abstract for paper presented at the 'Bridging Nature & Culture' Semiotics conference in Guadalajara (MEXICO) 1997



Paper presented at the "Semiotics Briding Nature & Culture" congress held in Guadalajara, Mexico, July 13-18, 1997. Awaiting puplication in the proceedings of the conference.

(i) Abstract
(ii) Complete Paper

The Organic Presence of the Sign in the Balinese Musical Text
abstract by Zachar Laskewicz

The Balinese musical text, weaving its way in and out of the life of the Balinese, is deeply embedded in the bodies and minds of the Balinese people, simultaneously creating and perpetuating Balinese culture. These 'musical' texts are indeed cultural texts, and are embedded in a multi-medial performance context which requires a particularly open theoretical approach: the concept of 'musical performance' has to be redefined to incorporate those elements which have been lost in our own musical 'disembodiment'. By turning our musical 'texts' into objectified sources of performance [scores] we have removed time and space from our theoretical model. The performance is reduced of sensual meaning and becomes simply an imitation of the permanency inscribed on paper. Balinese musical texts are very much involved with the 'now' of performance, utilising real physical space, because it is only through the performance that the knowledge inherent in the music is transmitted. Through a sensuous actualisation of ancient icons, these texts become a powerful deictical pointing arrow: they act to direct the attention of the audience and the gods to the symbolic actions which occur, making them through their performance a part of the observer's reality. The music makes the reality tangible, experiencable and sensuous. By examining a particular Balinese performance, I will be attempting to fine-tune a new theoretical model based on a reinterpretation of Peirce's sign trilogy and Bourdieu's Habitus. Such a theoretical approach is certainly multi-disciplinary, uniting sociology, ethnomusicology and anthropology, using semiotics as the binding tool. It will be demonstrated that the embedded nature of the performance in a living environment is crucial to understanding the signification of musical performance.

Major references

Bourdieu, P. (1990) The Logic of Practice, Polity Press, Cambridge.

Jakobson, R. and Pomorska, K. (1980) Dialogues, Flammarion, Paris.

Kersenboom, S. (1995) Word, Sound, Image: The Life of the Tamil Text , Berg Publishers Limited, Oxford.



May 2008 Nachtschimmen Music-Theatre-Language Night Shades, Ghent (Belgium)
Send mail to with questions or comments about this website.

Last modified:
6 June, 2008