The role of meaning in music

British Journal of Aesthetics 42 (2):169-178 (2002)
It has been persuasively argued that music refers. For example, a passage that resembles the demeanour of people under the sway of emotion E is seen as itself being E and, thus, as referring to E. Yet what is the purpose of such reference? Serious music, I say, works as a proof. A passage that refers to E is cast as a well-formed formula in a calculus. That formula is then creatively developed in accordance with the rules of that calculus (e.g. harmony and counterpoint in classical music). As in scientific proofs, intermediary generated formulae need not have external meaning over and above the character they have due to their role in the formal sequence. Yet finally a formula is derived that does have external meaning; for example, it refers to emotion F. The composer has thus fictionally proved that E is equal to F, e.g. that hope is futile or that love conquers all.
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DOI 10.1093/bjaesthetics/42.2.169
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David Carr (2004). Music, Meaning, and Emotion. Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 62 (3):225–234.

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