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Title: Russian post-minimalist music : a semiological investigation into the narrative approaches employed by Alexander Knaifel between 1978 and 1994
Author: Wilson, Tara Jane
ISNI:       0000 0004 5371 8358
Awarding Body: Goldsmiths, University of London
Current Institution: Goldsmiths College (University of London)
Date of Award: 2015
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Russian post-minimalist music, unlike early American minimalist music, aims primarily to function as discourse. As a symbolic system, however, it is problematic in that its intended meanings are commonly not understood. Whilst a dichotomy between the ‘poietic’ and the ‘esthesic’ exists within all musics – due largely, Jean Molino asserts, to the nature of the Peircean sign – this dichotomy is heightened within Russian post-minimalist music due to certain specific and often paradoxical factors. For example, the highly reductive signifiers on the ‘neutral’ level actively prompt multiple interpretations and engender unwanted significations. The post-minimalist music of Alexander Knaifel (b. 1943) is especially problematic in this respect. Whilst he attempts to convey complex allegorical narratives using ascetic forms limited in teleology, further difficulties arise in that he purposefully obscures meaning whilst attributing miscomprehension to ‘passive listening’ rather than to semiological, compositional or cultural factors. To date, no examination of his approach to discourse has been made. All analysis is formalist, rather than that which examines his oeuvre as a symbolic system. In response, this research takes the form of a semiological investigation. Using Molino’s ‘tripartition’ and theory of communication as an underpinning model, I examine and critique the ‘poietic’ – i.e. Knaifel’s post-minimalist approach to discourse as established in 1978 – before discussing how this has developed through 1994. Focusing upon the inter-relationship between the ‘neutral’ and the ‘poietic’, I analyse three key works that exemplify these developments: A Silly Horse (1981), GOD (1985) and In Air Clear and Unseen (1994), with the aim of identifying the meanings intended and the principal codes and strategies employed to convey and obscure those meanings. My methodology is broadly structuralist within a Peircean framework. I identify paradigms (Barthes’ classification) on the semantic syntagmatic axis before examining their corresponding musical paradigms, and the structural, intra-textual and inter-textual relationships involved.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral