Musical motion and meaning
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In this thesis, I argue that musical motion takes the place of 'content' as the bridge between form and meaning in the context of instrumental music - music without text, program, or any other verbal indication of subject matter. I begin by discussing the question of musical content: does instrumental music have a conceptual content? Is such a non-representational art capable of communicating ideas? Historically, this question has been answered through the connection of instrumental music to human emotion. In part one, I describe philosophies of musical content, including theories of imitation, representation, and symbolization. I also describe the formalist position, which argues that music's non-verbal nature renders it incapable of communicating anything other than uniquely musical ideas (thematic ideas, movies, etc.). I agree with the formalists that music does not imitate, represent, or symbolize human emotion. Insofar as these sorts of relations traditionally define the idea of 'content,' I agree that music has no explicit 'content.' However, I disagree with the formalist claim that emotions have no aesthetically relevant role in the experience of instrumental music. It is my view that emotions find their place in instrumental music not as a kind of 'content,' but as part of the human experience of musical motion. In part two I discuss this idea of musical motion, and in parts two and three I consider the relationship between music's movement, the emotions that we perceive in music, and the meaning that we give to it.
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