Northwestern University

Tue 3:30 PM

Music Theory & Cognition Colloquium: Two Presentations

When: Tuesday, January 29, 2013
3:30 PM - 5:00 PM  

Where: 711 Elgin Road, 21, Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Public

Contact: Olga Sanchez  

Group: Bienen School of Music

Category: Lectures & Meetings


Two presentations are scheduled, both by graduate students from the University of Chicago.

Instrumental Topics and Situated Simulation
Jonathan de Souza

Haydn's writing for valveless horn often features hunting calls, idiomatic figures rich in significance for contemporaneous listeners. When these figures appear in works for other instruments, we may hear "virtual horns." What makes such experiences of imagined instruments possible? And what do they suggest about musical reference and musical technology? My talk explores these questions, drawing on Lawrence Barsalou's theory of perceptual symbol systems. In Barsalou's terms, instrumental topics involve situated simulation, reactivating perceptual components and associations derived from sensory experience. An auditory illusion from Carl Maria von Weber's opera Der Freischütz further shows how instrumental topics are "productive," recombining sensory schemas in novel ways.

Breaking Routine: Musical Narrative and Implicature in Japanese Role-Playing Games
Peter Shultz
A study of musical narrativity in video games poses significant challenges to the literary, text-based theories of narrative that have figured prominently in music scholarship to date. This paper examines several Japanese role-playing games (JRPGs) published in the 1980s and 1990s. These games, notably the Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest series, were celebrated as much for their soundtracks as for their sprawling stories, and indeed, music seems to play a narrative role: most of the cues are keyed to (and named after, in printed material) characters and locations in the game world, and a number of informal pieces by fans and journalists celebrate the referential, "leitmotivic" aspect of character themes and motives. But music has another narrative role, guiding players as they parse events into sequences, routines, and breaks. This narrativity is not monologic but conversational, co-constructed by the player and the game. Just as speakers exploit conversational logic to "implicate" without explicitly saying, JRPGs use expectations of relevance and routine to communicate "off record." This view of narrativity opens up new approaches to the study of musical meaning and communication.  

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