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Accessible Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton September 1, 2010

On Contexts, Complexity, and Continuity: Grounding Peirce’s Theory of Semiosis to Explain Intersubjective Interpretation, as Exemplified by Mozart

Robert S. Hatten
From the journal Chinese Semiotic Studies


As an extension of Peircean semiotic theory, the author examines the importance of contexts, complexity, and continuity, as demonstrated by the Classical musical style and the interpretation of expressive meaning in a movement of the Mozart Requiem. The author argues that a richer context for interpretation must include the shared competency of a musical style, which both grounds interpretation by means of an "intersubjective interpretant" and also guides listeners' understanding of the unique features or strategies of a given musical work. Complexity is implicated in the integration of such interpretive contexts, which require a more synthetic model than is inferable from Peirce's linear chain of interpretants. Finally, continuity presupposes the body conceived as an organism which is attuned to a particular environment (that which is available to its senses, and with which it engages in actions), with consequences for our understanding of musical gesture. The author enriches Peirce's notion of the continuity of signification across biological and cognitive domains, by analogy with a musical style as the environment within which a musical work is interpretable.

Published Online: 2010-9-1
Published in Print: 2010-9-1

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