The question of whether music has meaning has been the subject of sustained debate ever since music became a subject of academic inquiry. Is music a language? Does it communicate specific ideas and emotions? What does music mean, and how does this meaning occur?
Kofi Agawu's Music as Discourse promises to quickly become a standard and definitive work in musical semiotics. Working at the nexus of musicology, ethnomusicology, and music philosophy and aesthetics, Agawu presents a synthetic and innovative approach to musical meaning which argues deftly for the thinking of music as a discourse in itself--composed not only of sequences of gestures, phrases, or progressions, but rather also of the very philosophical and linguistic props that enable the analytical formulations made about music as an object of study. The book provides extensive demonstration of the pertinence of a semiological approach to understanding the fully-freighted language of romantic music, stresses the importance of a generative approach to tonal understanding, and provides further insight into the analogy between music and language. Music as Discourse will be eagerly read by all who are interested in the theory, analysis and semiotics of music of the romantic period.