DH Lecture Series 2017 - Music Semantics: Problems and Prospects. Schlenker Philippe-2017

Digital Humanities at EPFL

While it is nearly uncontroversial that music is subject to some ‘syntactic rules’, it is initially very unclear that music has ‘meaning’ in anything like the usual sense. We sketch a conceptual framework in which music can trigger inferences about a music-external reality, and may even be endowed with (highly underspecified) truth conditions. But their source is very different from that of most truth-conditional phenomena in language: normal auditory cognition and aspects of iconic semantics (used for pictures, gestures, and some aspects of signs) are better models than compositional semantics in language.