Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 31

Sound and Feeling

Author(s): Anthony Newcomb

Source: Critical Inquiry, Vol. 10, No. 4 (Jun., 1984), pp. 614-643
Published by: The University of Chicago Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1343314
Accessed: 12-11-2017 12:10 UTC

Linked references are available on JSTOR for this article:
You may need to log in to JSTOR to access the linked references.

JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide
range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and
facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.

Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at

The University of Chicago Press is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and
extend access to Critical Inquiry

This content downloaded from on Sun, 12 Nov 2017 12:10:22 UTC
All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms
Sound and Feeling

Anthony Newcomb

Just as my fingers on these keys

Make music, so the selfsame sounds
On my spirit make a music, too.

Music is feeling, then, not sound

-WALLACE STEVENS, "Peter Quince at the Clavier"

How so?
For centuries philosophers have searched for the source of sense
behind music's sensual surfaces. Peter Kivy, in The Corded Shell: Reflections
on Musical Expression, has recently taken up the challenging question onc
more.' How is it philosophically possible to formulate and defend th
idea that music can express anything at all? is one aspect of this question
How does the individual piece of music transmit its particular expressive
message? is the other.
Professionally, at least, philosophers and musicians do not think
about music in the same way. Though their words may sometimes b
similar, they are not asking the same questions, and they do not rest eas
with the same answers. Philosophers try to formulate a theory accordin
to which one can speak economically and consistently of music as a form
of communication. Their answers are abstract, usually without referenc
to any particular piece. Musicians-those who admit interest in the questio
at all, that is-tend simply to assume that music can "express." They ask
what a particular piece or group of pieces expresses, and in answering
this question, the boldest of them may seek to put into words the particular
Critical Inquiry 10 (June 1984)
? 1984 by The University of Chicago. 0093-1896/84/1004-0007$01.00. All rights reserved.


This content downloaded from on Sun, 12 Nov 2017 12:10:22 UTC
All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms
Critical Inquiry June 1984 615

means by which a piece expresses what they hear in it. Thus musicians
often become impatient with the philosophers' concerns, thinking them
to be far removed from the music itself. Philosophers, on their part,
regard the musicians' talk as shaky stuff, naive and conceptually ill founded.
A number of recent studies show a welcome resolve to bridge this
gap.2 After several decades during which most serious musical analysis
was exclusively structural, avoiding altogether questions of expressive
meaning or communication, a growing number of skilled analysts are
once more asking questions about the communicative content latent in
the structural idea, and they are looking to philosophy for help in guiding
their thought. Similarly, a number of philosophers have concerned them-
selves with music, trying to formulate a coherent theoretical system in
which musical analysts could cast their questions and answers. Kivy's
book is the latest (perhaps not any more) in a series of such attempts by
philosophers and musicians. An intelligent and clearly written book that
has already attracted a good deal of attention, Kivy's Corded Shell: Reflections
on Musical Expression offers a fitting occasion for reflection on the most
significant essays in this field by philosophers and musicians to appear
over the past fifteen or so years.3
I do not by any means wish to take on the philosophy or aesthetics
of music as a whole. In his review of Edward Lippman's Humanistic
Philosophy of Music, Monroe Beardsley lists six areas in which an ideal
philosophy of music ought to provide guidance: (1) an ontology of music,
an answer to the question What is a musical work of art? (2) a taxonomy
of music, a categorical scheme for the basic and universal aspects of
music; (3) a hermeneutics or semiotics of music, an answer to the question
What, if anything, can music refer to? (4) an epistemology of music; (5) a
theory of music criticism, an answer to the question What makes one
musical work better than another? (6) the foundations of a social philosophy
of music.4 My subject here is the third item. I want most particularly to
separate it from the fifth item, for to arrive at an interpretation of a
particular piece is not to arrive at an evaluation of it. I shall also try,
particularly in my discussion of Nelson Goodman's seminal Languages of
Art, to avoid the first item.5 And I shall try throughout to avoid embroilment
in the question of how the aesthetic experience can be separated from
the nonaesthetic.
My subject is in fact only a part of the third item above, namely,
current theories of musical expression. "Expression" is not equivalent to

Anthony Newcomb, professor of music at the University of California,

Berkeley, is the author of The Madrigal at Ferrara. He is currently at work
on a book on musicaficta, Understood Accidentals in Renaissance Vocal Polyphony,
1450-1600, and on a study of the relationship between structure and
expression in nineteenth-century music.

This content downloaded from on Sun, 12 Nov 2017 12:10:22 UTC
All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms
616 Anthony Newcomb Sound and Feeling

"meaning"; I understand and shall use the word "expression" to indicate

a kind of meaning that entails some kind of reference outside the internal
syntax of the artwork itself. As Goodman remarks, "rather obviously, to
express is to refer in some way to what is expressed."6 How this reference
is made by the artwork in interaction with the listener, and what sort of
purpose it serves-these concerns will be the focus of this essay. To
choose this focus is not to deny something of which I have no doubt,
both from Peter Faltin's careful arguments and from my own experience:
there is a kind of musical meaning that is purely syntactic, that operates
without reference outside the internal operations or procedures of musical
systems themselves.7 But though this may be ontologically the most fun-
damental kind of musical meaning, it is not the only kind. To listen for
this alone is not the only way to approach music. Indeed, I should guess
it is not the most fundamental way for many listeners.

The primary works with which this essay is concerned can be divided
into two groups. The first group, which includes the writings of Goodman
and Beardsley (together with Susanne Langer before them), occupies
itself with the more abstractly philosophical side of the question. It asks
and tries to answer such questions as: How can music, an art without
anything like a normal semantics, be considered to express anything at
all? What are the general mechanisms involved? What are the abstract,
philosophical arguments by which one can justify the abandonment of
what Langer calls the "silly fiction of self-significance"?8 This is the most
rigorously philosophical side of the spectrum.
With the second group, we move toward the center of the spectrum.
These works are concerned less with the formulation of original philo-
sophical explanations for musical expression and more with the particular
mechanisms for the transmission of expressive content in a particular
style or piece. This is where we must locate not only recent books by
musicians such as Wilson Coker (Music and Meaning) and Edward Cone
(The Composer's Voice) but Kivy's book as well.9 Surprisingly for a professional
philosopher, Kivy is rather casual about the question of reference, the
subject of much debate in recent years. The heart of his book is a dem-
onstration that certain musical patterns and phrases, defined principally
in melodic terms, are traditionally associated with certain expressive
meanings (or, in philosophical language, with certain groups of expressive
predicates, such as "is sad," "is angry," "is joyous"). In short, Kivy, like
Deryck Cooke in his much-cited Language of Music, gives us a mid-
twentieth-century version of baroque Figurenlehre.'1
At first blush, this may seem less ambitious than the radical concerns
of the first group. On the other hand, while Goodman, Beardsley, and

This content downloaded from on Sun, 12 Nov 2017 12:10:22 UTC
All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms
Critical Inquiry June 1984 617

Langer entirely avoid such specific details of music in the Western tonal
system as might help the listener (and the critic) decide what a given
piece may be said to express, Kivy attempts to deal with precisely such
details. We must admire the philosopher's courage in venturing into the
messy area of musical specifics and in trying to bridge the gap between
philosophical aesthetics and practical criticism. Since Kivy's book, in its
brave involvement with both philosophy and music, touches on the most
important problems of the area in which the two intersect, I shall summarize
its contents before returning to Goodman and Beardsley.
Kivy's real area of concern, then, is music criticism, which he divides
into four kinds: the biographical (Schumann, for example), the autobio-
graphical (Berlioz), the emotive (Donald Tovey), and the purely technical
(Joseph Kerman and Leonard Meyer are his examples here!). Like Stanley
Cavell, Kivy deplores that "the musically untrained but humanistically
educated seem to face a choice between descriptions of music too technical
for them to understand, or [ones] decried as nonsense by the authorities
their education has taught them to respect" (p. 9)." He wants to revivify
what he calls the emotive style but regrets the lack of firm criteria for
the application of its expressive predicates. Establishing the philosophical
foundations for such criteria is his pressing concern. On the way to doing
so, he will make some preliminary distinctions. One, borrowed from Alan
Tormey's Concept of Expression, distinguishes "expressing" something from
"being expressive of" something.'2 A scream of anguish or a supremely
caustic letter may, on two levels of artfulness, "express" the pain of a
rejected lover, while the face of the Saint Bernard whose photograph
figures as the frontispiece of Kivy's book "is expressive of" sadness, whether
or not the dog whose muscles had set those features when the camera
recorded them actually felt sad at that moment. With the concept "is
expressive of," there is no necessary or direct connection between the
mental state of the author of the action or artwork-at the time of creation
or, for that matter, at any other time-and the expressive meaning of
the action or artwork itself. (Tormey's distinction is clearly different from
John Dewey's in Art and Experience between "expressing" and "giving vent
to," where the scream of anguish gives vent to the pain while the caustic
letter expresses it.) Kivy's intention is to construct a theory by which
music can be expressive of "what we call 'emotions' and 'moods,' " without
touching the question of whether it can be expressive of other things
an unfortunate exclusion of significant areas of what could properly be
called musical expression (p. 15).
In a historical summary, Kivy rejects the earlier idea that music
arouses or stimulates our emotions directly, espousing the later idea that
we recognize emotional expression in music because the music bears some
resemblance to the structure of our emotions. Langer extensively developed
a version of this cognitive view in Philosophy in a New Key and Feeling and
Form, but Kivy would like to go beyond Langer's adamant refusal to

