Dr. Damjana Bratuz
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Bartókiana - Abstracts

The Long Echoes (II): Poetics of Transformation in Bartók and Brancusi


In his opening lecture at the XIV Congress of the International Musicological Society (Bologna, 1987), Umberto Eco addressed both the ancient question of music as language, and the more recent problem of music as a semiotic concern. The latter arose from the attempt "to define music by means of another semiotic system, while it is music that has probably offered itself as a model to all other semiotic systems." [All quotations are taken from the published version of U. Eco's address in Intersezioni, VIII/2, August 1988]
Eco was speaking at a congress devoted to musical re/ception ('ricezione') and he stressed the fact that one could indeed base "the specific of semiosis" upon interpretation, given the connection between the semiotic object and the moment of re/ception.

In the "Pythagoric vision" of classical musicology from antiquity to its subsequent development in Western culture, the experience of sound as a "perceptible, physical, sensible and sensuous phenomenon" was abandoned. recalled Eco, the executor/performer being considered but a "slave, a mechanic," as compared to the music theorist. Thus in the Middle Ages Boethius would praise the theorists for approaching music "relicto aurium judicio" and by so "abandoning the ear's judgment," not only "the possibility of explaining the concrete phenomena of musical reception" was lost, but even “ possibilities of attributing signification to the musical discourses.”…The history of music, concluded Eco, is not only the story of Pythagoras observing the blacksmith as he strikes his hammers, and deriving a science of proportions from it, but "it is also the history of the blacksmith and of those who heard him…"

The purpose of my contribution to this Symposium is to explore – as a 'slave, a mechanic,' i.e., as a performer of music – certain categories of musical signification whose nature can only by perceived by the ear. They do not depend upon the disposition of tones that can be submitted to traditional analysis and classification, nor can they be simply described by methaphorical analogies. They manifest themselves to the ear at the moment of re/ception as possibilities of semiosis, when both the transmittor and the recipient of the musical discourse become the faber/artifex of musical signification.

The subject of my audio-visual presentation is a juxtaposition of two different 'languages' that manifest a common source of symbolization. It was around 1907 that both the Hungarian composer Bartók and the Rumanian sculptor Brancusi adopted ancient structural and formative elements – hence the allusion in the paper's title to Baudelaire's poem Correspondances.

It was already a vanishing world, said Bartók, when he reclaimed its "mother tongue" and its power of signification as his own; a world that had been, he said, “beautiful both to the ear and the eye.” Bartók and Brancusi shared psychological 'correspondences’ and a concern with incorporating in the 'fabric' of their work elements from the Eastern and Western world; both treated their peasant material in accord with its intrinsic 'codes;' both accomplished in their work that anamnesis described (regarding Brancusi) by Mircea Eliade.

[Adapted for the proposed INDO-CANADIAN SYMPOSIUM in Mysore, India. Pending]


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