What Do We Mean by the Meanings of Music?
Creators:Barnard, Philip J.
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Publisher:Empirical Musicology Review
Citation:Empirical Musicology Review, v7 n1-2 (Jan-Apr 2012), 69-80
Drawing upon a recent review of the topic by Cross and Tolbert (2009), this paper briefly illustrates the diversity of theories concerning the nature of meanings in music and the challenges that need to be resolved to advance the field. A scheme for layered macro- and micro-theories for neural, mental and behavioural systems is outlined to facilitate the development of a systematic and coherent body of theory. The core of the paper charts the evolutionary origins of a specific macro- theory of the organisation all the components of the human mind. This “mental architecture,” known as Interacting Cognitive Subsystems (Barnard, 1985), incorporates not one, but two qualitatively distinct forms of meaning. Propositional meanings represent referentially specific ideas while implicational meanings encapsulate a yet more abstract and holistic form of meaning that blends conceptual material with the products of immediate distal and bodily sensations. While both forms of meaning interact in the interpretation and expression of musical meaning, such meanings are argued to be primarily implicational in nature. The paper concludes with a short discussion of how this approach might usefully be applied in the development of more precise specification of what music might mean in its various facets.