Age period. Romanian pop music also received a new direction, with songs where the lyrics described the figure of Nicolae Ceausescu as leader, father and creator of a new history for Romania. The poems of writers such as Adrian Paunescu or Corneliu Vadim Tudor were put on music and in this case the interaction of music and words contributed to the creation of a mythical past of Romania, which was the starting point of a bright future, under the rule of the communist party.

This paper will show the way in which the interaction of music and words lead to two-folded results: the consolidation of the communist regime and in particular of the figure of Nicolae Ceausescu but also a refined and subtle protest against communism, with sometimes subversive songs or mockups of well-known “official” songs. It will also point out the way in which the interaction of music and words was transformed in a means of communist propaganda.




ADRIAN OROS teaches English at the North University Centre of Baia Mare and is a Ph.D. student at the same University, with a subject in Romanian Literature: Aurel Baranga – complete monography of the writer’s work. The PhD paper is a unique initiative in the field, as Aurel Baranga is a controversial figure in Romania (wrote under the communist regime and displayed and ambiguous attitude, being obedient on the one hand and criticizing the regime – sometimes harsh, yet well covered critique – on the other hand) and the thesis attempts a full recovery of the author, which had not been done before.

The interest areas of ADRIAN OROS include modern literature, contemporary history and the connections between them, as well as the role played by literature in the communist regime. Being a graduate of an MA in Canadian Culture and Civilization, his interests also include Canadian culture and history and canadianism.

Contact: ador@hhc.ro

Technical University of Cluj Napoca

North University Centre of Baia Mare, Faculty of Letters

Musical Memory for Memorable Fiction: Mental Score and Faulkner’s The Wild Palms

In accordance with many nineteenth-century notions of Romantic and Symbolist origin, music is seen as central to not only arts, but also non-conceptual ways of comprehending reality. Within the same line of thought, similar priority is given to memory, which ever since Plato has defined human consciousness per se: knowledge is remembering; the past links man with eternity; what is blocked out by the mind is accumulated in the subconscious; “The past is never dead. It’s not even past” (William Faulkner). Although memory is often thematized as subject matter in both literature and music, thereby connecting the two realms in a set of interrelated post-nineteenth-century ideas, the concept of musical memory remains primarily instrumental and is narrowly understood as a practical skill developed by professional musicians. My paper will focus on some theoretical possibilities opened by applying the notion of musical memory to fiction, particularly the kind that claims to borrow techniques from music. Mnemonic processes which are evoked by such texts as Faulkner’s contrapuntal The Wild Palms (1938) in order to engage the reader may be analogous to no less demanding aspects of musical perception. A mental picture necessitated by such narrative technique as Faulkner’s is comparable to music score, which encourages the implied reader to not just co-author the novel but actually perform it. I will also contemplate upon historical implications of my hypotheses.

-Ivan Delazari 


Ivan Delazari (b. 1978) is currently doing his second PhD at the Department of English Language and Literature of Hong Kong Baptist University to study musico-literary relations in contemporary American fiction. After completing his earlier dissertation on axiological patterns in William Faulkner’s novels in 2003 at St. Petersburg State University, Russia, he taught at its Department of Literary History, where he is retaining his position as Associate Professor for another academic year. He is author of over 50 publications, his research interests gradually evolving from Twentieth-Century Literature and American Cultural Studies to Comparative Literature, Literary Theory, and Word and Music Studies.

Listen to Literature: a Cognitive Approach

In order to study „intermedial“ works, including what Werner Wolf calls “musicalized fiction”, it is first and foremost necessary to define what “intermedial”, or “music in literature” means (cf. Wolf 1999). Werner Wolf has famously advanced Stephen Paul Scher’s model of the main areas of what he calls “musico-literary studies” into his concept of a possible classification of “musico-literary intermediality” (see ibid, 52). The development of this concept that culminates in the “core area of musicalization of literature/fiction” remains a viable concept for (literary) scholars to approach the several forms of “music in literature” to this day.