This content downloaded from on Sun, 12 Nov 2017 12:10:22 UTC
All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms
618 Anthony Newcomb Sound and Feeling

individuate in words the emotional content of music. He would like to

view music as expressive of individual emotions -not strictly your emotions
or my emotions but emotions that can somehow be individuated, instea
of Langer's emotion-in-general. We hear specific emotional content in
music, he says, and to do so is to recognize specific properties in that
music. The important matter, then, is to explore the path by which w
move from the properties themselves to the expressive predicates tha
we apply to the music.
On this matter he develops his version of a theory of expression th
has found many and various adherents in this century. I shall call it th
"isomorphic" theory, although Kivy distances himself from what he se
as some undesirable implications of this word (see pp. 63-64). Mus
according to this theory, is expressive of our emotional life because i
bears structural resemblances to that emotional life-or, in Kivy's particu
version of this theory, to our physical manifestations of that emotion
life. For example, we see the Saint Bernard's face as expressive of sadne
because we see its features as structurally similar to the features of o
own faces when they express sadness. Just so, music is seen (or heard
as gestures in sound, which resemble some elements of our expressive
behavior and act on our emotions because we recognize these resemblanc
The elements of expressive behavior on which Kivy relies consistently
are facial expression, posture, and utterance-in his words, "attitud
of face and body and voice" (p. 143).
Kivy rather skates over the objections that have been raised to th
isomorphic theory of musical meaning, principally by claiming that
be expressive of something is not a form of meaning at all; it is simp
to possess certain qualities (see pp. 59, 61, and 118). A helpful summar
of the isomorphic theory and the objections to it can be found in Vern
Howard's "On Musical Expression."'3 The principal objection is thi
"That two things are similar in some or even all respects does not impl
that one is a sign of [that is, refers to] the other. Exact replicas of coi
or pieces of furniture are not usually thought of as symbolizing, signifying
or otherwise denoting each other" ("OME," p. 272). At the heart of th
objection is the question of reference, that is, the question as to how t
significance of the musical artwork extends outside itself-a question th
is, in turn, at the heart of expression as conceived by Goodman, Beardsl
and many other aestheticians.
Kivy tries to deal with this question through the concept of animation,
according to which the human being instinctively endows everything h
encounters with the qualities of animate life (see pp. 57-60). It is t
instinct that causes us to hear music as utterance or gesture and to jud
its expressive content according to our own expressive behavior. Ther
are two difficulties with this concept, beyond the general objection to
isomorphic theory stated above.14 First, it seems to place the creation
expressive meaning strictly in the mind of the perceiver, leaving no ro

This content downloaded from on Sun, 12 Nov 2017 12:10:22 UTC
All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms
Critical Inquiry June 1984 619

for intended expressive meaning on the part of the creator (see my

section 3 below). The music only possesses certain properties; the listener,
through animation, creates the meaning (see p. 118). Second, some of
the expressive qualities that we ascribe to music are not animate ones:
for example, references we may commonly hear in it to water, glass, fire.
We shall need to return to this entire question of reference.
Presumably, Kivy skates over the question because he wants to get
to his prime concern in the book as a whole: how we can defend the
application of particular expressive words to music. He has been working
on this general subject for over a decade, and his thoughts on it occupy
the remainder of The Corded Shell-roughly 85 of its 150 pages.'5 He sees
the connection between musical properties and expressive words as gov-
erned by two forces, which he calls contour and convention, both of
which operate through the concept of animation. Of these two forces,
contour is the "natural" one, genetically at the root of almost all convention.
Thus rapid tempo expresses agitation or excitement through its contour-
that is, naturally, through its intrinsic qualities-as does the falling half-
step the sigh. On the other hand, the minor mode expresses sadness
through convention, since there is nothing intrinsically sad about it (see
p. 78).
These last examples reveal the shaky nature of the dichotomy. It is
possible to assert that the minor triad is intrinsically sadder than the
major-it is at least intrinsically more dissonant. On the other hand, a
sigh does not naturally take the form of a falling half-step any more than
it does that of a falling whole step or minor third. By the end of Kivy's
attempt to test the "naturalness" of contour by checking with music outside
our own culture, he has made the "natural" so dependent on the con-
ventional at some level as to obliterate the dichotomy (see chap. 9).
But I cannot see that Kivy's thesis requires a clear division between
the two. The important matter is that, by some combination of the two
(perhaps better viewed as poles of a spectrum), he will defend the con-
nection between music and expressive words. On the way to doing so,
he reviews both Ludwig Wittgenstein's treatment of criteria versus symp-
toms in the induction of mental states of others from their behavior and
Michael Scriven's "cluster concepts" for the definition of words, in which
no single criterion is necessary or sufficient. Kivy's defense rests on the
following important point: "the traditional emotive depictions [sic] of
music ... are really no more defective than our emotive depictions of
each other and the world around us, on which, according to the contour
model, they are parasitic" (p. 149). This is the most convincingly argued
conclusion of the book. We have long recognized that there exist public
criteria for the recognition of emotional expressive states in other people
through their external behavior-criteria that are not fully logical or
verbally definable. Similar to these criteria and dependent on them, there
exist public criteria for the recognition of musical expressiveness. This

This content downloaded from on Sun, 12 Nov 2017 12:10:22 UTC
All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms
620 Anthony Newcomb Sound and Feeling

means that the application of expressive predicates to music is in principle

no more whimsical or less defensible than their application to hundreds
of other situations in everyday life, where they are readily accepted.
Although Kivy is persuasive in asserting that, in terms of the philosophy
of normal language at least, it is perfectly respectable to apply expressive
words to music, he is considerably less successful when he tries to use
his concepts of animation, contour, and convention in doing so. His
problems show up most clearly in the weak musical examples at the end
of chapter 7, and in chapter 10, which deals with the relation between
texts and music. In chapter 10 he asks whether music has independent
expressive content, which may or may not be appropriate to the text set,
or whether music has indeterminate expressive content, which is then
completely defined by the text. The problem is that no musician seriously
holds either view. The real question is one of degree and concerns the
fineness of expressive distinction of which music is capable and the way
in which fine shadings of expressive content are assigned to it by the
listener. Yet Kivy's own conviction, which becomes quite clear in this
chapter, is that, while "pure instrumental music is susceptible of certain
gross distinctions," it is not capable of more (p. 95). As a result, its capacity
for "gross distinctions" is all he is concerned with demonstrating.
No doubt musicians will find this to be the most serious fault of the
book.'6 Kivy's arguments for the philosophical foundations of emotive
descriptions of music lead, in his book at least, only to such trivial distinctions
as "good humor" versus "the darker emotions" (pp. 105, 104). Kivy's
opinion of the power of music seems to have been indelibly marked by
the tendency of aestheticians to discuss the expressivity of music only in
simple, very general expressive predicates, like "sad" or "joyous." This,
he has concluded, is about all there is to it. He concedes that some earlier
aestheticians were "correct in perceiving some kind of expressive vacuum"
in purely instrumental music (pp. 101-2). To fill this vacuum, we must
turn to text, which supplies unilaterally any fine shadings to musical
meaning.17 Thus Kivy gives us the inverse of Langer's position. While
she was convinced of the depth and boundless richness of musical meaning,
she refused to connect it with words. Kivy wants to solidify its links with
words, but the unspoken price is its limitation to the decidedly unrich
repertory of basic expressive concepts which aestheticians are wont to
use again and again.
These are the general points covered by Kivy's book. Closely connected
with it in subject matter is Jan Broeckx's article "De mythe van de specifiek
muzikale expressie."'8 Like Kivy, Broeckx takes as his point of departure
Tormey's distinction between "expressive" and "expressive of," and avoids
the issue of reference (in this case, by agreeing with Goodman). Broeckx's
concern is to investigate what is typically artistic in artistic expression.
He chides Tormey for trying to make artistic expression reside entirely
in the artwork, since it is properly seen as an interaction between viewer

This content downloaded from on Sun, 12 Nov 2017 12:10:22 UTC
All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms
Critical Inquiry June 1984 621

and artwork.l9 Broeckx concludes that it is neither the kind of things

expressed nor the general mechanisms of expression within the artwor
that are distinctively artistic. It is rather the particular way in which
meaning code, specific to a certain time and place, is applied to a given
artwork in order to understand the expressively significant relations among
its perceived properties. The validity of these codes of interpretation
not limited to artworks. Indeed, it cannot be if they are to function a
they must to make specific properties of artworks part of expression,
which Broeckx assumes involves some sort of reference outside the art-
Thus both Broeckx and Kivy, independently and by somewhat dif-
ferent routes, arrive at the same result concerning our application of
expressive predicates to music. The criteria for choosing which predicates
to apply to music (that is, for interpreting music verbally) are the same
as those for choosing which ones to apply to many other situations.
Broeckx proposes that only the way in which we apply them-what he
calls "creative metaphor-making" (creatieve metaforiek)-is different. Unlike
Kivy, however, Broeckx does not give an example either of the culture-
and time-specific interpretive codes of which he speaks or of the operation
of such a code in practice. And the challenge that he lays down at the
end of his article is not to discover how these codes operate but, rather,
to discover if there is any general aspect of their operation in the case
of music that might be said to be specifically musical. To me it seems
that musical aesthetics ought first to be concerned with what these in-
terpretive codes are and how they function.

