What's that noise? : musical boundaries and the construction of listening and meaning


Taking as its starting point Jacques Derrida's argument that the picture frame is both intrinsic and extrinsic, this thesis is concerned with issues of framing within music and the impact of framing on the meaning and perception of musical works. Derrida's writings on the frame are therefore reconsidered within a musical context and used as the basis for the analysis of a number of musical works. It is argued that the theory of allegory supports a position which sees apparently autonomous works as the products of metonymy and thus as the products of the conflation of the intrinsic and extrinsic. This conflation is discussed in relationship to issues of noise and how listeners make decisions about what is and what isn't to be listened to. It is argued that noise is so deemed because of a listener's inability to effectively negotiate and participate in the cultural system within which that sound appears, rather than because of qualities of the sound itself. This is supported by the analyses of several musical works. It is shown that a constituent of this cultural noise is the extra-musical material which appears alongside the work, with individual works being created and perceived against a background of other disparate texts. Theoretical approaches to apprehending the forms and functions of these trans-texts are discussed. In particular, titles and the author figure are shown to be essential parts of an artwork which structure both how it is produced and how it is perceived. These theoretical frameworks inform the analyses of several musical works in which it is demonstrated that such trans-texts are not mere attachments but also constitutive. In conclusion, it is argued that boundaries of musical works are the sites of structural and cultural tensions which have fareaching effects on how and what music means

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White Rose E-theses Online

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This paper was published in White Rose E-theses Online.

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