However, in addition to the so-called “intermedial turn” (cf. e.g. Pasler 2008, Rajewsky 2005, Wolf 1999, 2011), recent scholarship has also seen the “interdisciplinary turn”. In literary studies, one main area of the rather new interdisciplinary fields is the cognitive approach to literature, or cognitive poetics. Musicalized fiction within cognitive poetics, though, faces a major problem when dealing with music in literature: the so far applied intermedial approaches (cf. Scher, Wolf) focus on the text as such, mostly excluding the metaphorical dimension of music in literature. In other words, what is needed is a more reader-centered approach to study music in literature.

Using Wolf’s model of musico-literary intermediality that focuses on the structure of the inclusion of music in the text as a starting point, this paper tries to show how the function of music in literary texts can also be studied from a view that includes the required cognitive action of the recipient (from memory and interpretation to imagination, from the creation of sound in the mind to the application of musical rules such as sonata form or the concept of variation). I will thus present a  new approach on how to classify occurrences of music in literature regarding both, the musical structure and manner as well as the required cognitive action that this structure demands from the recipient.

This view opens wholly new possibilities of understanding music in literature and offers novel ways of examining the age-old relationship between music and text in general. It might provide new insights on topics such as the “translatability” of music, the (necessity of the) recognition of musical structures or elements, the role that musical memory plays while reading such texts as well as the processing of “read” music (and many more).

-Nadja Hekal



Nadja Hekal studied English Literature, Language and Culture, German and Musicology/Music Education at the University of Osnabrueck, Germany and King’s College, London. After working as study coordinator for 2 years until 2013, she now holds a position as assistant professor (PhD-student, wiss. Mitarbeiterin) at the Institute for English and American Studies at the University of Osnabrueck. 

The Peculiar Case of Elegiac Feeling: Genre, Rhythm, Affect.

The turn to affect and emotion in contemporary humanities has inspired a renewed interest in how artworks represent, perform and evoke feeling. In literary criticism, a sharp distinction between the work and its emotional effects is no longer considered crucial – indeed, the tendency today is that affectivity is understood as something fundamentally relational and the power and play of aesthetic feelings are recognized as active forces of culture. Although contemporary, the ideas about affect that resonate in contemporary humanities may also be used as an incitement to revisit some of poetry’s ‘old sensibilities’ and reflect back upon genre history to discuss how affect and mediality have been related historically.

This paper proposes to study feeling as a musico-literary quality that doesn’t fit neatly into the usual categorizations of word and music studies, e.g. music AND literature, literature IN music, music IN literature. I address the topic with the genre of elegy in focus and present my attempt to reconstruct the notion of the elegiac as an affective-aesthetic complex from an intermedial perspective. In the selection of poetics and essays on the genre, which I will present examples from, we see the contours of sensibilities that grow out of the written elegies and their reception but which also come into being in relation to other medial forms of expression, particularly the audible. The elegy is most frequently defined as either a metrical form or as poems on the occasion of death, but during the 18thcentury, elegiac comes to denote a distinctive feeling tone– an ‘Empfindungsweise’ [mode of feeling] in literature, not limited to poetry (Friedrich Schiller).  The materiality of the elegiac distich, the alternating hexameters and pentameters, has arguably also shaped the idea of elegiac feeling, and the genre history seems to have conjured ideas of affective dynamics and temporal sensibilities that are intimately linked with the musicality of elegiac verses, with notions of rhythm and movement. I also propose to study elegiac feeling across literature and music and present my research process trying to trace the implications of the transition of the elegy into music: from the 19th century the label ‘elegy’ is widely adopted by composers to name a certain emotional character of musical compositions. Does this point towards an intermedial relation between the arts of literature and music with regard to affectivity?