Goodman's Languages of Art is one of the seminal works of mid-

twentieth-century aesthetics.21 While Goodman's dense book covers a
great deal more than the theory of artistic expression, it makes an important
contribution to that theory in its treatment of the concept of reference.22
"Semiotic Aesthetics and Aesthetic Education," an article by Beardsley,
offers a summary of Goodman's general view of the artwork as part of
a symbolic system; Howard's "On Musical Expression" gives a summary
specifically of Goodman's theory of expressive reference in art.23 I shall
give here an even more summary summary; it will necessarily be rather
dense. The fundamental terms of Goodman's theory are "reference,"
"denotation," and "exemplification," both "literal" and "metaphorical."
Exemplification is the novelty here. Artistic expression is viewed as met-
aphorical exemplification.
Reference is the broadest of these fundamental terms, ranging over
the various ways in which things may symbolize, signify, or stand for one
another. Thus it covers both denotation and exemplification. The dis-

This content downloaded from on Sun, 12 Nov 2017 12:10:22 UTC
All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms
622 Anthony Newcomb Sound and Feeling

tinction between denotation and exemplification lies in the direction of

reference. A linguistic label or set of labels (an expressive predicate is a
linguistic label) refers to the things or class of things which it denotes or
describes (that is, those things to which it can correctly be applied). The
reference flows from label to thing denoted, not from thing to label; the
thing or class of things does not denote the label. Likewise a pictorial
label refers to the thing or class of things it denotes or depicts; the thing
or class of things does not denote or depict the pictorial label. Music
does not usually depend on sonorous labels-that is, it does not usually
refer in the way that most poems or paintings do. Even in most Wagnerian
leitmotivs, the direction of flow is not so unequivocally away from the
sign to the signified-in other words, the function of the sign is not so
wholly absorbed in referring to the signified.
In exemplification, on the other hand, reference flows both ways.
Goodman's example is a tailor's swatch of green cloth, an instance of
literal exemplification. As it is presented, the function of the swatch of
cloth is to exemplify a number of things, among them the color green.
Thus, when it is presented, the swatch refers to the label "green," perhaps
with some appropriate adjective, such as "forest green." In addition,
however, among the class of things to which the linguistic label "forest
green" refers is the swatch of cloth. Thus the reference flows in two
directions. The label refers by denotation to the swatch; the swatch by
exemplification to the label. It follows that not everything that refers is
a denotative label. While anything that refers is a symbol, not all symbols
are labels; some are examples. Though music in its expressiveness refers,
it does not denote; it exemplifies.
This instance of the swatch of cloth is an example of literal exem-
plification-exemplification of a property literally present in the swatch
of cloth. Music does not literally possess the property of sadness, however,
although it is often said (especially by philosophers) to express sadness.
In Goodman's theory, expressed properties are acquired from foreign
realms of discourse by metaphorical transfer. Reference made to those
properties (or labels -Goodman, for his own reasons, wants to stick with
this word) is thus made by what he calls metaphorical exemplification,
which is the particular mechanism of expressive reference. Goodman,
like Kivy, stresses that the properties of a work that give rise to expres-
siveness are no less real than its literal ones (such as a rapid tempo). In
his words, "the properties a symbol expresses are its own property. But
they are acquired property," acquired by metaphorical transfer (LA, p.
Two further restrictions are placed on exemplification. First, "while
anything may be denoted, only labels may be exemplified." Second, the
denotation of the label exemplified "is regarded as having been antecedently
fixed" (LA, pp. 57, 59). This last may be seen as a problem for music,
since, as I stress below, the expressive content of music is often not

This content downloaded from on Sun, 12 Nov 2017 12:10:22 UTC
All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms
Critical Inquiry June 1984 623

coextensive with any simple verbal label. Goodman's theory recognizes,

however, that the expressive content of music (or any artwork) is in fact
a complex combination and interaction of many literal properties with
their metaphorically applied verbal labels. Even a single expressed property
"need not coincide in extension with any easy and familiar literal de-
scription" (LA, p. 93).
The principal area of difficulty in Goodman's theory involves the
properties exemplified by an object, for an object does not exemplify all
the properties it possesses. The tailor's swatch, for example, though
rectangular, is not used in its normal context of presentation to refer to
the label "rectangular" and, hence, does not exemplify rectangularity.
Exemplification depends to a large extent on the context in which the
property is presented or displayed. Thus my car, for its original salesman
and some of his clients, exemplified Studebaker's particular shade of
forest green; as it now stands on the street, however, this reference would
occur to virtually no one. Much more likely would be reference by literal
exemplification to such labels as "dented," "dirty," or "disreputable." One
can also imagine it, as the principal element of the appropriate photo-
graph-let us say, framed by abandoned buildings, surrounded by rubbish
and torn advertisements, and probably now in harsh, high-contrast black
and white-as an exemplification of "despondent" or "dejected." Here
we enter the world of metaphorical exemplification and of artistic expres-
sion, for the Studebaker does not literally possess the properties of dejection
and despondency. The context in which it is presented brings them to
it by metaphorical transfer of realm.
The particular question as to which properties of a work of art are
exemplified by the work (both literally and metaphorically) depends heavily
on the context of presentation. Beardsley has been occupied with this
problematic area of Goodman's theory in a series of articles that, together
with Goodman's answers to them, constitutes a searching study in fine-
tuned philosophical aesthetics.24 I shall return to these articles in my
discussion below of the critic's role in expressive interpretation.
Goodman proposes his theory of exemplification as a replacement
for the isomorphic theory of expression, espoused in various forms by
Langer, Coker, Cone, and Kivy. Such a replacement is felt to be needed
principally because when the isomorphic theory of musical expression
says it achieves its reference by means of similarity of shape, it is saying
in effect that music denotes (see "OME," pp. 271-73). For music, an im-
portant disadvantage of this view of expressive reference (beyond the
standard question as to whether similarity alone can create reference) is
the one-way direction of the reference, away from the sign to the thing
denoted. It is probably more true of music than of any other art that
the sign (if we conceive it as such) is not transparent-that is, the sign
does not disappear in favor of its function as pointing to the signified.
The two-way reference posited by exemplification seems to fit much

This content downloaded from on Sun, 12 Nov 2017 12:10:22 UTC
All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms
624 Anthony Newcomb Sound and Feeling

better the flow of reference back and forth between musical object and
expressive meaning-between extramusical and intramusical patterns -
that is at the heart of musical expression.25

Goodman and Kivy concern themselves with two crucial issues in

current philosophical thought about musical expression. The first is the
question of reference (or exemplification) as a conceptual mechanism
for moving beyond the internal system of the artwork itself, a move
which is necessary for expression. The second is the question of criteria
for the application of specific expressive predicates to music. Before
formulating or criticizing any further ideas about musical expression, it
will be helpful to clarify some distinctions between various things we
might mean by the terms "expression" or "expressiveness" (here treated
as equivalent) when we apply them to artworks.
John Hospers proposes four versions of the meaning of "expression"
in artworks.6 (1) Expression may be seen to emanate from the creator
and reside in the process of creation itself, as when we say that the dance
expresses the pent-up rage or the youthful vitality of the dancer, or when
some critics interpret Jackson Pollock's action painting as a kind of physical
catharsis for the artist. (2) Expression may be seen as what the listener
or viewer brings to and takes away from the experience; in this version,
there is no problem in considering a sunset or a natural landscape as
expressive.27 (3) Expression may be seen as communication, as what goes
from maker to perceiver, a version that stresses the maker's intended
meaning and the means for assuring that this will be read unequivocally
by the perceiver. (4) Expression may be seen as residing in the properties
of the artwork itself, independent of the intention of the maker or the
impression carried away by the perceiver.
These versions (which do not exclude each other) offer a categorical
scheme in which to locate the theories of artistic expression already
advanced, and they may help to clarify my own position as I go on to
present it. In "The Vacuity of Musical Expression," M. P. T. Leahy insists
on a rather hard-nosed version of (3) above, in order to reject the entire
idea of musical expression.28 Goodman stresses (4), insisting that expression
is a function of the properties possessed by the artwork and that recognition
of expressive qualities is a form of cognition, not fundamentally different
from our other interactions with the world (see LA, pp. 262-65). Kivy
also insists on (4), but he tries to incorporate some of (2) as well, by in-
vestigating how the listener translates musical properties into the expressive
predicates by which he locates his impressions. His division of "expressive"
from "expressive of" is an effort to distance himself from (1) above.
My own view of musical expression also joins (2) and (4), bringing
to (2) a concern with the operation of what Broeckx calls "creative metaphor-

This content downloaded from on Sun, 12 Nov 2017 12:10:22 UTC
All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms
Critical Inquiry June 1984 625

making." As I see it, expressiveness results from the metaphorical resonances

or analogies that a viewer-listener-reader finds between properties that
an object possesses and properties of experience outside the object itself.
Thus expression results from intrinsic properties of an artwork but also
from the metaphorical resonances these properties may have for the
perceiver. Since these properties are (in the case of music) musical, not
extramusical, properties, and their resonances are often broadly inter-
subjective, I propose neither an extramusical nor a purely subjective view
of musical expression. Expressive interpretation as I understand it is
concerned with how the properties are connected to the resonances for
a class of listeners-with the conventions of "creative metaphor-making"
of a class of listeners.

Expressive interpretation, in this view, must involve at its very basis

some conceptual mechanism for moving from the work's intrinsic syntactic
relations to those relations with other aspects of experience that I assert
lie at the basis of expression.29 The particular mechanism by which this
move is made is thus all-important. The first argument in favor of Good-
man's way of conceiving it, through the concept of metaphorical ex-
emplification, is the two-way reference discussed above. A second argument
involves the breadth of metaphorical transfer admitted. Because the basis
for the metaphorical transfer of properties exemplified-for example,
in the case of agitation in music-often lies in the similarity of kinetic
shape between the literal properties of the music and our own physical
symptoms when prey to agitation-rapid pulse, sudden gestures, and so
on-Goodman's theory often remains close in practice to the various
versions of the isomorphic theory. But Goodman's metaphorical exem-
plification permits a wider range of resonances. According to Goodman's
theory, metaphors of all sorts may be presented and appealed to in proposing
the relationships with those other aspects of experience in which expression
In a series of articles that comprise the most searching examination
to date of Goodman's ideas on expression, Beardsley finds the principal
difficulty with the theory of metaphorical exemplification to be the lack
of rules for deciding which properties of a work are exemplified and
hence expressive (see my note 24). As I have already remarked, an object
does not exemplify all the properties it possesses. Although the context
in which the tailor's swatch is presented, for example, determines which
of its properties are exemplified, there is no such clear definition in the
case of artworks. In linguistic terms, Beardsley asks: How can one un-
derstand the reference of a symbol without rules of reference? In an
answer to Beardsley, Goodman insists that one cannot formulate rigid
rules of reference for determining what properties are metaphorically
exemplified by an artwork. And, like Kivy and Broeckx, Goodman finds
this situation not limited to artistic expression. "If Beardsley is asking for
general instructions how to determine what a work exemplifies, I shall
defer my reply until he gives general instructions determining what a

