Music as Metaphor

Music as Metaphor: The Elements of Expression

Donald N. Ferguson
Copyright Date: 1960
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 212
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.ctttsm28
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  • Book Info
    Music as Metaphor
    Book Description:

    Professor Ferguson, proposing new theories on how music conveys meaning to its listeners, identifies and discusses the elements of musical expression.

    eISBN: 978-1-4529-3707-6
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-x)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. xi-2)
  3. I The Problems of Criticism and Expression
    (pp. 3-18)

    The main purpose of this book is to offer a rational account of the structural basis and the functional process of musical expression. It will explore, that is, the substance of music as related to vital rather than to purely aesthetic experience. We shall find that the musical illumination of experience may attain to the vividness of metaphor — that music may appear to the sentient listener as the very stuff, not of experience as it is factually seen and intellectually known, but of experience as it lives, largely as an emotional response to factual encounter, in our minds. To...

  4. II The Factors of Beauty
    (pp. 21-28)

    To those primitive satisfactions of physical appetite with which our evolution began, many new and more subtle delights have been added. As our experience grows, we become convinced that of all these the delight in beauty is the highest. Few, indeed, will readily confess insensibility to beauty. We even admit with a kind of shamefacedness any failure to respond to its appeal, as if our lapse were somehow a sin against the holy ghost. Yet, highly as we regard it, beauty remains a kind of mystery. We can neither define it as a positive attribute of an object nor describe...

  5. III Form and Content in Relation
    (pp. 29-37)

    We have seen that our awareness of beauty appears to be compounded of two lesser perceptions — those of form and content. Analysis reveals no other factors in the beautiful object; yet the sum of these two, valued purely in their analytical aspect, is less than the whole value apprehended in the thing of beauty. We must assume, accordingly, that the sense of beauty is somehow awakened by the fusion of these two contributory factors hi the one comprehensive awareness. To examine the fact of fusion itself will thus be our first task.

    Before that fact can be profitably studied,...

  6. IV Form in Isolation
    (pp. 38-50)

    The foregoing will have revealed something of the interdependence of form and meaning in awakening the sense of beauty. A single unit of poetic structure (a word) may possess the value either of form or of meaning; and that unit appears in a considerably different guise accordingly as it is observed in the one aspect or the other. But when these values are fused — when such an art-work as our illustrative stanza is viewed in its normal perspective — not only that unit but the whole art-work itself possesses a higher interest than when either its formal or its...

  7. V Content in Isolation: Non-aesthetic Idea and Emotion
    (pp. 51-63)

    Toward an ideal form, music probably rises higher than any other art. The tonal stuff of music is of great sensuous appeal; it is surely the most plastic substance ever to be molded into tangible forms; and in the creation of those forms the musician is absolved from all immediate consideration of the physical appearances and properties ofthings. The other arts deal, whether realistically or ideally, with things;* and these things, whatever their nature, the artist must somehow raise to that height of imaginative interest which will make them relevant factors in an ideal form-pattern. While all art is...

  8. VI The Two Elements of Musical Expression
    (pp. 64-79)

    Having now defined the field of experience to which the musical substance as a vehicle of expression must relate, our next task must be to discover, first, the factors of that substance which may function for expression, and secondly, the manner in which they achieve that end.

    We have seen that each of the three elements of musical structure contributes to the fact of musical form. They function toward that end through the operation of two “activities” — those of tonal tension and motion. But tension and motion are also conspicuous features of many other operations than that exhibited in...

  9. VII The Secondary Factors of Musical Expression
    (pp. 80-86)

    The elements of musical expression — tone-stress and ideal motion, if our identification is accurate — may be so manipulated as to present the musical substance in the aspect of a vehicle through which an idea — an image and a valuation — of extramusical experience may be communicated. This communication is embodied in a structure of tones, also visible purely as structure, just as a verbal communication is embodied in a purely syntactical structure of words. Final determination of the meaning of either communication must obviously be made through precise observation of this structure, both as structure and as...

  10. VIII The Functioning of the Elements
    (pp. 87-123)

    Our hypothesis, now to be tested, may be summarized briefly as follows:

    There are two fundamental elements of musical expression — tone-stress and ideal motion. These elements may serve to portray, respectively, two of the three elemental factors of emotional experience—nervous tension and motor impulse. If the particular types of nervous tension and motor impulse, thus represented, appear as correlative reactions — if both are recognizable as characteristic of the known or naturally imaginable response to a given type of emotional stimulation—then these representations, functioning in combination, may form the ground-work of an intelligible expression of the emotional...

  11. IX The Functioning of the Elements in the Sonata Form
    (pp. 124-152)

    The foregoing has offered a general demonstration of the functioning of our hypothetical elements of expression. That demonstration, involving much detail, has perhaps blurred the somewhat difficult identification of the elements themselves. It has certainly blurred that relation of form to content which, with our illustrative stanza as a basis, we tried to define in the third chapter. It will doubtless have been understood that we intend no disparagement of form, and that we have merely ignored that one value, being preoccupied with another. But if the relation of form to expression is important in poetry, it must be equally...

  12. X The Contribution of the Elements to the Problem of Criticism
    (pp. 153-164)

    We might have gone on, endlessly, analyzing and comparing in the aspect of their expressive significance works both earlier and later than our chosen examples; but these, we believe, will sufficiently illustrate our thesis— that music is capable of expressing, intelligibly, emotions aroused by significant human experience. The present chapter will attempt both to show the nature of the problem of musical criticism when the expressiveness of music is recognized as a factor in it, and also (but with little resort to the apparatus of analysis) how an expanded critical view of the significance of musical compositions results from consideration...

  13. XI The Past and the Future of the Elements
    (pp. 165-178)

    We have thus far attempted to answer, relatively to a period during which a generally undisputed technique of musical composition was practiced, the question:Canmusic express emotion rooted in extramusical experience? Considerable importance for our argument must also attach to the question:Hasmusic, in periods prior to that we have considered, expressed emotion? For our elements, observed as functioning within the musical substance, must have evolved along with that substance; the evolution of music did not begin with the period we have illustrated; and earlier structures, gradually assuming the forms we have observed, may also show a gradual...

  14. XII Music as Metaphor
    (pp. 181-188)

    Not only in the swiftness and vividness of its expressive suggestion, but in a certain aspect of its whole expressive process, music largely resembles metaphor. Indeed, to set forth this analogy in detail will in some measure summarize our whole thesis, and perhaps present it in a desirably succinct form. That effort may thus occupy us in our final chapter.

    The analogy is indeed somewhat remote. To set it forth will require a good deal of apparent circumlocution. Thus our final reasons, which must rehearse in another perspective much of what has gone before, may appear to the reader as...

  15. Appendix
    (pp. 191-195)
  16. Index
    (pp. 196-198)