- Ane Martine Lönneker



Ane Martine Lönneker, PhD student at the Department for Aesthetics and Communication, Aarhus University, working on a project about the elegiac as an affective-aesthetic complex. She holds a master’s degree in Comparative Literature. Email: litamkl@dac.au.dk

Uneasy Semiospheres: A Spatial Approach to Words and Music

In light of the current sound-art explosion, exploring words and music in their physical settings can add a spatial-semiotic dimension to the field.  Drawing on Juri Lotman’s “On the semiosphere” and on sound-art theory, my project begins with the body of the piano, in Curtis Curtis-Smith’s Rhapsodies based on the “Sirens” chapter in Joyce’s Ulysses, and then moves to two sound-and-text constellations in virtual and literal Berlin museum spaces. Kalevi Aho’s 1990 Pergamon, a Bakhtinian musical response to Peter Weiss’ novel Die Ästhetik des Widerstands, re-creates a museum-space acoustically; and Susan Philipsz’s Part File Score, a recent exhibit on composer Hanns Eisler designed for the Hamburger Bahnhof, also raises questions of digital sound dis-placement. Museum guides and program notes can “translate” these three works only provisionally. My paper argues that the musical-textual sphere is semiotically unstable, to use Lotman’s own metaphor of a museum in which “[t]exts appear to be immersed in languages which do not correspond to them, and codes for deciphering them may be completely absent,” yet the works’ medial multiplicity creates a filtering texture through which visitors bring their own associations, in a participatory process of reading, walking, seeing, and hearing.    

- Heidi Hart (Duke University)

A Model for Analysis of Transmission in Traditional Art Forms

I began using a semiotic tripartitional model, proposed by the musicologist Jean-Jacques Nattiez in his book Music and Discourse: Toward a Semiology of Music (1987; English transl. 1990) for analysis of music in my Master Thesis in Japan, centered around performance techniques within a music genre that is normally regarded as belonging to the ‘traditional arts’ of Japan. I used the same model in my Doctoral Thesis (Deconstructing Tradition in Japanese Music …), in which I studied the construction of an early music tradition. During that research I ventured into the realms of folklore studies, and found similarities between Nattiez analytic theory and ideas put forward by scholars of folklore, such as Dan Ben-Amos, Roger D. Abrahams, and Robert A. Georges from the late 1960s until the early 1980s.

In my research I have conducted critical studies of primary sources – poems, historical texts, discourses on music and cultural history – tracing the tradition back to a supposed origin. In so doing, I came to believe that the model I had applied, originally used in musicology, actually works splendidly also in the analyses of historical texts relating to the tradition.

Similar ideas as those put forward by Nattiez are also implicitly part of a model proposed by a scholar of literature, Roman Jakobson, in his well-known article “Closing Statement: Linguistics and Poetics,” published in 1960.

The attempt here is to further discuss and develop the ideas put forward within these analytic models – in musicology, folklore studies, and literature – and to suggest a modified version for studies of texts and sounds relating to ‘traditional’ music and the process of transmission involved. I believe that this modified version of an analytic theory is employable generically for cultural and art studies. For the present purpose I have limited myself to aspects of music, but I argue that it is possible to apply the model I outline to other art forms such as visual art, theatre, and poetry, as well as to writings about these matters, that is, texts that expound and explicate the cultural context.

- Gunnar Jinmei Linder


Gunnar Jinmei Linder is a scholar, and a performer and teacher of the Japanese bamboo flute shakuhachi. He holds a PhD in Japanology from Stockholm University, a Master’s degree of shakuhachi as performing art from Tokyo National University of the Arts, and a traditional shakuhachi master license from his teacher Yamaguchi Gorō. Presently he occupies the position of Associate Professor of Japanese Studies at Stockholm University.

Towards a cognitive-semiotic aesthetics of the (popular) song.

In my talk, I shall present my work on extending the scope of cognitive-semiotic aesthetics to include the song. In particular, I will focus on the popular song.

Cognitive-semiotic aesthetics is an approach to artworks that has been applied to visual art and literary art. It is a naturalized aesthetic theory, which means it is based on the following premise: there are things in the world — relations between objects, events, qualitative properties — which, for the survival of our organism, it is paramount  to keep track of. Humans therefore have a number of perceptual and cognitive automatisms that make us react spontaneously to certain stimuli. And because we also use our everyday perception apparatus for the experience of art, artworks are also subject to these automatisms. In fact, the aesthetic effects of artworks are often due to the exploitation of these perceptual mechanisms.

At the same time, the cognitive-semiotic aesthetics insist that an aesthetic theory must be able to explain the phenomenology of aesthetic experience. It must be able to distinguish between aesthetic objects and everyday objects, and it must be able to distinguish between an aesthetic representation and other types of representation.

The theory therefore aims to describe the defining characteristics of different art genres: the pictorial, the narrative, the poetic, etc. Thus, I make an attempt to define the ”songly.” I argue that there are two aspects of the songly. One is psychological and can be described as the emergent mental space in a conceptual integration network — a ”song space”. The other is structural and can be described as the result of productive differences between language and music.

I argue that in order to express the song's subject matter in a songly manner, the songwriter can attempt to direct the construction of the song space, and/or she can optimize the productive differences between language and music.

-Søren Lyhne 


Søren Lyhne holds a master's degree from Cognitive Semiotics at Aarhus University and is passionate about the art of songwriting.


The musico-rhetorical setting of words of silence in the works of early 18th century German composers

A German Baroque composer of the Lutheran tradition, a musicus poeticus, sitting down to write a vocal work with a blank page in front of him, would be faced with the central task of communicating the words and ideas of their source text. They would interpret the text themselves in their own cultural, political, and theological context, making decisions as to their priorities in text setting. A Lutheran Kantor was a pedagogue in music, applying the rhetorical tools of oratory persuasion to the task of conveying specific theological and political concepts. As such, they drew on a wide body of musico-rhetorical figures to communicate their understanding of the text to their audience.

A cumulative analysis of a statistically relevant amount of settings of similar words offers the possibility of working backwards, analyzing a composer’s text settings of a particular word or concept to determine their intent and understanding. This presentation will focus on an analysis of all instances where words related to the concept of silence were set by five composers, including J.S. Bach, Handel, and Telemann. The methodological concerns and problems in the systematic collection, analysis, and determination of results will be addressed. The main vehicle for statistical analysis and modeling, a database constructed to facilitate the analysis of over 500 examples of text settings, will also be presented.

The clusters of patterns emerging from such a quantitative comparison yield a number of unexpected results. This method of analysis, putting a spotlight on the background of composer intention, therefore transforms a body of text settings into an epistemological object revealing linguistic, theological, and historical aspects that may not otherwise be evident.

- Molly McDolan 


Molly McDolan (Basel/Vienna), completed her studies at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis (Switzerland), an interdisciplinary institute for the historically informed performance of Early Music. She is also an active performer and composer of contemporary music. She has been invited to lecture on her compositional and analytical techniques at the University of Basel and SoundCheck, a festival for performative philosophy.  

Onstage Interpretation: How Does One Write About Opera in Performance?

