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Friday, January 24, 2020


The meaning of music is always a literary meaning.

It is either associated with the words set to music, or with a "progammatic" interpretation, or with an allegorical reading of the harmony. There has to be a literary device there at some level. There have to be words there in the music itself, or else words supplied later to account for what the meaning is.

This not to say that music is meaningless.  But its meaning is literary in any given instance.

The words frame our interpretation of the music, and vice-versa. It can be easy to see that a setting of a poem gives it a certain interpretation.

For example, a poem by JRJ that is all about contained emotion, gets a setting and performance that is highly emotive and expressive in the flamenco style. Then you see that the music frames the text in a way different from that of other possible readings.

Or a mournful reading of a cheery lyric, by Billie Holiday.  We get ironic performance.

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