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The Musical Semiotics of Timbre in the Human VoiceandStatic Takes Love's Body

Reed, S. Alexander (2006) The Musical Semiotics of Timbre in the Human VoiceandStatic Takes Love's Body. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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In exploring the semiotics of vocal timbre as a general phenomenon within music, theoretical engagement of the history of timbre and of muscial meaning bolsters my illustrative analyses of Laurie Anderson and Louis Armstrong. I outline first its reliance on subtractive filtering imparted physically by the performer's vocal tract, demonstrating that its signification is itself a subtractive process where meaning lies in the silent space between spectral formants. Citing Merleau-Ponty's phenomenology and placing the body's perceptual experience as the basis of existential reality, I then argue that the human voice offers self actualization in a way that other sensory categories cannot, because the voice gives us control over what and how we hear in a way that we cannot control, through our own bodies alone, our sight, touch, taste, and smell. This idea combines with a listener's imagined performance of vocal music, in which I propose that because of our familiarity with the articulations of human sound, as we hear a voice we are able to imagine and mimic the choreography of the vocal tract, engaging a physical and bodily listening, thereby making not only performance but also listening a self-affirming bodily reflection on being. Finally I consider vocal timbre as internally lexical and externally bound by a linguistic context. Citing Peirce and Derrida, and incorporating previous points, I show vocal timbre as a canvas on which a linguistic and musical foreground is painted, all interpreted by the body. Accompanying theoretical discussions is a concerto addressing relevant compositional issues.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Reed, S. Alexandersmr71@pitt.eduSMR71
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairRosenblum, Mathewrosenblu@pitt.eduROSENBLU
Committee MemberWeintraub, Andrewanwein@pitt.eduANWEIN
Committee MemberMoe, Ericemoe@pitt.eduEMOE
Committee MemberHavholm,
Date: 10 July 2006
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 21 April 2005
Approval Date: 10 July 2006
Submission Date: 19 April 2005
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Music
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: body; concerto; Derrida; Laurie Anderson; linguistics; Louis Armstrong; meaning; Merleau-Ponty; music; music theory; Peirce; semiotics; timbre; voice; William Gibson
Other ID:, etd-04192005-095642
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 19:38
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:40


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