”To write about opera […] is to add to the architecture of its necropolis”, claims Carolyn Abbate in her book In Search of Opera. Is this gloomy observation necessarily true? Opera, of course, takes place not on the page but in performance: it is a live experience, a fleeting theatrical event embedded in a specific time and place. Although this fact may seem self-evident, scholarly writing on opera, for a long time, paid little attention to it. Opera was chiefly the province of musicology, and musicology in a very limited sense, which took the study of musical structure as its primary (or even single) task. In the 1990’s, a number of studies began to take the critical study of libretti seriously (including not only the scholars associated with New Musicology, but also proponents of literary studies, film studies and philosophy). Although this body of work did much to expand the field of opera studies beyond structuralist musicology, it nevertheless kept the focus on the written work rather the theatrical event. Roughly since the turn of the millennium, however, an emerging interest in thinking about opera in and as performance can be noted. The present paper reviews the methodologies of some of these recent studies – including Stephanie Großmann, David Levine, Clemens Risi, Mary Anne Smart and Tom Sutcliffe – in order to uncover the assumptions that underlie them. Ultimately, it argues for the value of a hermeneutically inflected criticism to the study of operatic performance, which posits as the paradigm of interpretation not textual paraphrase, but notions of performance and performativity. The act of critical interpretation, from this perspective, does not threaten to reduce the operatic performance to a static, textual object and thus revert to another version of the traditional exegesis of masterpieces. Rather, it is both analogous and continuous with the interpretative practice of the mise en scène itself, and thus well suited to the dynamic and open-ended character of opera on stage. Approached in this way, critical writing on operatic performance becomes not a burial ground, but a site for the revitalization of theatrical experience.

- Axel Englund                                     



Axel Englund (b. 1979) is Wallenberg Academy Fellow at Stockholm University. He received his PhD in Literature from Stockholm University in 2011. He is the author of Still Songs: Music In and Around the Poetry of Paul Celan (Ashgate, 2012) and has published articles on poetry, music and intermediality in Perspectives of New Music, The German Quarterly and German Life and Letters. 

Kierkegaard and the musically non-engaged perspective of modern musicology

In my presentation, I will outline the philosophy of words and music in the text on Mozart and his music in Kierkegaard’s Either/Or (1843). The text is written in a formative age in the history of modern musicology, and read in its historical context, this text can shed light on the premises of the discussions of musicology in modern age.

According to Kierkegaard’s pseudonym A (who loves music, but do not play it himself), music is something purely abstract and immediate, as different from words, which are concrete and reflected. This is why the musical cannot be grasped in words. The musical is truly pre-reflexive and indeterminate – and therefore, according to A, Mozart’s opera on Don Juan (Don Giovanni, 1787) is an eternal masterpiece, since only the life of Don Juan corresponds with the charming, ephemeral and abstract immediacy of the very musical idea. This opera is consequently the only classical work of art imaginable that is “absolute musical”.

In this way, both the idea of music as something ephemeral that “only exists when it is performed”, and the idea of music as the eternal classical work of a genius are present and thought together in Kierkegaard’s text. I shall argue for the historical relevance on this text on music and relate it to e.g. Eduard Hanslick’s idea of musicology in Vom Musikalisch-Shönen (1854). Hanslick’s famous argument for the non-semantic nature of music also relies on the idea of music as something essentially abstract. Ultimately, taking both the character of Kierkegaard’s A and e.g. Hanslick’s specific example referring to the Monteverdi aria “Che Faro” into account, I will criticize this modern understanding of music for being dependent on a spectator’s view of music, forgetting the perspective on the engaged performer – to whom music is by no means something abstract and unreflected.

-Christian Verdoner Larsen 


Christian Verdoner Larsen holds a BA in classical piano, and a master in The History of Ideas.  He is working in the fields of music in philosophy, the history of ideas, and theology – exploring the consequences of a more performer-oriented view on music. He has given lectures at The Acadamy of Music in Aarhus, and public lectures as a musician/philosopher, and currently he is writing articles for the Encyclopedia of the Bible and its Reception, which is under publication (EBR, deGruyter, Berlin).

