Abstracts of issue 22 (2015)

Nick Poulakis

Music, language and post-colonial cinematic discourse: A critical ethnomusicological approach of the film Avatar

From an ethnomusicological point of view, music and language share at least one common characteristic feature: they are discrete formulations of the human way of life, thus they have specific historical and cultural grounding. Contemporary ethnomusicologists, anthropologists and linguists highlight various aspects of music and language as performative systems that cover – on both an empirical and a symbolic level – the triptych “experience expression communication”. This article is not limited to a simple ascertainment of the relations between music and language, exclusively based on musical and linguistic criteria. On the contrary, it opens up an interpretive approach by introducing two relevant semiotic terms: “text” and “discourse”. If we defined “text” as every set of signs that has a particular formation, then we could describe “discourse” as its broader practical and cognitive dynamics of construction, signification and interconnection with other texts. In line with the above theoretical and methodological borderlines as well as the recent cinematic and musical analyses of mass audiovisual spectacles, I critically examine the film Avatar (2009) as a text of the post-colonial rationale with regard to the current large-scale productions of the American popular cinema.

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