Theoretical Approaches to Deconstruction in Music: Music as a Language, Signature, Yin-Yang , and the Function of Motive
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This dissertation engages Jacques Derrida's philosophical theory of writing to interpret basic compositional musical elements. Derrida has rethought the traditional binary opposition of speech/writing, using his concept of différance. He inverts the binary and furthermore points out its misrepresentation of reality. This reinterpretation of the binary is called deconstruction. Based on this philosophical concept, my dissertation examines the elements that have been traditionally overlooked as the supplement, that is, the subordinated element in a binary opposition, as found in the relationship between language and music, time and key signatures and marked features. I also explore the meaning of repetition in a motive. At the center of this study, the binary opposition of identity/intention, derived from the concept of the personal signature, plays an important role in the basic structure of musical elements, such as the key signature and the motive. The traditional function of a personal signature is to provide evidence of the provenance of a document in terms of the identity and the intention of an individual with regard to that document. In order to enable a signature to function in this way, it must be repeatable and readable. Thus, I apply these functions to the musical elements, which possess the characteristic of repetition. The Introduction briefly describes my application of the deconstructive approach and reviews the current literature in relation to the topic of deconstruction, such as the work of Lawrence Kramer, Kevin Korsyn, and Rose R. Subotnik. Chapter 1 divides into two parts. The first part introduces Derrida's theory about the traditional binary opposition and his inversion of this construction, and his theoretical evidence, différance. The second part discusses the relationship between language and music in terms of writing (composition). I provide the evidence of the connotative aspect of both language and music. In this view, music is not a mere supplement of language; it is a language. In Chapter 2, I examine the meaning of iteration and engage the function of the personal signature, identity and intention, with musical key and time signatures, presenting the deconstructive process moving from the traditional to the contemporary signature. Chapter 3 explores three different types of opposition in the musical text - the binary [seen in the text or structure], markedness [the inversion of binary], and Yin-Yang (Um-Yang) [its deconstruction]. The Eastern philosophical concept of Yin-Yang refers to the two complementary creative forces in nature. Yin is female, passive, dark; Yang is male, active, light. The concept of Yin-Yang is not only oppositional, but also, and importantly, harmonious. Thus, the inversion of the binary, that is markedness, expands to the deconstructive concept of Yin-Yang. I present the value of viewing markedness through the concept of Yin-Yang using as my example, Charles Ives's General William Booth Enters into Heaven, in terms of the climax and extra-musical meaning. Chapter 4 goes on to examine the functions of the motive in Schoenberg's Piano Piece op. 23, no. 1, in terms of identity and intention, which, again, like the signature comprises repetition or iteration. Derrida's notion of iteration found in his concept of the trace can be used to give greater clarity to Schoenberg's concept of "developing variation," a concept that scholars typically describe as confusing and not well defined. Finally, the conclusion provides further possibilities for the adaptation of the concept of deconstruction to music.