david bard-schwarz
  • MUTH 6680: Music and Semiotics, Spring 2004
  • Instructor: Dr. David Bard-Schwarz
  • Office: MU 104
  • E-mail: david.schwarz@unt.edu
  • Office hours: Tuesdays and Thursdays 10:00-12:00

In this class we will study music and / as semiotics (a study of signs). Semiotics is an immense area of study, and the range of applications to music is immense as well. In each class we will focus on one idea and apply that idea to at least one piece of music. We will read primary sources of semiotics in linguistics and literary criticism; our musical pieces will come from the standard classical repertoire, twentieth- and twentyfirst-century music, as well as popular music, film music, performance art, and interactive electronic compositions.

Class members come from disciplines across the college of music: theory, musicology, composition, jazz studies, performance, and conducting. We all bring different musical and intellectual backgrounds to the course. Thus no one should feel disadvantaged in terms of what you know or do not know. I assume plenty of varied musical chops and experiences; I assume varied intellectual backgrounds we well.

I'll determine grades as follows:

  • Journal = 50%
  • Final paper = 50%

Please send journal entries to me as e-mail attachments by 10:00 a.m. on Friday of each week in which we have regularly scheduled classes. Please write "semiotics journal" in the subject heading. I'll print out your e-mails (after having responded to them electronically) and keep them in a folder. The journal is intended as a way for you to ponder the readings and make them your own. I'll grade the journal on consistency and evidence of intellectual / musical curiosity, discipline, and creativity.

You will also write a final paper; it should be around 20 pages in length (having been revised down from 50 or so). It will bring together an idea and a piece of music. The idea must be responsibly grounded in the kinds of scholarship we are reading, and the study of a work of music must be musically precise. The paper must be as well-written and well-documented as an article appearing in a scholarly journal.

I have prepared a substantial reader for the course (an understatment). It contains most of the readings we'll cover in class on semiotics and most of the music, as well. In addition, it contains supporting readings and pieces that are optional.

Rob Tompkins will be working on an ongoing bibliography of music and semiotics this semester. Please e-mail him sources that you find useful. Use proper bibliography form in your correspondece with Rob. Also, if you find books and articles at the library that you think would be good for us, please place them on Janelle's desk in the Music Library with a note "for carrel 402" and she'll mark them as ours.

