Music as model for postmodern textual analysis

New Formations - ISSN 0950-2378
Volume 2008 Number 66

Music as model for postmodern textual analysis
Gay Breyley pages -


Rather than subjecting music to hermeneutical procedures that purport to make explicit its implicit motives and meanings, Breyley proposes employing musical concepts - ranging from pitch, tempo and dynamics to counterpoint and atonality - to analyse the drifts and strategies of thought, memory and imagination in verbal texts. Pointing to the dominance of visual and spatial paradigms in canonical Western ‘theory’, she suggests how such paradigms may be re-inflected by focusing on their repressed aural dimensions. Arguing that musical analysis is especially pertinent to the literature of memory, Breyley focuses on three memoirs from Australian minoritarian literature’, by Evelyn Crawford, Ruby Langford Ginibi and Lily Brett, and suggests that these texts be read as a kind of ‘vocalese’ - the adaptation of new words and many voices to pre-arranged ancestral melodies, to tell stories and pay tribute to the composers and previous performers of those tunes. In such works of memory, popular and national discourses can be heard as key-setting ‘bass drones’ underneath the ‘melodies’ of personal memory; and narrative voices and themes can be recognised as organised by principles like counterpoint, improvisation or ornamentation.

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To cite this article
Gay Breyley (2008) Music as model for postmodern textual analysis, New Formations, 2008(66), -

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