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Theorizing Musical Ritual.

Research output: Contribution to conference Conference paper

Publication date11/03/2010
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Conference13th International Doctoral and Postdoctoral Seminar on Musical Semiotics
CityDepartment of Musicology, University of Helsinki, Finland


Music has had a long association with ritual practice, and is used to provide a variety of iconic, indexical and symbolic functions within the ritual framework. In its interactions with other ritual objects and actions, music loses its identity as “music” and – from a semantic viewpoint at least – becomes an indivisible part of the ritual whole. The functional nature of ‘ritual’ music means that it is almost never considered from an aesthetic-philosophical viewpoint. Conversely, music that is the focus of such analysis (whether it is ‘art’ or ‘popular’) has rarely been considered from a ritual standpoint. Given the ubiquity of ritual in human (and possibly animal) behaviour, I argue that the possibility exists for its structures and processes to find expression within musical forms. In this paper, I shall outline some of the necessary conditions for ‘ritual thinking’ in music, along with the interpretative opportunities this observation gives rise to.