Dissertation Index

Author: Samuels, Robert

Title: Semiotics and Mahler: Analyses of Musical Signification in the Sixth Symphony

Institution: Cambridge University

Begun: January 1987

Completed: September 1993


This study develops a theory of musical semiotics which is then applied, using a variety of analytical techniques, to the four movements of MahlerUs Sixth Symphony. The opening chapter describes a general theory of signs, and compares this with previous attempts to frame a semiotics of music. Rather than following the theory developed by Nattiez of a Tneutral levelU of analysis, a semiotic method based on the concept of the TcodeU as found in Eco and Barthes is proposed, which rests on the definition of musical works as texts. The second chapter analyses signs whose scope of reference is limited to the musical work. This proceeds via paradigmatic analysis of motivic structure in the Andante, and represents an application of the methods of Ruwet and Nattiez to the work. The third chapter is a discussion of the semiotics of form in the Finale. An analytical reception history of the work leads to consideration of the different concepts of formal function which cause the varying interpretations of the movement in German-speaking scholarship. The fourth chapter begins the consideration of extramusical signifieds. The use of genre in the Scherzo of both the Sixth and Fifth Symphonies is discussed in relation to the cultural constructs in which it participates. The fifth chapter is an investigation of extroversive semiosis, formed by narrative accounts of the work. Focusing on the first movement, three potential narratives are proposed, corresponding to different conceptions of narrativity in recent theory. A conclusion and bibliography follow.

Keywords: Mahler, Semiotics, Deconstruction, Narrative, Genre, Barthes, Nattiez, Eco, Adorno


1: Theories of the Musical Sign. 2: Motive as Sign: an Analysis of the Andante. 3: Coding of Musical Form: the Finale. 4: Genre and Presupposition in the Mahlerian Scherzo. 5: Musical Narrative and the Suicide of the Symphony. 6: Conclusion.


Robert Samuels, Department of Music, Lancaster University,
Lancaster, LA1 4YW, UK.
Email: mua009@cent1.lancs.ac.uk
Voice: (0)524-594164
Fax: (0)524-593737

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