This content downloaded from on Sun, 12 Nov 2017 12:10:22 UTC
All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms
626 Anthony Newcomb Sound and Feeling

work describes or represents." Far from being a rigidly rule-governed

process, Goodman asserts, "discovery of what a poem or painting [or
composition] exemplifies may often, though not always, take time, training,
and even talent."30
This crucial point in Goodman's theory locates an important role of
the critic, in his function as interpreter or commentator. The critic brings
his "time, training, and even talent" to, among other things, the task of
deciding which qualities are exemplified and hence expressed by the
artwork, and to the further task of bringing these qualities into the
relationships and patterns that make the best argument for the work at
hand.3' These relationships may be purely structural; there are both
critics and performers who tend to view artworks and their properties
this way. But many critics and performers seek after properties and
structural relationships that suggest resonances outside the particular
artwork at hand-which is to say that they see the artwork as exemplifying
these properties, that they stress them in their interpretations, and that
they organize them into structures such as produce the resonances that
I call expressive. In the variety of properties that a work may be seen
by diverse interpreters to exemplify lies the richness of its range of
meaning, what Cone calls its "expressive potential" (CV, p. 166).
It is the function of the interpreter, be he critic or performer, to
explore this variety and to organize it according to varying criteria, among
which may well be the kind of metaphorical resonance in which I (and
Goodman) locate expressiveness. According to this view, indeed, the lack
of strict rules of reference for exemplification lies at the very basis of the
richness of artistic expressiveness.

Besides the mechanism for conceiving of expressive reference, a

second fundamental area of disagreement among aestheticians and mu-
sicians concerns the locus of expressive meaning in music-or, to adopt
Goodman's terms, the place to look in music for the properties meta-
phorically exemplified. The fundamental division is between those who
look for musical meaning (expressive or otherwise) in what we might call
the individual musical image-the small-scale musical detail, be it interval,
motive, theme, or phrase-and those who look for it in process or overall
For most musicians, a major failing of Kivy's book will be his almost
exclusive reliance on detail, usually melodic detail, as the seat of musical
meaning. In this he joins the most famous recent English-language book
on musical hermeneutics, Cooke's Language of Music. Cooke can propose
a particular interpretation of the second movement of the Eroica Symphony
and then defend his interpretation by citing the first thematic statement

This content downloaded from on Sun, 12 Nov 2017 12:10:22 UTC
All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms
Critical Inquiry June 1984 627

of the movement, or by citing the succession of thematic sections, without

apparently seeing anything questionable in his procedure.32 Kivy, I'm
afraid, tends to do the same sort of thing. His concern is always with
what he calls the individual attitude, gesture, posture, or utterance of
the music. He never talks of an entire structure, and his examples sometimes
suffer from his failure to recognize their effect as terms in a larger
structure (see the example on p. 70 from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony).
This restriction to detail is the main reason for the limitation to "gross
distinctions" that he must place on musical expression.
On the other hand, Langer has always insisted on structures, not
images, as the seat of musical expression.33 Cone does the same: "So I
come back to 'humanly expressive content': whatever of human importance
a musical composition may express, not only through each individual
gesture, but also through the totality of gestures that constitutes its form"
(CV, p. 165).
Goodman never gets to the level of specificity that forces him to
locate meaning in music. But Beardsley, in developing Goodman's views
(and his own) in the series of articles referred to above (see my note 24),
locates the expressive meaning of music in what he calls "modes of con-
tinuation," which are "general features of all experience." In a metaphorical
exposition of what formal process in music might be seen to exemplify,
he states that "music, we might say, is in essence continuation: the question
is always where it will take us next, and every happening is marked by
the sense that possibilities are opening or closing, that there is development
or retrogression, that there is continuity or abruptness, doubt or deci-
siveness, hesitancy or determination, building or disintegration."34 There
seems to me little doubt that the complex expressive resonances that we
may, upon repeated listenings, come to hear in the finest music of the
past two centuries especially has more to do with what happens to the
material than with the affective quality of the material itself at first pre-
sentation. Expressive interpretation must then concern itself with the
way the piece presents itself to the listener as successiveness, as a temporal
unfolding, as a large-scale process.35

One last general question concerning the use of the word "expressive"
seems to have called forth little disagreement in writing of recent years:
If music is expressive, then who is expressing? The general agreement
has been to separate the expressive content of the music from any direct
connection with the mental or emotional state of the composer at the
time of composition. The Kivy-Tormey distinction of "expressive" from
"expressive of" was directed toward this separation. Leo Treitler's and
Cavell's idea of intention in an artwork is expressly divorced from recovery

This content downloaded from on Sun, 12 Nov 2017 12:10:22 UTC
All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms
628 Anthony Newcomb Sound and Feeling

of the artist's expressed intent as a piece of primary data.36 In a particularly

stimulating treatment of this question, Cone, in The Composer's Voice,
isolates several expressive speakers in some nineteenth-century works
without identifying any of these speakers with the expressive intent of
the composer or of the piece as a whole. Even Cone's provocative attempt
to interpret the expressive content of a Schubert Moment musical in au-
tobiographical terms would not, I wager, be put forth by Cone as the
final and definitive term in the assignation of expressive meaning to the
piece or as the only correct interpretation of the meaning of that piece.37
Broeckx proposes that some works are expressive in what he calls a
reflexive way-that is, that they express psychological states that the
creator imagines but not necessarily that he experiences at the time of
creation or has ever experienced.38 This is one way for returning some
element of "expressive," as opposed to "expressive of," to expressive
meaning. Still, unless I misinterpret Cone's article "Schubert's Promissory
Note" and Broeckx here, neither of these possible relations between
expressive content and the mental or emotional state of the creators
would be proposed as a necessary component of artistic expression-a
view far from the common nineteenth- and earlier twentieth-century
view, which tended to see the artwork as a direct expression of the artist's
emotional experience, with the artist as "a kind of information-bureau,
specializing in what is called 'the life of feeling.' "39 Even Langer still held
to this view (see FF, p. 28, for example).
It is a view that today's aestheticians hold no longer. The artist makes
structures in the medium of his choice. To the degree that he tends to
create expressive structures, he may, as he creates them, stand outside
the structures and consciously or unconsciously test them on himself as
listener for what I have called their expressive resonances. But these
expressive resonances may be quite distinct from the emotional state of
the artist at the time of creation, even from any emotional state that the
artist has ever experienced. And the expressive resonances that an artwork
may legitimately have for a group of listeners-hence, the expressive
properties of the work-may never have been isolated in the mind (that
is, intended, or thought of as exemplified) by the artist.

Whenever we attempt to verbalize the expressive meaning of a specific

piece of music, we leave Beardsley, Goodman, and Langer behind and
enter a realm of primary concern to Kivy, Cooke, Coker, and Cone. At
the very entrance to this realm is the general question of intersubjectivity,
that is, of agreement among the independent verbalizations of various
listeners. Kivy reminds us that lack of intersubjective agreement on the
expressive meaning of music is one of the chief reasons given by such

This content downloaded from on Sun, 12 Nov 2017 12:10:22 UTC
All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms
Critical Inquiry June 1984 629

formalists as Eduard Hanslick and Edmund Gurney for the rejection of

expressive meaning in music altogether. He goes on to point out, however,
that Hanslick and Gurney really mean not that there is no intersubjective
agreement but that there is not enough-without ever specifying how
much would be enough (see pp. 46-47).
Many modern aestheticians, whom we might call the strict construc-
tionists, require a fairly strict musical semantics-that is, a strict set of
rules of reference for going from the literal properties of a work to the
verbalization of its expressive meaning-as a prerequisite for a proper
theory of musical expression.40 Most then go on to despair of ever finding
such a rule-governed semantics, and hence they despair of a proper
theory of musical expression. Cooke, deeply convinced of the validity
and importance of musical expression, takes the opposite tack. He is
determined to find a rigidly consistent semantic relation between musical
properties-principally intervals in the tonal scale-and expressive
Both approaches are equally misguided. It is the requirement of a
strictly rule-governed semantic that must go. Kivy demonstrates that the
application of expressive terms to many of the situations which we meet
in everyday life is no more and no less strictly rule-governed than the
application of such terms to music, but such demonstrations go further
than is necessary for the refutation of the strict constructionists. Dis-
agreement on the application of interpretive terms is in principle no
reason for rejecting the validity of the idea of musical expression. We
might just as well say that because a group of wine tasters (whether
experts or not is irrelevant) would probably write widely varying descriptions
of the taste of a fine wine, that'the wine has no taste, or (with Hanslick)
that the taste may be there but is not an important component of the
wine. The situation is rather that our language is ill equipped to cope
with the phenomena of taste. It is also ill equipped to cope with the
phenomena of expressive meaning in music. This no more reflects on
the existence of expressive meaning in music than it does on that of taste
in wine.
Cooke's attempt at a musical semantics in The Language of Music
makes the same mistake as the strict constructionists. Both assume that
there must be a preexistent meaning concept which the music sets out
to translate, or to realize in its own "language" (witness Cooke's title).
According to both, the task of musical interpretation is simply to find
the proper system of links between the musical artifact and the meaning
concepts which lie behind it and which it attempts to render in musical
terms. (Both also assume, explicitly or implicitly, the third of the versions
of the meaning of "expression" sketched in section 3 above.) This view
misconceives the essential nature of musical meaning, which is created
by music itself and exists in its own terms. Language may attempt to
give an example of this meaning by bringing the structural patterns of

