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16 Narrativity in Instrumental Music? A Prototypical Narratological Approach to a Vexed Question [2008]

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[This essay is yet another contribution to an inter- or trans-medial perspective on narrativity along the lines set by my essay no. 14, “Das Problem der Narrativität” (2002), and forms the music-centred counterpart to the above essay no. 15, which was centred on the visual arts. It purports to show that, contrary to what one may intuit, it makes sense to align even instrumental music from outside the field of programme music with the potentially narrative media, although this can only be done under certain conditions (which are listed in section 3 of the essay) and with substantial restrictions. Using frame theory and prototype semantics, the first main part of the essay (section 2) describes essentials of a transmedial (that is, media-neutral) conceptualization of narrativity and narrative, before applying these concepts to instrumental music. This is done with due consideration of the obstacles which music presents to narrativity. Yet the fact that, in some cases, music can go beyond self-reference and point to phenomena outside its medium along with the temporal structure of music as an “audible ideogram of experience” (Orlov) and other features permit one to classify instrumental music at least as a narrative-inducing medium, although the stories thereby adumbrated (i. e. performed rather than ‘told’) will always remain remarkably vague.] 



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