Music as language: Methods of cohesion in musical and linguistic discourse
Why is music as language so important for music analysis? Kofi Agawu, one of the biggest thinkers and music analysts to date, wonders in his book in 2009. If we juxtapose language and music as two systems of communication which unfold in time, we see many similarities that are worth pointing out and discussed. While doing this, however, one has to be careful not to overlook their often obvious differences. This paper concentrates on the similarities between music and language and parallelises music to linguistic discourse. It examines two approaches that relate to how cohesion is obtained in language: firstly, the theory of Halliday and Hasan, a classic theory of cohesion in language dating from 1976, and secondly the theory of Greimas (1966) for cohesion on the semantic level of language. We see how these two theories can be adapted and applied in music analysis. We note that music, like language, achieves cohesion through the mechanism of repetition. This repetition is not necessarily repetition of a musical segment, but it can be repetition of a musical property. Cohesion in music is a primarily semantic property, without excluding it being syntactic at the same time.