This content downloaded from on Sun, 12 Nov 2017 12:10:22 UTC
All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms
630 Anthony Newcomb Sound and Feeling

music into relation with other aspects of our experience; this is the en-
terprise of expressive interpretation. But to do this is not to identify a
preexistent verbal meaning, which music only realizes. The verbal con-
ceptualization is secondary, coming after and illustrating the primary
musical meaning. Hence to search for close intersubjective agreement
in such verbal descriptions is fundamentally mistaken. One can only
expect agreement that a description is in some sense appropriate.
Both Tormey and Cone deal well with the theoretical necessity for
this variation in expressive interpretation.4' For Tormey, the expressive
properties of a work, although wholly constituted by its literal properties,
are not unambiguously so. A given set of literal properties may give rise
to a wider range of expressive properties, and no strict rule can lead
from literal to expressive properties. This wider range of expressive
properties lies within what Tormey calls the "range of compatibility" of
the literal properties (and he sees it as the task of the critic, not the
philosopher, to determine the actual membership of particular ranges
of compatibility-see my note 19). Cone develops a similar concept: "A
piece of music allows a wide but not unrestricted range of possible expres-
sion: this is what I call its expressive potential" (CV, p. 166). (He puts
this concept to the test with a particular piece of music, the Mozart G-
Minor Symphony, with results that I encourage the reader to look up
for himself [see CV, p. 172].)
Close intersubjective agreement, then, is not a proper requirement
to make of interpretations of the expressive meaning of music, and, in
this, music is not alone. Recent criticism has been making the same point
about the interpretation of the expressive meaning of language. Jonathan
Culler, in a stimulating summary of recent developments in semiotics,
glories in intersubjective disagreement and sees in it a particular challenge
to criticism: "Against anyone who maintained that a semiotics of reading
is impossible because no two people read and interpret in the same way,
one can reply that even when they reach different conclusions about the
significance of a line, a stanza, or a poem, they are employing interpretive
conventions that can be defined and which will make the relation between
their interpretive statements more comprehensible."42 Culler's subsequent
defense of Stanley Fish's critical approach touches on many of the reasons
why music critics, too, should not avoid closely argued expressive inter-
pretations simply because of the lack of precise intersubjective agreement:

First, even if one were only to describe, as explicitly as possible, the

norms and operations on which one's own reading is based, the
results would be extremely useful, and others could judge where
these norms deviated from their own. But even in this case there
would be a large common ground, for the simple reason that learni
to read [that is, to understand the meaning of] is an interperson
activity: one sees how others respond, grasps intuitively or throu

This content downloaded from on Sun, 12 Nov 2017 12:10:22 UTC
All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms
Critical Inquiry June 1984 631

explicit demonstration what kinds of questions and operations they

deploy. Second, variations in interpretation are not an obstacle;
they are rather the fact with which one starts. What one is attempting
to explain-and it is something which deserves detailed explanation-
is the fact that for any work there is a range of interpretations which
can be defended within the conventions of reading. We have little
difficulty setting aside the idiosyncratic response whose causes are
personal and anecdotal (simple discussion with other readers can
eliminate these). The problem is to make explicit the operations
and conventions which will account for a range of readings and
exclude any we would agree to place outside the normal procedures
of reading.43

I believe a similar challenge should be put to music criticism. In any

case, the "interpersonal activity" of learning to hear and to understand
music in expressive terms will go on whether or not critics choose to
bless it. Why should it not benefit from their particular combination of
(in Goodman's measured words) "time, training, and even talent"?

In the literature about the application of individual descriptive words

to musical meaning, a good part of the haggling disagreement that brings
confusion and even disrepute to musical hermeneutics lies in the lack of
agreement on the meaning not of the expressive words we may apply
to music but of certain oft used conceptual words. The word "expression"
itself is an example that I have already mentioned. Arthur Danto in his
foreword to Tormey's Concept of Expression, Tormey himself in his chapter
4, Goodman and Beardsley, and Leahy all entertain different notions of
that word. Jacques Barzun, who chides expressive criticism for its lack
of agreement on vocabulary, does a bit of unilateral lexicographical decree
making on his own when he separates "expression" from "expressiveness"
according to whether or not the expressive predicate has an intentional
object (that is, whether or not one is, for example, angry at or about
something in particular).44
The word "intention" raises similar problems. It is a crucial concept
but carries different meanings for Tormey, Leahy, and Cavell, for ex-
ample.45 The same is true of the pair of words "sign" and "symbol." Paul
Tillich's and Raymond Monelle's symbol is rather like Coker's, Charles
Sanders Peirce's, Charles Morris', and Frits Noske's iconic sign, in that
it partakes of the properties of that which it represents. "Represent" is
another hornet's nest: compare Kivy (see p. 64) with Howard's "On
Representational Music," Richard Kuhns' "Music as a Representational
Art," and Roger Scruton's "Photography and Representation."46 To wish

This content downloaded from on Sun, 12 Nov 2017 12:10:22 UTC
All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms
632 Anthony Newcomb Sound and Feeling

away these variations of meaning would be hopeless and would belittle

the disputes by which philosophy refines and redefines its concepts. But
we must be aware of these ambiguities, and careful to establish what we
or our author means by these terms, before we begin our debates or
Nonetheless, the enterprise that lies at the base of Kivy's recent book,
and the enterprise on which Cooke, Coker, and Cone have labored hard
and effectively, involves not these general conceptual words but specific
words describing expressive content. Here one of the primary causes of
dissatisfaction is certainly the simplicity of the expressive predicates that
are often used. Nearly every aesthetician who writes on musical expresson
seems to see as the goal of his discussion the question whether or not
the second movement of the Eroica Symphony is "sad."47 What virtue
could such a one-word description possibly have as an interpretation of
that piece, or of any other of similar richness? To struggle to give shape
to a theory that permits no more than such a statement is like struggling
to articulate a theory that permits us to do no more than call Paradise
Lost sublime. In defending the idea of musical expression against a par-
ticularly outrageous formalist attack by Benjamin Boretz, Goodman writes,
"admittedly, saying that a musical work is sad-like saying that it is long
or rather loud-is pretty vacuous; but this is because sadness, like length
and loudness, is a commonplace, obvious, and general property, so that
its ascription to a work provides little interesting information."48 And yet
it is on this level that most writing on the philosophy of musical expression
takes place. Cooke struggles to demonstrate that certain melodic patterns
have commonly been associated with such simple expressive predicates,
and Kivy, although his philosophical foundations are better worked out,
does not in practice get beyond Cooke in this matter.
The problem is by no means Cooke's and Kivy's alone. Howard,
who seems to be an intelligent and well-versed musician, falls into the
same rut in "Music and Constant Comment," an article of 1978, where
he attempts to demonstrate some degree of constancy between literal
properties and metaphorical or expressed properties in music.49 The
evidence that he accepts-the consistent use of certain simple musical
formulas in conjunction with certain broad classes of verbal ideas as cited
in Cooke's Language of Music, and certain experiments in perceptual
psychology by Kate Hevner that demonstrate substantial agreement on
the gross expressive properties of musical passages played-speaks only
to the simplest generalities, and this is not the level on which anything
significant about the expressive content of music can be said.50 Howard's
(or, really, Cooke's and Hevner's) evidence demonstrates only that some
musical configurations in isolation have certain general expressive ten-
dencies. Not until they are combined and ordered do such things begin
to form the kind of expressive meaning that makes some pieces memorable
and fascinating. Even Beardsley, probably the most musically informed

This content downloaded from on Sun, 12 Nov 2017 12:10:22 UTC
All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms
Critical Inquiry June 1984 633

of the aestheticians writing today, seems to me to make the same mistake

when he assumes that a fixed, unequivocal reference (to an expressive
predicate) is necessary or even possible for a single passage.51
Only complexes of passages can refer in the complex fashion that
makes a fine work of art richly expressive to us. (This is another way of
asserting that the fullest musical meaning is to be located in musical
procedure rather than in the single short image.) And these complex
passages are not likely to be open to only one structural interpretation.
The expressive reference to be drawn from any structural interpretation
is not likely to be verbally unequivocal-something that critics of the
more representational arts have recognized for some time.
Complex descriptions are necessary to give an example of the complex
expressive potential of fine music. Some critics and aestheticians have
been afraid of such interpretive descriptions mainly, I think, because
they mistake what the descriptions claim-or should claim--to do. They
do not claim to identify precisely the expressive content of the music,
thus excluding contrasting interpretations and exhausting the expressive
content of the music. They claim only to suggest in words one example
within the range of expressive potential of the music.52 And the important
matter is not so much the expressive patterns suggested by the words
chosen but the demonstration of how the processes of the music itself
might be heard to have suggested the patterns suggested by the words.
Recent examples of this kind of interpretive criticism, though rare,
do exist. Although Cone is correct in chiding Coker's Music and Meaning
for the generality of the expressive meaning that Coker draws from a
lengthy description of the second movement of the Eroica Symphony,
still Coker's two chapters on expressive meaning (chapters 10 and 11)
offer a number of perceptive comments on how one interprets musical
structure as expressive meaning.53 Cone's article "Schubert's Promissory
Note" is a superb recent attempt at the musically detailed expressive
interpretation of an entire piece.54 Another weighty and striking recent
example is Peter Giilke's article on late Schubert.55 And there are a
number in Kerman's writings. I have tried my hand at such things in a
series of recent articles.56
Two important German writers of the early part of the century also
did fine criticism of this sort. Ernst Kurth's analyses of Bruckner sym-
phonies, although maddeningly redundant at times, are always musically
detailed and full of insight, and never shrink from illuminating meta-
phorical interpretations of the musical detail. August Halm's interpretation
of Beethoven's Sonata in D Minor opus 31 no. 2 is to me a model of its
kind.57 Although Halm thinks of himself as answering Paul Bekker's
metaphorical blowsiness with hard-nosed technical analysis, what he in
fact does is to match detailed technical analysis with a bold yet carefully
justified expressive interpretation, whose verbal-conceptual patterns are
appropriate in both content and complexity to the music they interpret.

