2nd International Congress of Musicology

Athens Concert Hall, 4-6 November 2003

Paper Abstracts

Panos Vlagopoulos

Triangularity and Reference in Music Historiography

Relativism – in vogue in musicology as anywhere – is controversial because in a world construed as consisting of subjective perspectives there is no room for a perspective that could include all other perspectives as subjective. Both relativism and its opposite, objectivism, share adherence to the binomial: interpreter / subject. It will be argued in this paper that a way out of the impass between relativism and objectivism is offered in the direction of triangularity, i.e. considering interpreter A, a subject matter S, and interpreter B. The move toward triangularity is motivated by the recognition of the pervasive linguistic and / or historiographical mediation of all historical knowledge, as well as by the attempt to moderate the effects of the illusion of a “dialogue” between an interpreter and a text. Moreover, expanding Davidson’s notion of triangularity: if reference, from the point of view of interpreter A’s historiographical activity, cannot be construed but as running from words to things, interpreter B is allowed to consider reference as running from A’s words to “linguistic things”. This is Frank Ankersmit’s term for the kind of ontologically hybrid entities behind expressions like “Zweig’s Napoleon”, or, for that matter, “Wagner’s Beethoven”, or “Webern’s Bach.
In fact, I will argue that, accepted triangularity, interpreter A’s discourse as a whole and its elements can be put by interpreter B under the sign of linguistic thingness. This means that neither the (historical) existence nor the mode of presentation of the subject matter can be forced upon interpreter B and that commitment thereto can be suspended, at the same time liberating B from the constraint of declaring A’s discourse and its elements as either “true” or “false”. Interpreter B can continuously adapt her understanding of interpreter A’s discourse to her understanding of the subject matter, only to arrive at an understanding of her own of the latter, building on concrete aspects of the subject matter picked out by help of the notion of exemplification (Goodman). Τhe concept of “Floskeln” in Machaut historiography and analysis will be brought in to illustrate the theory.

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