Dance terminology applied in violin playing



In rehearsals, the negotiation of musical ideas for performance often require verbal communication. The language of musicians in rehearsal and teaching often draws on metaphor [1]. But what is the possible relation between verbal metaphor [1] and musical signification? In a seminal inquiry into the function of language in musical interpretation, Steven Feld argues that:

[…] speech about music tells us more about ways we attempt to construct metaphoric discourse in order to signify our awareness of the more fundamental metaphoric discourse that music communicates in its own right. What is to be gained by attention to speech about music is information of the construction of interpretive moves as a kind of metaphoric engagement. Locational, categorical, associative, reflective, and evaluative discourse, as varieties of interpretive moves, tend to be attempts to identify the boundaries that sound objects and events present in their structure and social organisation. (Feld, 2005, pp 14-15)

As any description of musical ideas in words needs to exit the temporality of the musical flow to express the meaning in a kind of 'out-of-time' perspective, musicians often rely on verbal representations that capture the temporal relations as well. The 'in-time' representation of the character, articulation, and tempo often employs onomatopoeic words that represent the feature of the musical sound, an aspect of sound production, or some expressive gestural character.

A linguist may analyse this kind of representation as iconic, since they represent the effect or the action of the object, as opposed to arbitrary representation which is established by means of convention or habit (Saussure, 1916). Drawing on this distinction, the beat-box method which I developed may be best understood as iconic, since it draws directly on the experience of action.

Both types of verbal representations are, however, useful in musical interpretation. In my intuitive reading of musical scores, I employ metaphorical images of movement such as lifting, jumping, bouncing, throwing, landing, etc.…. in order to construct the musical interpretation of a specific dance movement, or to coordinate and negotiate the musical interaction with the other musicians in the ensemble.

In the dance workshop, I used my musical motion vocabulary as a platform to understand the dancer’s movements and terminology. In the present study I combine the musical metaphorical representations with dance terminology. Such combinations of synonymic words like lift and élevé, bend and plié, or jump and jetté allow me at times to create a more analytical reference to a certain movement in dance, while at other times to retain a language with which my fellow musicians and I have a more spontaneous relation.






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