This content downloaded from on Sun, 12 Nov 2017 12:10:22 UTC
All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms
634 Anthony Newcomb Sound and Feeling

In summary,- the powerful expressive reference of, especially, the

music of the past two hundred years can be captured not by the single
expressive adjective but only in complex conjunctions of words of all
kinds, including words drawn from the whole lexicon of music's technical
vocabulary. And no verbal attempt to capture the expressive resonance
of music, however complex, claims to be a direct equivalent in other
terms for the meaning of the music; it is rather one example, in the
terms of other fields of experience, of that meaning. To quote Cone, it
is "an example of the kind of human content that can properly be associated
with the music; and by this exemplification [Cone's use of this word must
be distinguished from Goodman's] it can suggest a broad span of the
entire range of expression available to that music.... Words, then, do
not limit the potential of music; rather, by specification and exemplification,
they may render it more easily comprehensible" (CV, p. 167).
Here lies a challenge and an opportunity for music criticism today.
Expressive interpretation that is both historically and analytically informed
can bring into a close, actively engaged relationship with fine music a
much larger audience than now really attends to it. Conversely, musical
awareness might thereby become a less marginal area for the cultured
person in our society. Philosophical aesthetics has given us a workable
conceptual basis for this enterprise, and we should get on with it.

An objection of last resort often heard against the expressive inter-

pretation of music is that it violates the nature of music itself to verbalize
about such things-that it is simply not "musical" to do so. Those who
make this objection see the language of metaphorical interpretation when
applied to music as "a surrogate language of ignorance and personal
affect, derailing attention from the music itself by virtually reducing its
complex structures to a kind of auditory Rorschach blot" ("OME," p.
270). Although some of these people do not deny expressive meaning
to music, they remain vigorously opposed to verbalizing it.
Langer, for instance, is consistent and determined on this point. She
devotes her book Philosophy in a New Key to an eloquent defense of the
theory that music symbolizes emotional life, but she remains adamantly
opposed to interpreting the musical symbol in words. Verbal interpretation
destroys the "ambivalence of content" in music (PNK, p. 206). Yet if we
are to accept this objection, we must accept it for literature as well, which,
as we recognize more and more, has its own intense ambivalences-
especially where qualities expressed are concerned, as opposed to those
represented or denoted. Much recent interpretation of literature, from
William Empson to the deconstructionists, has been given over to a cel-
ebration rather than a destruction of the ambiguities in seemingly
straightforward discourse. Musical interpretation need be no different.

This content downloaded from on Sun, 12 Nov 2017 12:10:22 UTC
All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms
Critical Inquiry June 1984 635

It is true, as Langer says, that "music articulates forms which language

cannot setforth" (PNK, p. 198).58 To assert that the import is finally ineffable,
however, is not equivalent to saying that language cannot and must not
touch it. If the interpreter's proper concern is for what "makes the symbol
effective," for "the import conveyed" (FF, p. 141), how is he to become skilled
in discerning this import? Words are the primary means of communication
with others in our culture. Surely all people who treasure music-profes-
sional musicians and amateurs alike-at some time associate musical
meaning with other aspects of their life; some people do so as a regu
adjunct to the process of listening to music and, even more often
reflecting on it. To take Langer's position is to say, in effect, if you
not understand thoroughly and intuitively how one makes such association
then there is no hope for you; words cannot help. I see no justificati
for this rather exclusive position. Just as we teach ourselves and oth
through verbal examples to recognize the symbols and understand th
meanings of various other systems, so we can do in the case of musi
using both expressive and technical verbal interpretations, and with
claiming to have thus exhausted the meaning of the composition
more than we would claim this for our interpretation of the poem,
picture, the puzzling behavior of a friend, or even the experimen
situation in the laboratory.
Furthermore, to admit that musical import is finally ineffable is n
equivalent to believing that we somehow act improperly toward mus
in trying to write or talk about it. Hundreds of mystics have written abou
the ineffable mystic experience, and have treasured and learned from
the writings of other mystics about that experience, without either claimi
that their words offered a direct equivalent of the mystic experience
refusing to write about the experience because words rendered its si
nificance imperfectly. Should we musicians be holier than they?
Many object to verbal expressive interpretation not only because
falsifies the music but also because it "derail[s] attention from the m
itself." This may, of course, be true of both expressive and structur
interpretation-for example, if one reads the program notes (how
technical, however good) instead of listening to the concert. But it n
not be true-especially in reflecting upon the music before or af
hearing it. In these circumstances, expressive interpretation, far fr
leading us away from the essentially musical in music, may guide us
new and richer relationships with it. To bring the perceived structu
patterns of a piece into relation with other patterns of the listen
experience-the very enterprise that I see as constituting the critic's
the listener's part in musical expression-may well reveal new structu
patterns in the music as well.59 Goodman, in his response to Bor
observes that

to describe a work or passage [of music] as muscular, electric, spatial,

curvilinear, brittle, or floating may be to describe metaphorically

This content downloaded from on Sun, 12 Nov 2017 12:10:22 UTC
All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms
636 Anthony Newcomb Sound and Feeling

some recondite and highly important structural features.... New

likenesses and differences, new relationships and patterns, are thus
revealed, and are described by the metaphorical application of these
alien terms. ... Only at the risk of overlooking important structural
features of a work can a formalist ignore what the music expresses.60

Howard agrees that metaphors may instigate the perception of an important

new structure rather than just the relabeling of an old one and concludes
that "replacing them [metaphors] with literal terms risks loss of the impetus
to insight they provide ... We are not eo ipso led away from the music
by resorting to such descriptive devices and we may, in fact, be led anew
to it" ("OME," p. 270). Expressive metaphors are often shorthand versions
of structural insights-insights which subsequent analytical work may
allow us to expand and refine.
Formal and expressive interpretation are in fact two complementary
ways of understanding the same phenomena. Neither is intrinsically closer
than the other to the object. In doing formal analysis of a complex work,
we do not list all its properties, point out all its relationships, organize
it into all its possible structures. We select which of the properties strike
us as important and bring them into convincing relationships with each
other. In making this selection, we consciously or unconsciously experiment
with various constellations and weightings of important properties, both
formal and metaphorical, trying out their resonances and configurations
in expressive as well as structural terms. We do not first do a musical
analysis of the piece and then set about deciding how to verbalize the
metaphorical resonance that such a musical structure might be understood
to have. The two modes of thought go on simultaneously.
Nor can the two modes of thought be distinguished as objective and
subjective. Formal properties and structures are not independent, objective
things, any more than expressive properties are. Both depend on the
listener's analytical techniques and concepts, as well as his intuitive ten-
dencies. Faltin, in "Musikalische Bedeutung," the most brilliant of recent
justifications of the formalistic, "purely musical" approach to musical
meaning, is properly circumspect about the claims to objective description
made for structural or technical analysis. He reminds us that "structural
analysis is not an 'objective' procedure that can derive meanings [he does
not mean expressive meanings] exclusively from structure.... Analysis
is not an anatomy of structure, but its phenomenology, which is concerned
not with explaining the structure itself, but with finding in the structure
arguments that can explain why it was heard exactly as it was heard." In
this search, Faltin goes on, structural analysis appeals to such conventional,
culturally learned concepts as contrast, motive, development, dominant
chord, and so on.6' Analysis is thus an interaction of the properties of
the work with culturally learned conventions brought to it by the listener-
interpreter, just like expressive interpretation. (And for many listeners,

This content downloaded from on Sun, 12 Nov 2017 12:10:22 UTC
All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms
Critical Inquiry June 1984 637

the selection and weighting of formal properties, on which structural

analysis depends, will in turn depend on the expressive resonances o
these properties.)
The ideal difference between expressive and structural interpretation
is that the first goes beyond the second in pointing out, through metaphor,
relationships between the structures of the artwork and those of othe
aspects of experience. In music more than in any other area of artistic
appreciation, the "creative metaphor-making" of the listener-critic-inter
preter must complete the metaphor implied in the artwork. The compose
does no more than give the lead; nothing directs the listener unequivocall
to the other term of the musical metaphor, as it does to that of th
literary metaphor. This is an essential part of the fascination that music
holds for us.62 One function of the critic as interpreter of expressive
content may, then, be understood as showing by example how to engage
more fully in this creative dialogue with musical structure.
In this regard, it is important not to restrict those other aspects of
experience that may complete the musical metaphor to forms of huma
feeling, as Langer does (see PNK, p. 188 and FF, p. 27 and the passag
from p. 126 cited in my note 33), or to "what we call 'emotions' an
'moods,'" as Kivy does (p. 15). Goodman, as we have seen, casts his
metaphorical net much more widely-to physical properties ("brittle"),
to plastic shapes ("curvilinear"), even to natural phenomena ("electric").
Coker's interpretation of the "Pas D'Action" from Stravinsky's Orpheu
insists on the value of active verbs (see my note 53). Words borrowed
from the realms of other human structures, such as architecture, geometry,
or mathematics, are frequent and often illuminating in critical interpre
tations. We might also include here a kind of second-level expressiv
comparison: that with other pieces of music. I say second level because
the first level of comparison concerns purely musical properties. The
musical work itself first calls attention to and invites comparison with
another passage in another work. The purely musical properties reveale
in that comparison-the properties exemplified by the comparison, i
Goodman's terms-are then subjected to the metaphorical compariso
with other experience that lies at the heart of expressive interpretation
There are good grounds, then, for the critic's use of wide-ranging
metaphorical language in interpreting the expressive meaning of music
The only danger here is that the medium of the interpretation ma
swamp the music, especially in a culture much more adept verbally than
musically. The critic can combat this by returning constantly to the impetus
for the particular metaphor in the musical processes themselves, by recalling
the two-way process of reference inherent in artistic expression, and by
insisting that the verbal metaphor is only a secondary example from th
range of expressive potential in the primary musical meaning.
Raman Selden cautions the humanities (not for the first time) agains
aping too closely the methods of the natural sciences. These latter are

This content downloaded from on Sun, 12 Nov 2017 12:10:22 UTC
All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms
638 Anthony Newcomb Sound and Feeling

"concerned with the intrinsic properties of the phenomena themselves,

while the human sciences are concerned with the socially signifying aspects
of phenomena, with the social use of material objects, and therefore
must distinguish between the objects themselves and the system of dis-
tinctive or differential features which give them meaning and value."63
What I have called the expressive resonances of a work-resonances
founded upon its musical properties -are at least part of what gives
music meaning and value for many listeners, including the most adept
(and including many composers, if we are to believe their words). Informed
criticism is simply abandoning much of its audience to less informed
criticism when it avoids entirely the attempt to interpret this aspect of
musical meaning and to suggest how one comes to understand it as fully
as possible from the music itself.
Such interpretation is not a true-or-false demonstration of the unique
meaning of the artwork. It is rather persuasion-an effort to convince
the reader that to see (and hear) certain relationships is illuminating and
meaningful. It is also the communication of one view of the expressive
resonance of the artwork. All this is offered as part of the shared enterprise
that is culture, as a way of transmitting, changing, and adding layers to
the meaning of the pieces which the critic (and, he hopes, his audience)
has found or will find valuable and meaningful. As he does this, the
critic-if he does his work well-is also helping his audience to understand
better the processes by which a piece of music may enter into relations
with wider aspects of the culture of which it is part. For many people,
these relations form the most powerful reason for their closer attention
to the music itself.