A Bibliography for Semiotics and Music

  • 1/13 Introductions
  • 1/15 Music and Semiotics
  • Jonathan Culler, Ferdinand de Saussure
  • Kaja Silverman, "From Sign to Subject: A Short History"
  • Ferdinand de Saussure, Course in General Linguistics "The Object of Study"
  • Chopin, Prelude Opus 28, no. 2 in A minor
  • 1/20 Transformations, loops, if-then statements, and variables
  • Chopin, Prelude Opus 28, no. 4 in E minor
  • 1/22 Metaphor and Metonymy
  • Roman Jakobsen, "The Metaphoric and Metonymic Poles"
  • Facsimile of page 2 of Franz Schubert "Der Doppelgänger"
  • Franz Schubert, "Der Doppelgänger"
  • 1/27 Music and Story
  • Roland Barthes, "Introduction to the Structural Analysis of Narratives"
  • Patrick Mccreless, "Barthes' S/Z from a Musical Point of View"
  • Ludwig van Beethoven, Symphony no. 4, first movement
  • 1/29 Student Informal Presentations
  • 2/3 Pointing
  • Charles Sanders Peirce: sign, index, icon
  • Breughel, "Proverbs"
  • Anton Webern, Bagatelle for String Quartet, Opus 9, no. 4
  • 2/5 The Sublime I
  • Immanuel Kant, Critique of Judgement
  • music and / as limitless Cage, "Organ / ASLSP"
  • 2/10 The Sublime II
  • Music and / as Stuck: Franz Schubert "Die Stadt"
  • A Review of the Sign with an Emphasis on the Semantic and Syntactic Articulations
  • in Music and Language
  • 2/12 Music and Influence
  • Harold Bloom, The Anxiety of Influence Introduction
  • Mark Evan Bonds, After Beethoven: introduction and chapter 1
  • Ludwig van Beethoven, Symphony no. 9 beginning of the fourth movement
  • Gustav Mahler, Symphony no. 9 excerpt from the third movement
  • 2/17 Authorship
  • Michel Foucault, "What is an Author?"
  • Fredric Jameson, "Postmodernism and Consumer Society"
  • Luciano Berio, Sinfonia three minutes of the third movement
  • 2/19 Aura
  • Walter Benjamin, "The Work of Art in the Age of its Mechanical Reproducibility"
  • Kevin Brunkhorst, Jeff Morris, and John Dribus: presentations
  • 2/24 In-class student presentations.
  • 2/27 Journals
  • Review presentations for today.
  • 3/2 Music and Ideology
  • Louis Althusser, "Ideology and Ideological State Appartuses"
  • Slavoj Žižek, Metastases of Enjoyment "Superego by Default"
  • Jimi Hendrix, "The Star-spangled Banner"
  • 3/4 Music and the Body
  • Roy Porter, "History of the Body"
  • Elaine Scarry, "The Structure of Torture"
  • Diamanda Galás, Plague Mass
  • Die Boehse Onkelz, "Alles F.A.M." from Schwarz/Weiss
  • Mike Crispin: 3:00-3:15
  • 3/5 Journals
  • Journal entries should become completely paper-directed from here on. For today, propose a final paper topic, an approach, and precise goals and methods.
  • 3/9 The Sonorous Envelope
  • Didier Anzieu, The Skin Ego"The Sound Envelope"
  • 3/11 The Acoustic Mirror
  • Philip Hill, Lacan for Beginnners Chapters 2 and 3
  • Jacques Lacan, "The Mirror Phase"
  • 3/12 Journals
  • 3/23 The Real
  • Dylan Evans, An Introductory Dictionary of Lacanian Psychoanalysis excerpts
  • Slavoj Žižek, Looking Awry excerpt
  • Alfred Hitchcock, The Birds
  • 3/25 Opera and Stepwise Motions
  • Robert Bailey, "Analytical Study" in Critical Edition of Tristan
  • Richard Wagner, Parsifal "Transformation Music in Act I"
  • 3/26 Journals
  • Work on papers and let me know if you are encountering problems.
  • 3/30 Guest Lecure by Dr. Wagner: opera, fascism, Germany.
  • 4/1 Music and the Scream
  • Diamanda Galás, Plague Mass
  • John Corigliano, Symphony no. 1, Tarantella
  • John Zorn, "Blood Duster" from Torture Garden
  • 4/2 Journals
  • No journal; just write.
  • 4/6 Music and Noise
  • John Zorn, Kristallnacht
  • David Lynch, Elephant Man
  • 4/8 Film Music
  • Anahid Kassabian, Hearing Film
  • 4/9 Journals
  • You should have a clear sense of the large-scale structure of your argument and you should have begun writing. Let me know if you're having trouble.
  • 4/13 The Voice
  • Roland Barthes, "The Grain of the Voice"
  • Mladen Dolar, "The Object Voice"
  • Alban Berg, "Prologue" Lulu
  • Gregorio Allegri, Miserere mei, Deus"
  • John Zorn, Chimeras
  • Eric Clapton and BB King "I Want to Marry You"
  • Diamanda Galás "The Dark End of the Street"
  • Störkraft, "Terror"
  • Arnold Schoenberg, Pierrot Lunaire
  • 4/15 Trauma
  • Richard Appignanesi, Freud for Beginners excerpts
  • Sigmund Freud, Beyond the Pleasure Principle Chapter 2
  • Anton Webern, Sechs Orchesterstücke Opus 6, no. 4
  • Steve Reich, Different Trains
  • "Volk ans Gewehr"
  • Claude Lanzman, Shoah
  • 4/16 Journals
  • 4/20 Open Office Hours and Conferences no class
  • 4/22 Gender and Music
  • Julia Kristeva, Powers of Horror "Semiotics of Biblical Abomination"
  • Diamanda Galás, "Do you Take this Man"
  • Luwig van Beethoven, Symphony no. 5, first movement
  • Richard Wagner, "Prelude" to Tristan and Isolde
  • Cindy McTee, Symphony no. 1 / Ballet for Orchestra
  • Arvo Paert, Fratres