What is musical about poetry?: rethinking indefensible or metaphysical definitions

‘Poetry is a composition of words set to music’ claimed the poet (and music critic) Ezra Pound.‘Most other definitions of it are indefensible, or metaphysical.’ If Margorie Perloff is right and ‘Pound’s poetic has become synonymous with modernism itself’, this dictum and the many others like it might be better known, and better examined. This paper considers what such definitions and the procedures they uncover reveal to us about the musical natures of poetry. It takes as its starting point the deceptively simple question – what is musical about poetry? – and discovers the complexities of its answer. Music and poetry began together, and ever since have continued a close antagonistic sibling relationship. Almost long as can be remembered, ‘musical’ has been a generalized mark of approbation for poetry; more recently functioning largely as metaphor. This paper considers the procedures and methods of poetry that can be considered musical, and the wider implications for interdisciplinary and intermedial study. Examining rhythm, image, sound, sense, pattern, form, metaphor, notation, and even pitch, the paper focuses on the modernist period, when such concepts were being rethought and reimagined, and Pound himself became evangelist and pivot for a renewed melopoeia, drawing on all music’s resources. By attending to Pound’s poetry and that of his London contemporaries this essay explores what happened when music revolutionized the word. So we observe Pound experimenting with typography, and with W.B.Yeats’s prompting fastening on the ‘inner form’ of the line, the precise rhythmic equivalent of what would become T.S. Eliot’s ‘objective correlative’. We also witness a larger trend, as clouds of synaesthesia that floated through the nineties condense into modernism’s fluid conceptions of the poetic line, and finally crystallize in the carefully structured polyphony of the Cantos. ‘Poetry withers and dries out when it leaves music too far behind it’, noted Pound: this paper discovers a breadth and creativity of response that ought to be a spur to contemporary definitions and scholarly practice.

- Dr Adrian Paterson 



Adrian Paterson is Lecturer in English at the National University of Ireland, Galway. A graduate of Worcester College, Oxford, and Trinity College, Dublin, he completed an IRC-funded research fellowship at the Moore Institute at NUI Galway entitled Perfect Pitch: Music in Irish Poetry from Moore to Muldoon; a monograph Words for Music: W.B.Yeats and Musical Sense is in press. He has published widely on nineteenth and twentieth century literature with a particular interest in artistic interactions of the fin-de-siècle and modernist periods. 

Mahler and the Interdependence of Text and Music:

The relationship between text and music is an issue that raises important questions regarding methodology of song analysis. Should the musical analysis follow a textual one, or vice-versa? Furthermore, as the music and the text, by themselves, potentially suggest endless interpretive possibilities, what is the impact of their combination? By examining Mahler’s setting of Friedrich Rückert’s Wenn dein Mütterlein, from the cycle Kindertotenlieder, I will demonstrate how neither the text, nor the music, but rather their interaction provides a specific interpretive guideline in relation to both. I suggest that in Mahler’s song a process of dual reading occurs as the unique musical form acquires specific meaning through the text, and at the same time provides a framework for a “re-reading” of it. In this context, by ‘musical form’ I refer to the organizational categories of melodic content into segments, themes, and sections, following methods suggested by William Caplin (1997), Julian Horton (2004), and Steven Vande Moortele (2009).

Using Mahler’s song as a study case, I discuss the theoretical implications of the dual reading process in regards to formal musical analysis in general, and that of Mahler’s symphonic works in particular. Mahler often used songs and texts in different manners in his symphonic work. He incorporated them as complete movements or parts of hybrid structures, and alluded to them through musical material or titles. Looking at some examples from Mahler’s symphonic music, I will demonstrate the ways he exploits the dual reading suggested by the combination of text and music in order to imbue formal elements with expressive content, and obscure the lines between form and content. By doing so, I do not suggest a programmatic or narrative interpretation of Mahler’s music, but rather situate the textual elements as functional components in an expressive network presented by Mahler. In a broader context, the analytical approach presented seeks to bridge the methodological gap between textual and musical analysis, and thus to account for the importance of textual allusion in Mahler, and in late nineteenth-century compositional practice.

-Dan Deutsch 



Dan Deutsch is a PhD student in the Department of Music Theory and the Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Toronto. Dan obtained his M.A. and B.A. in music theory and composition from the Jerusalem Academy of Music, and B.A. in comparative literature from the Jerusalem Hebrew University.

