[Smt-talk] Narrative/analysis (was theory of film music)

Nicholas Reyland n.w.reyland at keele.ac.uk
Tue Jul 8 02:18:27 PDT 2014

Interesting how the idea of narrative and music continues to ignite the
passions, leading to some notably strong statements.

On the one hand, Prof. Meeùs write that 'narrative analysis, or music
criticism, or anything of the like, as interesting as they may be, are not
part of music analysis properly speaking¹, and adds 'I see no reason why
narratologists should claim [to be] performing music analysis properly
speaking, nor why music analysts properly speaking should feel in any way
dependent on narratology¹.

On the other hand, I recently read Anahid Kassabian claiming, in the
introduction to Ubiquitous Listening, that most forms of music analysis are

Weirdly, scholars who might justifiably consider at least some of their work
to be Œmusic narratology¹ almost never make such sweeping claims. As Fred
Maus has put it, in my experience quite typically of lots of work in this
area by music theorists, ¹The notion of narrativeŠ is something to try, one
way or another¹ (quoted in Fred's chapter in Music and Narrative since 1900)

A narrative approach is not the only, nor the best, way to interpret lots
and lots of music: it is never the only productive way to engage any piece
of music, and music¹s otherness always exceeds its grasp on the occasions
when pieces do invoke the possibility of reading through a narrative frame.
Nonetheless, by examining some music through narrative-informed approaches,
one can access ideas that cannot be revealed in other ways and that
therefore have the potential to make a unique contribution to criticism and
scholarship, productive for creators, critics, performers, and audiences
alike. I am very happy for this to be part of my work as a music analyst and
theorist. And the internal evidence of the music, like Frank Kermode¹s
notion of the classic, has nothing to fear of such work, even when such work
is intimately concerned with that very evidence: music Œsubsists in change¹,
remaining infinitely Œpatient of interpretation¹.

With best wishes to all

Nick Reyland
Dr Nicholas Reyland
Senior Lecturer
Music & Film Studies
Keele University
n.w.reyland at keele.ac.uk
T: +44 (0)1782 733297
Music, The Clock House, Keele University, ST5 5BG, UK

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