Dissertation Index

Author: Cox, Arnie W.

Title: The Metaphoric Logic of Musical Motion and Space

Institution: University of Oregon

Begun: June 1995

Completed: June 1999


Music discourse relies on concepts of musical motion and space despite the fact that tones do not actually move in the ways that we describe. This study employs Lakoff and Johnson's theory of metaphor to analyze the logic behind these basic concepts, and it grounds the musical meanings afforded by these concepts in phenomenology, embodied cognition, and the logic of metaphoric thought. Concepts of motion and space are shown to emerge in the imagination of embodied listeners as we map experience in the domain of actual motion onto the domain of musical experience.

Chapter 1 offers an account of verticality in terms of a blend of ten sources, seven of which depend on the conceptual metaphor "More Is Higher." Chapter 2 presents the 'mimetic hypothesis', which argues that we understand music in terms of our own experience of making vocal sounds and via tacit imitation of the sounds and gestures of performers. Chapter 3 examines the role of metaphor in Kaluli and Ancient Greek music theories and finds verticality integral there as well. The analysis of Greek theories also reveals the pervasiveness of the metaphor "More Is Higher" and demonstrates, among other things, that verticality in the West predates its representation in staff notation. Chapter 4 extends Lakoff and Johnson's analysis of our temporal metaphors and shows musical motion and space to be special cases of temporal motion and space. The identical dynamics of anticipation, presence, and memory in the domains of music and actual motion motivate us to map spatial relations onto the relations of tones.

By setting out the details of the cross-domain mappings we can account for both the logic and the paradox of musical motion and space. By grounding musical meaning in embodied cognition, this study also establishes the basis of an affective theory of meaning.

Keywords: Metaphor, verticality, motion, time, space, Greek theory, perception, cognition, philosophy


Chapter 1: 'High' and 'Low'
Chapter 2: The Mimetic Hypothesis and Embodied Music Cognition
Chapter 3: Conceptions of Pitch in Kaluli and Ancient Greek Music
Chapter 4: Temporal Motion and Musical Motion


Arnie Cox
Visiting Assistant Professor
Oberlin College Conservatory of Music
77 W. College St.
Oberlin, OH 44074
Office 440-775-8945
Home 440-775-3174
Fax 440-775-6972

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