Metrical Multistability as a Melopoetic Method

Because both words and music can be metrical, their merging in song often juxtaposes two autonomous metrical structures that may or may not match. Melopoetic metrical mismatch in songs comes across as a flaw – most often in a ‘logocentric’ favor: if poetic accents are displaced in a song, melody is guilty of having misrepresented words’ prosodic distinctiveness. In this paper I will argue that the metrical structure of both melody and words may be ‘multistable’ – that is, open to more than one interpretation without one of them being ‘correct’. I shall suggest that in the case of metrical multistability in one of the two media that make up a song (words and music), their alignment in song is likely to influence the recipient’s choice of metrical interpretation. This results in an emergent intermedial combination in which the joined media sets inerasable imprints onto each other.

The term multistability of metrical interpretation was introduced in 2006 by the empirical musicologist Bruno H. Repp as a solely musical concept referring to the well-known possibility of one melody being interpreted metrically differently by different recipients. The process of inferring musical meter from heard material (beat induction) is thus a highly subjective act. It is, then, the hypothesis of the present paper that this idea, developed within a mono-disciplinary field, can be fruitfully applied to the field of poetic metrics as well, and thus become an interdisciplinary and intermedial analytical tool. Using examples of songs from differing genres, I shall demonstrate how meters in both words and melody may be equivocal in themselves but when joined, the melopoetic fusion favors one of the possible forms. A decisive touchstone in this argument is the inquiry into the phenomenon of one melody being affiliated with multiple lyrics, and vice versa. If, for example, the same melody seems unproblematically to fit texts with seemingly contradictory meters, this suggests the presence of a metrically multistable melopoetic construction.

- Lea Wierød 



Lea Wierød obtained the PhD degree in September 2014 on a thesis on the intermedial (melopoetic) interplay of words and music in church songs with texts by N.F.S. Grundtvig. Her main research interests are Intermediality, Word and Music Studies and Hymnology.


Endless melody in opera and novel – the musical prose of Wagner and Proust

Richard Wagner, as one of the greatest visionaries in the history of modern arts, had an elemental impact not just on music, but on literature among others. This is not surprising at all if we consider that the greatest novelties of his art are almost all attached to intermediality in some sense. Going beyond the much analyzed and debated notion of Gesamtkunstwerk - which has proved to be at least as problematic as inspiring for contemporary and also for later artistic practice and theory - Wagner adopted many notions of intermedial background in the theoretical reflections on his own creative process.

One of the most interesting of these is the point, when he defines the syntax of his musical phrase-building as musical prose (musikalische Prosa). How can we interpret this notion? The most probable interpretation is that in the phrasing of his music Wagner definitively breaks with classical periodicity and creates a brand new kind of musical syntax. Wagner’s music (at least in the works after Lohengrin) is based on a new - free, irregular and open - kind of musical phrasing instead of the much more regular, symmetric and closed period structure inherited from the classical era, that is to say this music is composed in free prose instead of strict verses.

The prose-like texture of Wagner’s music seems to be obvious; therefore it is quite easy to confer his pieces with the works of writers who were enthusiastic about his art, such as Marcel Proust. But on the other hand beyond the prose-like features of Wagner’s music we can also talk about the musicality of Proust’s prose as well. It seems like the syntax of Proust’s narration would follow Wagner’s theory of the endless melody (unendliche Melodie) in some way. In my paper I will try to make some theoretical points concerning word and music relations through the examination of Wagner’s impact on the relationship between music and words in the early 20th century.

- Daniel Nagy


Daniel Nagy graduated as a musicologist at the Liszt Ferenc Music Academy in 2011, and he got his MA degree in semiotics at the Faculty of Humanities of the Loránd Eötvös University in Budapest. He is currently a Phd student of comparative literary studies at the same institution, his planned dissertation theme is Wagner’s impact on 20th century literature.