1. See Peter Kivy, The Corded Shell: Reflections on Musical Expression, Princeton Essays
on the Arts, no. 10 (Princeton, N.J., 1980); all further references to this work will be
included in the text.

2. See the appeals in Bojan Bujic, "The Aesthetics of Music-Some of Its Aims and
Limitations," British Journal of Aesthetics 15 (Autumn 1975): 329-35, and Raman Selden,
"Aesthetics and Criticism: Against a Division of Labour," British Journal of Aesthetics 15
(Winter 1975): 69-80.
3. I have seen four reviews of Kivy, The Corded Shell, all in English-language journals:
Kingsley Price, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 39 (Summer 1981): 460-62; R. A.
Sharpe, British Journal of Aesthetics 22 (Winter 1982): 81-82; Christopher Hatch, Notes: The
QuarterlyJournal of the Music Library Association 38 (Dec. 1981): 311-12; and Richard Taruskin,
Musical Quarterly 68 (Apr. 1982): 287-93.
4. I paraphrase and abbreviate from Monroe C. Beardsley, review of A Humanistic
Philosophy of Music by Edward A. Lippman, Musical Quarterly 66 (Apr. 1980): 305.
5. See Nelson Goodman, Languages of Art: An Approach to a Theory of Symbols (Indianapolis,
1968); all further references to this work, abbreviated LA, will be included in the text.
6. Goodman, "Reply to Beardsley," Erkenntnis 12, pt. 1 (Jan. 1978): 171; and see
Edward T. Cone: "Expressive values in any art... cannot arise from analytical values alone.
How could they? Unless one wishes to explain what it could possibly mean for a work of

This content downloaded from on Sun, 12 Nov 2017 12:10:22 UTC
All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms
Critical Inquiry June 1984 639

art to 'express itself,' then one must agree that expression, by its very definition, implies
a relationship between the work of art and something else; while analytical values are
derivable purely from internal structure" ("Beyond Analysis," Perspectives of New Music 6
[Fall-Winter 1967]: 46).
7. See Peter Faltin, "Musikalische Syntax: Ein Beitrag zum Problem des musikalischen
Sinngehaltes," Archiv fur Musikwissenschaft 34, no. 1 (1977): 1-19, and "Musikalische Be-
deutung: Grenzen und Moglichkeiten einer semiotischen Aesthetik," International Review
of the Aesthetics and Sociology of Music 9 (June 1978): 5-31.
8. Susanne K. Langer, Philosophy in a New Key: A Study in the Symbolism of Reason, Rite,
and Art (1942; New York, 1951), p. 201; all further references to this work, abbreviated
PNK, will be included in the text.
9. See Wilson Coker, Music and Meaning: A Theoretical Introduction to Musical Aesthetics
(New York, 1972), and Cone, The Composer's Voice, Ernest Bloch Lectures, 1972 (Berkeley
and Los Angeles, 1974); all further references to this work, abbreviated CV, will be included
in the text.
10. See Deryck Cooke, The Language of Music (Cambridge, 1959).
11. See Stanley Cavell, "Music Discomposed" (1967), Must We Mean What We Say? A
Book of Essays (Cambridge, Mass., 1969), pp. 185-86.
12. See Alan Tormey, The Concept of Expression: A Study in Philosophical Psychology and
Aesthetics (Princeton, N.J., 1971), pp. 106-10.
13. See Vernon A. Howard, "On Musical Expression," British Journal of Aesthetics 11
(Summer 1971): 271-73; all further references to this work, abbreviated "OME," will be
included in the text.

14. Price, review of The Corded Shell by Kivy (see n. 3 above), is particularly critical of
this aspect of Kivy's book.
15. See Kivy, "Aesthetic Aspects and Aesthetic Qualities,"Journal of Philosophy 65 (Feb.
1968): 85-93; Speaking of Art (The Hague, 1973); and "Aesthetics and Rationality,"Journal
of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 34 (Fall 1975): 51-57.
16. See Taruskin, review of The Corded Shell by Kivy, pp. 289 and 292.
17. Surprisingly, Kivy seems unaware of Cone's The Composer's Voice, for he rejects as
inapplicable to music with text the distinction made by Tormey between the acts of expression
of the characters in a presentational artwork and the expressiveness of the artwork itself
(see The Concept of Expression, pp. 135-36). Cone, on the other hand, demonstrates most
convincingly that the music of a Schubert song may undercut what the protagonist of the
text is verbally represented as expressing.
18. See Jan L. Broeckx, "De mythe van de specifiek muzikale expressie: Naar aanleiding
van Alan Tormey's Concept of Expression toegepast op de muziek," Revue belge de musicologie
32-33 (1979-80): 232-50.
19. Broeckx is, I think, misinterpreting Tormey here. Tormey does not deny the
interaction; it is simply not his concern. In Tormey's view, the philosopher's proper concern
is to explain the component of expression residing in the work itself (and to explain how
there can be such a thing), not to explain how it is interpreted, which is the province of
the critic (see Tormey, The Concept of Expression, p. 134). As I have said, I find it harmful
to insist on this separation of function, although philosophers usually do so (see Roger
Scruton, Art and Imagination: A Study in the Philosophy of Mind [London, 1974], p. 219).
20. See Broeckx, "De mythe van de specifiek muzikale expressie," p. 247, for his
21. Goodman's Languages of Art has already been the occasion for symposia and has
occupied entire fascicles of important philosophical journals. Jurnal of Philosophy 67 (Aug.
1970) and Erkenntnis 12, pts. 1 and 2 (Jan. and Mar. 1978) have come to my attention;
there are doubtless more.
22. Scruton, Art and Imagination is another important work dealing with the area of
expressive reference (see pp. 221-26 for his discussion of Goodman's idea of expression

This content downloaded from on Sun, 12 Nov 2017 12:10:22 UTC
All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms
640 Anthony Newcomb Sound and Feeling

Unfortunately, I was able to locate a copy of this important work only when this essay was
nearly completed, and it would be impractical to include it in my purview. On first con-
sideration, I do not find Scruton's conceptual basis for expression to be as powerful as
Goodman's and Beardsley's, but further months of reflection may change my thoughts
about this. R. A. Sharpe's "'Hearing As'" (British Journal of Aesthetics 15 [Summer 1975]:
217-25) is a reaction to Scruton's book.
23. See Beardsley, "Semiotic Aesthetics and Aesthetic Education,"Journal of Aesthetic
Education 9 (July 1975): 11-13, and Howard, "OME," pp. 274-77.
24. See Beardsley, "Semiotic Aesthetics"; "Languages of Art and Art Criticism," Erkenntnis
12 (June 1978): 95-118; and "Understanding Music," in On Criticizing Music: Five Philosophical
Perspectives, The Alvin and Fanny Blaustein Thalheimer Lectures, 1978-79, ed. Price (Bal-
timore, 1981), pp. 55-73.
25. See Raymond Monelle, "Symbolic Models in Music Aesthetics," British Journal of
Aesthetics 19 (Winter 1979): 24-37. Monelle approaches this same problem from another
angle. Using Paul Tillich's distinction between sign and symbol, Monelle proposes that
music is more religious than linguistic symbolism, in that the symbol participates in the
reality of its meaning, rather than standing conventionally for its meaning, as do linguistic
symbols (words), which are signs. "The trouble," says Monelle, "is that Langer's symbolic
model, like [her teacher] Whitehead's, is linguistic. Music is not related to any object in
the way that a word is related to an object" (p. 27). According to Monelle, music is a
transcendental symbol in that it manifests, not expresses: it partakes of what it is, which
is present in it, not denoted by it. The two-way reference of Goodman's exemplification
seems to me to accommodate Monelle's insight.
26. See John Hospers, "The Concept of Artistic Expression" (Proceedings of the Aristotelian
Society 55 [1954-55]: 312-44), rpt. in Introductory Readings in Aesthetics, ed. Hospers (New
York, 1969), pp. 142-66; Hosper's essay is summarized in Broeckx, "De mythe van de
specifiek muzikale expressie," pp. 233-34.
27. See Hans Tischler, "A Proposal for a Multi-relational Aesthetics," International
Review of the Aesthetics and Sociology of Music 3 (Dec. 1972): 141-59.
28. See M. P. T. Leahy, "The Vacuity of Musical Expression," British Journal of Aesthetics
16 (Spring 1976): 144-56.
29. I purposely leave open the possibility that these "other aspects of experience" may
include other works in the same medium- that expressive reference in, say, a Beatles song
may be to a Beethoven string quartet, or in a Brahms piano concerto to one by Beethoven.
Such references outside the work but within the realm of music, a rich source of all kinds
of musical meaning, have recently been discussed as a source of structural meaning (see
Charles Rosen, "Influence: Plagiarism and Inspiration" [Nineteenth-Century Music 4 (Fall
1980): 87-100], rpt. in On Criticizing Music, pp. 16-37) but remain virtually unexplored
as a source of expressive meaning.
30. Goodman, "Reply to Beardsley," pp. 171-72 (see n. 6 above).
31. A performer, consciously or unconsciously, does the same thing when he prepares
a performance-at least a performance that has any "shape." This is what Cone points
out in his dictum that "every good performer is necessarily a kind of critic" ("The Authority
of Music Criticism," Journal of the American Musicological Society 34 [Spring 1981]: 5).
32. See Cooke, The Language of Music, pp. 19 and 29-30.
33. As Langer puts it:

The essence of all composition ... is the semblance of organic movement, the
illusion of an indivisible whole. ... This rhythmic character of organism permeates
music, because music is a symbolic presentation of the highest organic response,
the emotional life of human beings. A succession of emotions that have no reference
to each other do [sic] not constitute an "emotional life," any more than a discontinuous
and independent functioning of organs collected under one skin would be a physical
"life." [Feeling and Form: A Theory ofArt (New York, 1953), p. 126; all further references
to this work, abbreviated FF, will be included in the text.]

