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Keynote abstracts

Script and Sound. Some reflections on the creative function of visualization and spatialization for time-bounded processes like word and music

Words and music, understood as performed processes are both rooted in the phenomenon of sound, which is an ‘ephemeral substance’, existing only by disappearing. No wonder that the cultural technique of written language and sheet music gets an important function: Writing seems to avert the sound’s fluidity by transferring the linear temporal process into linear spatial structure. But the cultural role of linguistic and musical literacy is more far-reaching and the idea of linearity shared by sound and text is too narrowly considered. The reason is, that the creativity of writing - like all modalities of ‘operative iconicity’ as graphs, diagrams and maps -  depends on the fact that texts operate within the mode of two-dimensional spatiality. This ‘flatness’ is a constitutive attribute of iconicity and reveals a kind of familiarity between writing, graphism, and the pictorial. As a consequence texts are not only a form of language, but are hybrids generated by the interaction of language and image and able to realize, what would be impossible within pure language and pure image.   

Having this in mind, we may ask: if texts shape performative procedures like words and music, can we identify features of iconicity and spatiality which ‘infiltrate’ language and music? To get an answer we have to distinguish between involuntarily and intentionally implemented spatiality: On the one side, we have the unrecognized traces of ‘scripticism’ (and not only phonocentrism!), which colonialize the theory of language and music as long as these theories dwell blind for writing as their constitutive medium. On the other side, we have an explicit, intentional implementation of spatiality, visuality, and the pictorial into the realm of music and speech. This is explained by two philosophical approaches: (1) René Descartes’ first finished work (Compendium Musicae, 1618) was a theory of music consisting in lots of diagrams: He uses visual spatial relations to describe and recognize attributes of the subjective experience of sounding music. (2) In Friedrich Nietzsches estate we find notes, describing language as a hybrid, a ‘composite being’, created by the interweaving of music and picture. For Nietzsche speech and orality have a double life, insofar as they realize all in one, an Apollinian ( = pictorial) and a Dionysian ( = musical) dimension. Before Nietzsche designed the conceptual difference between ‘apollonian’ and ‘dionysian’ as an art-historical matrix, he used these categories to characterize what is happening within spoken language.


- Sybille Krämer

Words, Music, and Meaning

In this presentation I shall explore ways words and music contribute to the construction of meaning, using as my primary example an arrangement of a popular song by the Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu. According to the perspective I have been developing over the past decade or so, words and music call on different cognitive and formal resources to create and anchor meaning, and Takemitsu’s arrangement provides an ideal—if occasionally problematic—lens for refracting these resources. My aim shall be both to suggest why both language and music have been important in all known human cultures and to set out possible avenues for further research into words, music, and meaning.

- Lawrence M. Zbikowski