This content downloaded from on Sun, 12 Nov 2017 12:10:22 UTC
All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms
Critical Inquiry June 1984 641

34. Beardsley, "Understanding Music," p. 70.

35. See my "Those Images that Yet Fresh Images Beget," Journal of Musicology 2
(Summer 1983): 227-45.
36. See Leo Treitler, "Methods, Style, Analysis," International Musicological Society: Report
of the Eleventh Congress, 1970 (Copenhagen, 1972), pp. 61-70, and Cavell, "Music Discomposed,"
pp. 198-99 and 202-5.
37. See Cone, "Schubert's Promissory Note: An Exercise in Musical Hermeneutics,"
Nineteenth-Century Music 5 (Spring 1982): 233-41.
38. See Broeckx, "De mythe van de specifiek muzikale expressie," pp. 242-44.
39. Louis Arnaud Reid, "Susanne Langer and Beyond," British Journal of Aesthetics 5
(Oct. 1965): 361.
40. See, e.g., Beardsley, "Semiotic Aesthetics," pp. 13-15; Faltin, "Musikalische Be-
deutung," p. 19; and Leahy, "The Vacuity of Musical Expression."
41. See Tormey, The Concept of Expression, pp. 129-36, and Cone, CV, pp. 170-73.
42. Jonathan Culler, The Pursuit of Signs: Semiotics, Literature, Deconstruction (Ithaca,
N.Y., 1981), p. 78.
43. Ibid., pp. 124-25.
44. See Jacques Barzun, "The Groves of Academe (II)," Nineteenth-Century Music 5
(Spring 1982): 254.
45. See, esp., Cavell, "Music Discomposed," pp. 198 and 202-5.
46. See Howard, "On Representational Music," Nous 6 (Mar. 1972): 41-53; Richard
Kuhns, "Music as a Representational Art," British Journal of Aesthetics 18 (Spring 1978):
120-25; and Scruton, "Photography and Representation," Critical Inquiry 7 (Spring 1981):

47. See Sharpe, "'Hearing As'" (see n. 22 above), who rejects the expressive
pretation of music because it is banal, requiring little leap of the imagination. Yet
to have been hamstrung in his thought by the way aesthetics talks about music:
that most music has an unambiguous character," he says, then adds, "even tho
much fine music does not." According to Sharpe, the application of such simple ex
predicates as "joyful" or "sad," typical of writing on aesthetics, is problematic on
"some ambiguous music, like that of Mozart or Schubert" (p. 222)-a curious g
exclude from one's aesthetic theory! A wonderful quotation in Langer's Philosophy
Key also displays Sharpe's mistake of using this particular failing of most verbaliz
music to condemn the entire enterprise itself: "'There are many musical work
artistic value, that completely baffle us when we try to denote by one word the m
are supposed to convey. This alone suffices to make the conception of music as a sent
art, or an art of expressing sentiments, quite untenable' " (F. Heinrich, quoted in
197-98). Langer sees nothing in this to disagree with.
48. Goodman, "Some Notes on Languages of Art," Journal of Philosophy 67 (Au
568; and see Benjamin Boretz, "Nelson Goodman's Languages of Art from a Music
of View" (Journal of Philosophy 67 [Aug. 1970]: 540-52), rpt. in Perspectives on Conte
Music Theory, ed. Boretz and Cone (New York, 1972), pp. 31-44.
49. See Howard, "Music and Constant Comment," Erkenntnis 12, pt. 1 (Jan

50. Typically, Kate Hevner's psychological tests found that there was little variati
among the intelligent, the unintelligent, the trained, and the untrained listener. How
this coincide with the claim of Howard's teacher Goodman that to discover what an artwork
exemplifies (and hence expresses) takes "time, training, and even talent" (Goodman, "Re
to Beardsley," p. 172)?
51. See Beardsley, "Semiotic Aesthetics," pp. 13-15.
52. See also Schumann's idea of "polyphonic criticism," which explains why one
the same of his own works might call forth different programs, or verbal interpretat
from Schumann himself: see Lippman, "Theory and Practice in Schumann's Aesthet
Journal of the American Musicological Society 17 (Fall 1964): 310-45, esp. p. 321.

This content downloaded from on Sun, 12 Nov 2017 12:10:22 UTC
All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms
642 Anthony Newcomb Sound and Feeling

53. See Cone, "Schubert's Promissory Note," p. 234. Coker's passage on the "Pas
D'Action" from Stravinsky's Orpheus seems to me especially fine and brings up the important
point that not only adjectives of emotion or mood but also active verbs are appropriate
for the expressive description of music (see Music and Meaning, pp. 160-64). Coker's book
has been treated roughly in reviews-for its jargon-laden and turgid language, for its
pseudoscientific claims of truth value for music, and for its naive acceptance of the applicability
of Charles Morris' theories of linguistic semiotics to music-but its chapters 10 and 11
remain good and stimulating ones for anyone interested in the methods of expressive
interpretation of music.
54. I am less happy with Cone's final step. To take the meaning to the level of
biographical specifics robs the interpretation of the appropriate universality-just as a
program that is too specifically personal risks trivializing the music. Still, I have already
expressed the doubt that Cone intends his biographical interpretation to be an ultimate
one. It is presumably just one specific example that would fit his broader interpretation
of the potential expressive content of the work.
55. See Peter Gilke, "Zum Bilde des spaten Schubert: Vorwiegend analytische Be-
trachtungen zum Streichquintett op. 163" (DeutschesJahrbuch der Musikwissenschaftfiir 1973-
1977 [1978]: 5-58), rpt. in Musik-konzepte. Sonderband: Franz Schubert (Dec. 1979): 107-

56. See my articles on Schumann's Second Symphony (in Nineteenth-Century Music 7

[Spring 1984], on passages from Wagner's Ring (see n. 35 above), and on Schubert's Auf
dem Flusse (in Schubert: Critical and Analytical Studies, ed. Walter Frisch [Lincoln, Nebr.,
57. See Ernst Kurth, Bruckner (Berlin, 1925), and August Halm, Von zwei Kulturen der
Musik (1913; Stuttgart, 1947), pp. 38-81.
58. This argument, a favorite of the early nineteenth century and the heart of Men-
delssohn's famous letter of 1842, is partly truth and partly mystification and self-glorification
on the part of musicians.
59. In Cone's words:

The content of instrumental music is revealed to each listener by the relation betw
the music and the personal context he brings to it.... The capacity for seem
perpetual self-renewal that characterizes the greatest music is only partially du
the fact that we keep finding in it new patterns of structural relationships; in
this is not always the case. But we do, continually though subconsciously, bring
personal experiences to bear on it, finding in them new exemplifications of an
widening range of expressive possibilities. [CV, pp. 170-71]

Again, this bringing of personal experiences to bear on music is a constitutive part o

I mean by understanding music expressively, and Cone is clearly saying here tha
metaphorical application of such experience to structural relations in music causes u
see in them new patterns, different emphases, and (to use Goodman's terminology) n
exemplified properties.
60. Goodman, "Some Notes on Languages of Art," p. 568.
61. Faltin, "Musikalische Bedeutung," p. 30; my translation. Faltin develops this parti
thought in more detail in "Musikalische Syntax" (see n. 7 above). His series of stimula
interrelated articles on the relationship between musical process and meaning is
the best examinations of musical semiotics; see also his "Widerspruche bei der Interpreta
des Kunstwerkes als Zeichen: Drei monistische Modelle zur Erklarung der Bedeutung
Musik," International Review of the Aesthetics and Sociology of Music 3 (Dec. 1972): 199-
"Semiotische Dimensionen des Instrumentalen und Vokalen im Wandel der Symph
Archivfiir Musikwissenschaft 32, no. 1 (1975): 26-38; and "Musikalische Form als ein

This content downloaded from on Sun, 12 Nov 2017 12:10:22 UTC
All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms
Critical Inquiry June 1984 643

chologisches und asthetisches Problem," Musikforschung 33 (July-Sept. 1980): 302-9. The

final section of "Musikalische Bedeutung" makes clear that Faltin does not want to deny
expressive meaning in music; he wants rather to right recent musical semiotics from what
he sees as an excessive tilt toward the sociological interpretation of music.
62. It is also, I think, what Langer means by calling music an "unconsummated" symbol
(PNK, p. 204).
63. Selden, "Aesthetics and Criticism," p. 75 (see n. 2 above).

This content downloaded from on Sun, 12 Nov 2017 12:10:22 UTC
All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms