Words without meaning or meaning without words?

Towards a musical understanding of langauge . . . .

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Paper presented at the International Summer Congresses for Structural and Semiotic Studies, Imatra, Finland, June 10-16, 1995.

words without meaning or meaning without words?
Towards a Musical Understanding of Language...

The primary purpose of this paper is to outline the background to current research I am involved with in exploring the communicative function of music. According to my own experience in learning something of the ritual-based performance traditions of other cultures, I have long realised that 'music' is much more than simply the sound it makes:
it is a complex cultural occurrence that is involved with many different levels of interaction. The basis for this theoretical work can be traced back to an experimental music-theatre composition of my own creation that was completed in 1993. This composition adopted musical sound poems from the Russian avant-garde, the purpose being to extend traditional attitudes to the use of text in the theatre. This was to have more theoretical implications than I at first had realised, and in the context of this paper the social and theoretical significance of the avant-garde for music communication theory will be explored. It will be demonstrated that models taken from linguistics are limited in providing an access to the communicative nature of 'music', although language itself can perform similar functions to the 'musical experience.' This analogy is used to extend traditional definitions of music to include all types of human cultural behaviour. The ultimate goal will be to present suggestions for a new music communication model that will have practical application for a larger context than simply western 'art' music. This will involve a rethinking of the ways the experience of 'music' can be interpreted in the context of the complete cultural experience, and the poetry of the Russian avant-garde will be able to help us along this path.

As a composer of experimental music-theatre interested in exploring musical structures hidden within language, and music as a communication system within culture, it would be helpful to define what is meant by the term 'experimental music-theatre'. According to Mauricio Kagel, a major exponent of this relatively new genre "New Music-Theatre is not a stylistically fixed form of theatre existing alongside others, but rather the application of musical thought to the elements of theatre-words, light and tone-colours and tempi", and is based on the concept that "musical completeness can be conveyed even with the residue of a plot."1 As a consequence of this, the New Music-Theatre is involved with the dissolution of traditionally accepted boundaries within the performance world-ballet, opera, stage-play and concert music to name a few-and is a term that can be linked to avant-garde art movements which have deliberately reacted against these conservative distinctions.

In my case the movement towards searching for a 'musical structure' within language was borne out of a dissatisfaction with the sort of symbolic environment I was provided with in my education and in social life, beginning with the language and extending to all elements of the culture. I was drawn to musical communication as written/spoken language was for me a symbolically insufficient means of expression, although I gradually came to realise that my alienation extended also to the musical world that was forced upon me in the context of my education: the western musical tradition was presented to me as if it was only system I could use to understand musical experience. The symbolic world connected with western musical traditions seemed insufficient and out of place, and I was led to try and create my own 'musical' languages based on totally contrasting conceptions of musical experience that were wantonly borrowed from other cultures; comparable to the Russian avant-garde whose work will be discussed in this paper.

The decision to become a composer, then, was more than simply an expression of an interest in music, it was an expression of an interest in communication in the complete context of this concept. The only solution to my alienation from the limitations of spoken language was a movement towards a form of musical language which could communicate structures directly, not having to go via the inconvenient medium of words. The practical expression of my compositions has been accompanied by a desire to find a theoretical
language that could help me to understand and communicate to others precisely what it is that my music-theatre is trying to communicate about the musical experience. This resulted in a realisation that the initial negativity that had resulted in a creative storm of 'new theatre language' forms could actually be used in a positive way to help develop a theoretical dialogue for music in culture, extending a more traditional western perspective that is to a large extent only capable of encompassing western conceptions of a sound-based music. This paper concerns my encounter with the Russian avant-garde and the implications that the work of Russian avant-garde poetry could have on our perceptions of language and music, as expressed in an experimental music-theatre composition in which traditional notions of theatrical language are thrown into reverse in order to present a contrasting vision of musical communication.

First a questioning of some long held musical myths. According to the Oxford Dictionary music can be defined as the "art of combining sounds of voice(s) or instrument(s) to achieve beauty of form and expression of emotion; pleasant sound."2 The western avant-garde musical tradition has successfully turned this definition inside out by saying that music is not necessarily about 'pleasant' sounds, echoing in the theories of Adorno who preached for a new music which would be used as a tool to represent social dissatisfaction.3 This may have been a step in the right direction, although the notion of music as a strictly aural experience remains a strong western attribute, connected to other distinctions separating creative forms into different categories. According to Robert Kaufmann "the Western distinction between music and dance helps but little in understanding African music because in African musical cultures it is irrelevant. Movement patterns transcend these two spheres."4 In many non-western cultures, including Indian and Indonesian cultures, there is simply no distinction between music and dance, just as in the regional languages of Indonesia there is simply no word that defines music as a discourse on its own. John Blacking, a music theoretician who is famous for his theoretical explorations involved with ethnomusicology, expressed his knowledge by saying that "'musical intelligence' cannot be defined in strictly acoustical terms, and that although its most characteristic and effective embodiment is in music-making, it is a basic intelligence prompting many kinds of action."5 With this definition, music is defined as a way of thinking and experiencing reality, and can be expressed in social life in any number of different forms. Music is, therefore, no longer restricted to any form of aesthetic distinctions, but rather a particular way of thinking and communicating. At this stage I would like to posit that 'musical' experience is a complex social one involving an array of interactions between 'musical' and other levels of cultural experience: music does not exist in a vacuum but is inextricably bonded to cultural life in ways that we are perhaps not even aware.

So how does this relate to the Russian avant-garde? The title of the music-theatre composition which will be discussed in this paper is ZAUM, which is a word used by a group of extremist Russian avant-garde artists who became known as the cubo-futurists. The term was actually 'invented' for use in poetry that had no translatable 'meaning'; words were used that could not be found in the officially recognised dictionary. The use of altered or enhanced language was at that time not entirely 'new', and the cubo-futurists were certainly influenced by the symbolist poetry that preceded them, but the surprising factor is the remarkable amount of ways in which this type of poetry was to manifest itself during such a brief artistic period (beginning around 1910 and ending around the time of the Russian revolution some seven years later). Traditional conceptions of language bound within the strict confines of grammar and the connotation of socially indoctrinated meanings were completely 'turned inside out' as represented by the title of one of the famous books published during this period called 'Mirskontsa' or 'The World-Backwards.'6 The tired language left behind by the symbolists was considered unsatisfactory for the new poetic communication, and traditional concepts of sound and meaning were completely rethought. This led to the creation of 'Zaumni Yazik' or 'trans-sense language' that was later to be abbreviated to simply 'zaum.' Armed with zaum, the futurists were to change the face of poetry by introducing non-referential sounds that could nevertheless be enjoyed 'by themselves', an attitude previously confined to music. This was an untranslatable language; one that would supposedly communicate directly with the subconscious; one that would transcend all traditionally accepted kinds of discourse; one that could only be brought about in such a time of political, social and economic turbulence. In a manifesto presented in one of their early books, the cubo-futurists presented a demanding programme for the deconstruction of traditional language which was to find its complete expression in zaum. Below is a selection from this manifesto:

- We have ceased to look at word formation and word pronunciation according to grammar rules, beginning to see in letters only the determinants of speech. We have shaken syntax loose.
- We have begun to attach meaning to words according to their graphic and phonic characteristics.
- We have abolished punctuation, which for the first time brings the role of the verbal mass consciously to the fore.
- We think of vowels as space and time; consonants are colour, sound and smell.7

With this manifesto the door was opened to a new dimension of poetry, one in which the emphasis was no longer on meaning but rather on the 'sound' of the poetry. The painter-turned-poet Alexei Kruchenykh (1886-1969), who was to become the primary theoretician for the group, wrote that: "words are in chains, subordinated to meaning. The futurists have invented a language which is free, transmental and universal."8

The resulting texts in their total rejection of traditional language are unfortunately inaccessible for the audience of today; they don't provide useful language-based footholds to connect the reader with the inner meaning of the text, leading one to suggest that the texts have reduced cultural significance. The title of this paper poses the question: does zaum poetry use words without meaning, or does zaum poetry create a meaning-based context (or structure) in which the words are of little significance but the structure itself is of paramount importance for the transferal of meaning. In my experience the second choice aptly refers to the significance of zaum texts and is our first connection with musical meaning. It is clear that the ZAUM texts are only 'meaningless' from a very restricted linguistic-semantic perspective; these language creations, like musical formations, are only meaningless in that they cannot be directly translatable into a more logically accessible language form. In a historical context they played a very meaningful role, acting as tools with which traditional society was brought into question. They did this by questioning the way in which language in the form of literature had been used to express 'meaning', reacting against the stifling literary conventions, although this use of zaum was to be quickly extended to other art forms, acting ultimately to question the structure of the society itself. The symbolic load of the western avant-garde musical tradition can also be viewed in the same context. The reaction against conservative musical traditions resulted in the creation of cacophonous sound happenings that were to make an important comment on the stifling rhythmic and tonal conventions of classical music which seemed to have little significance in the contemporary world. This level of music pragmatics in which the social significance of musical experience is explored will quickly reveal itself to be only one level on a multi-levelled communication structure.

The poems that were to come under the title of 'zaum' were to reveal a number of exciting surprises that went further than simply an avant-garde reaction to conservative literary traditions: sound in the form of words was used to communicate totally different concepts uniting the language experience with the musical as never before had been experienced. Probably resulting from influences taken directly and indirectly from eastern art and philosophy where ritual symbolism and mysticism still play an important role, a magical, even mystical, concept of language was explored. Livshits, a member of the futurist circle
came to the conclusion that "we should recognise ourselves as Asians and rid ourselves of
our European Yoke."9 This resulted in an exploration of the essence of the communicative experience which included the musical structures embedded somewhere within the logic of language and the 'illogicality' of music. At this point I would like to posit that the cubo-futurist texts provide us with an entrance into new theoretical terrain. These artists tried to do something quite extraordinary with language: to subvert culturally defined language structures and communicate directly with a part of the subconscious connected with 'musical' experience. Experimental music-theatre is also involved with this deconstruction represented by the rejection of traditional western musical thinking which states that music is restricted to aural experience. It is also interesting to note that my own alienation from western musical traditions led similarly to encounters with 'eastern' culture in the form of Indonesian and Indian music and dance: these forms presented an extended insight into the musical experience. By forming a musical composition with as a basis these cubo-futurist texts as musical material, I was hoping to make the first steps to extend this theoretical dialogue.

The text based nature of these apparently 'musical' creations seemed a logical starting point for the formation of this dialogue. My approach to the Russian texts had been largely influenced by later theoretical developments that were to see the extension of language into the context of communication systems within 'culture'. On this level, music moves onto the same plane as language because they can both be conceived as being 'artificial' communication systems created within a culture to perform functions for the purpose of signification, and music therefore is open to analysis from a similar theoretical source. This is a strong conceptual tool in a development of cultural theory, but remains on its own insufficient to encompass music, largely because musical experience remains 'untranslatable' into any type of language discourse. Kristeva has already noted that the communication models emerging from semiotics are useful only for analysing "those social practices which subserve such social exchange: a semiotics that records the systematic, systematising, or informational aspect of signifying practices."10 Despite the fact that it is problematic to view music under the same theoretical light as language, a model taken from linguistics may be of use: as a part of 'generative' or 'universal' grammar generally attributed to Chomsky, who suggested that language is a result of the expression of a 'biologically endowed faculty', a model for language was presented in which universally applicable 'mathematical structures were used to understand linguistic expression. This was a linguistics divorced from semantics that concentrated on the cognitive realisation of language as thought processes, one in which "the formal, syntactic mechanism of the recursive whole of language"11 is realised. According to Kristeva, "Chomsky claims to be more of an analyst of psychological structures than a linguist"12 which could be of interest to us in discussing a musical model: could it be said that the differing expressions of musical traditions are only different on a surface level, that the thought processes that affect the way music is perceived and understood are essentially shared by all humans? Could 'music' be a basic expression of internal processes?

This possibility is explored in the context of the music-theatre composition ZAUM which uses a selection of the cubo-futurist texts to create a 'music-language' that only has meaning in the context of the composition itself. During the process of the work, elements from traditional theatre discourses are 'illogically' recombined as dictated by the musical structure; all of the events within the work are only 'meaningful' in this musical context. Through this adoption of a musical structure that affects the way the performers act and interact with one another on stage, it is suggested that Blacking's 'musical intelligence' could have a greater impact on social life than is currently recognised. Perhaps it could be said that 'musical thinking', in its expression of naturally occurring internal structures, affects the way we think, behave and interact with others.

The poetry of three of the primary zaum poets has been integrated: Velimir Khlebnikov (1885-1922), Alexei Kruchenykh (1886-1969) and Vasily Kamensky (1884-1961). Each had their own individual attitude to the use of zaum, presenting contrasting but equally valid concepts which resulted in the production of different poetic styles. For Khlebnikov poetry was not an end in itself or a 'realistic' description of reality, but a means of exploration and discovery of language and new forms. Khlebnikov dreamed of creating a universal language of pure concepts clearly expressed by speech sounds, and his quest resulted in the exploration of chants, spells and ritual languages. Kruchenykh was to become the primary supporter and theoretician of zaum, which he saw as a leading mode of expression. He believed that zaum language was "demanded by the confused character of contemporary life and served as an antidote to the paralysis of common language."13 This was a reaction against the obsession with meaning, reason, psychology and philosophy presented by the conservative literary traditions. Vasily Kamensky presented an alternative emphasis through his use of zaum: after stating that language by its existence as sound was essentially a form of music: he asserted that poets should have complete freedom in choosing their own path for poetic communication. A literary critic involved with the cubo-futurists wrote that "perhaps none has felt the sound as an aim in itself, as a unique joy, as Vasily Kamensky."14

The zaum texts themselves are presented in the performance in a manner that seems at first to be illogical or absurd, remaining faithful to cubo-futurist theatre. As such, the performance acts to parody traditional forms of western theatre that rely on restricting coding systems, and observers have likened the composition to an expression of the restriction of life in a communist society. On a deeper level, the more complex nature of zaum language is explored, the seeming illogicality giving way to a broader discussion of the relationship between language, sound and music; something that concerned all the zaum poets, no matter how different the results were. A performance is created in which all theatrical and musical elements have the potential to be meaning-bearing vehicles in a language based on mathematical or 'musical' structures; theatrical 'events' are presented in which five characters move, speak and react to musical and vocal sounds coming from a prerecorded tape. These five 'characters' are without any sort of individual identity: beginning as empty shells, the musical language that structures their somewhat limited existence is 'learnt' by the performers during the composition.

The complete ZAUM work is a full scale three-movement composition, each of the separate movements adopting the zaum poetry of one of the three poets. The complete duration of the composition is around one hour, each of the three movements lasting about twenty minutes. The zaum texts form the structural basis for the composition, uniting both the gestural, the vocal and the sound-based communicative forms. The three movements of the work are linked together by a narrative concerning the learning of this 'music-language' by the characters. This language, as limited as it may seem to the audience, is the only tools that the characters have to perceive reality. Zaum-1, the first movement of the composition, begins in a state without language, only silence followed by noise and darkness, a complete absence of structure. As the work develops, musical sounds become linked with vocal sounds and movements, and the performers become totally engulfed in the process. Gradually this complete immersion is reduced, and the music begins less and less to structure the vocal sounds and the movements. Designed to represent the abstraction of sound from meaning in spoken language resulting in the arbitrary nature of the sounds we now use, by the end of the first movement, words and sounds initially steeped in primordial and ritual significance, are stripped of meaning and are presented as obsessive gestures. In Zaum-2, the sound-movement language developed in Zaum-1 is adopted by the performers in order to represent the restriction of the symbolic load of western theatrical conventions and on a deeper level a dissatisfaction with socially indoctrinated communication systems, whether that be music or language based: an expression of the avant-garde reaction against cultural enforcement. Zaum-3, the final movement, attempts to move beyond the binds of traditional theatre language. A rhythmic 'dance' language is created that in the process of the development becomes gradually redundant, leaving finally the music and the movement to communicate alone. The intended symbolic purpose of this division is a representation of music as much more than simply an aural experience, but a force that affects the way we think and act, one in which when provided in the context of a cultural experience provides freedom and unity that is not attainable in any other way.
The first movement of the composition presents an exploration of Khlebnikov's attitude to zaum poetry. Khlebnikov believed strongly in the almost 'magical' power of vocal sounds both to signify and even affect the world in a way beyond signification. This certainly connects with an ancient attitude to language where vocal sound itself was believed to have deep mythical significance. According to Kristeva the work of Khlebnikov "threaded through metaphor and metonymy a network of phonemes or phonic groups charged with instinctual drives and meaning, constituting what for the author was a numerical code, a ciphering, underlying the verbal sign."15 Characteristic of Khlebnikov's work is an attempt to construct a language of hieroglyphs from abstract concepts, sometimes called the 'stellar' or 'universal' language. In the composition, a text taken from a Khlebnikov zaum poem is used in which the poet strives for a direct connection between sound and meaning:

Goum. Goum.
Oum. Oum.
Uum. Uum.
Paum. Paum.
Soum of me Soum menh
And of those I don't know I tex, kogo ne zna]
Moum. Moum.
Boum. Boum.
Laum. Laum.
Cheum.16 Ceum.17

In this excerpt a ritual-like state is evoked by the use of the "oom" sound group which is translatable as 'mind' or 'sense' from Russian. Khlebnikov formed this new vocabulary by combining this sound with various other syllable groups, assigning his own 'state of meaning' where the new words have a natural connection with universal concepts. Khlebnikov's belief in a connection between meaning, sound, music, colour and emotion is brought to expression in the composition: on stage chanting of the text is accompanied by an inevitably recurring musical structure and a cyclical movement series in which the performers are totally engulfed. It is important to note here that the quest for such a 'universal' language was not restricted to Khlebnikov or even the cubo-futurists. A great deal of avant-garde art in the twentieth century has been involved with a search for this ur-sprache, this 'musical' communication which subverts the arbitrariness of verbal languages and communicates directly with ur-structures present in the subconscious. Innes,18 in his discussion of the connection between ritual and the avant-garde, wrote that "beneath variations in style and theme there appears a dominant interest in the irrational and primitive" which has been involved with the exploration of "subconscious levels of the psyche" and experimentation with "ritualistic patterning of performance." According to Hugo Ball, the primary poet and theoretician of the Dada movement "the classical tradition obliterated from language the unexplainable, mystical properties of sound, and it has fallen to the avant-garde to rediscover and appropriate it."19

One can not help making a connection between Khlebnikov's zaum and a form of thinking in which 'musical intelligence' is brought into action. Bateson has suggested that "algorithms of the unconscious are coded and organised in a manner totally different from the algorithms of language."20 It has been suggested "that these deep and unconscious codings of culture deal not with content but with pattern. The foundations of art-templates of symmetry and pattern, of rhythm and harmony, the bases of poetry and music and metaphor-may lie in realms of mind and brain that are relatively inaccessible to systematic analysis and relatively impervious to logical dissection and formal description."21 Zaum-1, in adopting texts by Khlebnikov, is involved with the gradual transferal within language from such a 'musical state of meaning' that was dreamed about by artists such as Khlebnikov, to the language of today consisting of sound symbols arbitrarily connected to meanings.

We move now to the second movement of the composition. Alexei Kruchenykh played a particularly significant role with regard to the theory and use of zaum language. He thought that the conservative literary traditions placed serious limitations on poetic imagination, invention, verbal play and spontaneous intuition and suggested that the 'emptier' the poetic imagination, the more creative and fruitful the poetic result: "the penetration of the mysteries beyond the rational world."22 Vocal material taken from a fragmentation of one of Kruchenykh's zaum poems sets the boundaries for the language invented for use by the characters. This poem employs Slavic vocal sounds and therefore distantly alludes to the Russian language, even though the poem itself uses no 'words' that can be found in a dictionary. This example also demonstrates the integration of the text in a graphic format, where the words are almost indistinguishable from the other designs.

cenyal ock
alik a levamax
li li lyoub byoul23

In the context of the composition, this poem is deconstructed and an artificial language is formed in which vocal sounds recorded on tape are arbitrarily connected to movements on the stage. The recorded voices appear at first to be commanding the performers to move when simple syllabic vocal sounds become represented on the stage by simple movements such as the raising of an arm or the turning of the head. A 'semiotic code' is created on the stage, where the audience is deliberately directed into recognising a new, be it limited, 'stage language.' Ambiguity is presented by the contrast between the symbolic nature of the language when it appears that the sounds act as movement commands, and the indexical nature of the sounds on tape which set up an intrinsic relationship between certain sounds and certain movements. The sound in itself becomes the movement, and a sound-based movement composition is performed. A point of development is reached where 'movement words' are formed by the syllabic Russian fragments, and each performer has a specific movement 'word' which he or she must perform as the text is spoken:

Vzzzz MY! MY! MY! MY! WI! MY! MY! MY! MY! OV

[Vzzzz Me! Me! Me! Me! Zhi! Me! Me! Me! Me! OV]

It is interesting to note here that the sound 'vz' implies an upward movement, which in the context of the Zaum-2 forces the right hand of the performer into the air. The performers become 'puppets' to the language, continually repeating the simple movement series as dictated by the recorded texts. This is a direct representation of a feeling of being 'trapped' within a language system, and is one which unites the alienation I have experienced from my own language and culture, and the extreme avant-gardism of the cubo-futurists: the restricting literary conventions of the time left one without a personal voice, the 'languages' with which the poets were provided were rejected outright and new languages were presented in their place. My intention, however, in the second movement of the composition was twofold. In addition to demonstrating the restrictions of language that bring about avant-garde behaviour that resulted in the creation of zaum language, 'music' can be seen as providing a similar level of restriction, even when viewed in its sound-based form. By observing and listening to the phenomenon of contemporary popular music in social action, one cannot help noticing that the movements performed by the dancers are not simply culturally determined manifestations, but are dictated within the structures of the music itself; one does feel like a 'puppet' within the music. This is certainly true of Indonesian and Indian dance music which only allows certain movement patterns to occur within its structures. According to Kealiinohomuko dance is seen as a "multi-dimensional cognate to music," suggesting that its performance brings about "a variety of physiological changes" and creates "innumerable side-effects through a complex of interaction." Since dance and performance of sound are considered in many cultures to be a basic expression of the same experience, one could be led to suggest that music even in our culture could have similar physiological or psychological affects. This opens the discussion to the suggestion of an essential connection between performance patterns and human behaviour, and leads directly to the last section of the composition.

Vasily Kamensky played an important role as a Russian futurist, being responsible for the development and elaboration of certain avant-garde poetic techniques. Following the premises of Russian cubo-futurism, he attempted to break down language and reconstruct it in a totally new form. He became interested in phonic instrumentation, and in particular with the possibilities offered by onomatopoeic procedures which became represented more and more often in the form of musical structures. The structure of the third movement, in adopting some of the attitudes to language characteristic of Kamensky, uses the rhythms behind the text to structure the musical development within the composition. A dance-music-language is created by extending the following musical zaum poem by Kamensky, which in a semantic context is entirely 'meaningless':

Sound Poem from Vasily Kamensky:

Zgara-amba Zgara-amba
Zgara-amba Zgara-amba
Zgara-amba Zgara-amba
Amb. Amb.

Amb-zgara-amba Amb-zgara-amba
Amb-zgara-amba Amb-zgara-amba
Amb-zgara-amba Amb-zgara-amba
Amb. Amb.

qar-qor-qur-qir tsar-tsor-tsur-tsir
Cin-drax-tam-dzzz. Chin-drax-tam-dzzz. 24

A coherence between verbal sounds and movements within a musical structure is clearly recognisable in forms of Indian dance. Bharatanatyam, a South-Indian temple dance form, as with almost all Indian dance forms, uses a language known as 'bols' which communicates information to both the dancer and the musician. A 'bol' is commonly translated as a mnemonic syllable. It is taken to signify a letter or group of letters roughly similar to the sounds produced by the impact of the dancer's feet on the floor, or the drummer's varied handiwork on the drums, functioning to dictate movements and foot stamping sequences to the performer and at the same time drumming patterns to the musician. Here the syllabic sounds bring about the dance performance. The following example is taken from a performance of Bharatanatyam.

ta lang goe ta ka ta dhin ghi nha thom
ta-tay -tay ta-tam
ki-ta-ta-ka ta-tay -tay ta- tam
ki-ta-ta-ka tam dhé tham
tay ta thay
tam dhé tham
tay ta thay

ta tay ta ha
dhi tay ta ha

dhi dhi tay
dhi dhi tay
dhi dhi tay
dhi dhi tay25

This 'language of rhythms' is used primarily to structure the parts of the performance which involve only abstract dance and music, which are known as 'nritta'. According to an Indian theoretician discussing nritta meaning is transmitted through the "detail of relatedness between the bols of a pattern - perhaps mere limpid succession, or the build-up and release of a tension, or even the projection of a single syllable in a kind of wedge in the flow of rhythm."26 Saxena goes on to say that this abstract 'world of dance' cannot be compared to the world of everyday existence; "but there is nothing to prevent our taking it as yet a world in its own right." During a performance of 'nritta' a dance-music world is created in which abstract musical structures suggesting tension and release are played out; in which the dancer always returns to a central position of balance. One could suggest that this 'abstract' dramatic expression is more than simply a beautiful and athletic display of physical prowess and musical virtuosity, but an important musical experience in which basic structures within the mind are brought into cultural form. Here the musical experience is a complex one involved with the simultaneous occurrence of language, movement and instrumental music, in addition to that level provided by its entirety both to the performer and the audience.

In Zaum-3, the text by Kamensky is extended into such a dance language in which the movements of the performers become dictated by the rhythmic sounds of the text, just as musical lines develop beneath the sounds of the voices. The composition reaches its most complex when all five performers are involved in the music-dance performance, bringing to life the 'dance texts' recited at different speeds but combining to form a symmetrical whole. All the characters perform together in an entirety that allows for simultaneous performance of different rhythmic levels, which despite their differences are bonded together by the larger repeating musical structures. In performance of Indonesian music and dance, this binding of different levels of complexity into a whole allows for a kind of unity which is not immediately perceivable in performances of western classical music, reflecting in a unique way an 'unspoken' cultural unity, one that is expressed through the structures within the music and the the nature of the instruments which allow for the inclusion of different levels of musical proficiency: everyone can, and is expected to participate in some form.

The analogy presented by the last movement of this composition is intimately involved with a concept of musical meaning whereby a close bond is presented between musical structures and a feeling of complete involvement in a given social structure; a realisation that one is involved in a system that is shared by others. From my own experience in performing Bharatanatyam, the dancer becomes completely engulfed by the text, music and movement which he or she performs, both physically and mentally and this acts as an analogy for this cultural enclosure. On a symbolic level, the use of sound elements to control the actors like puppets during the performance functions not only to demonstrate the restrictions of these cultural 'languages', but to suggest that 'musical' structures hidden in the subconscious underlie human 'cultural' behaviour and affect the way we think about and experience reality. In the context of this paper I would like to suggest that music is an essential part of social existence, being a cultural expression that has symbolic value both to the individual because it is an expression of internal structures, and to the culture because it can be used creatively in a cultural context to provide unity.

I would like to conclude by returning to the Russian zaum texts. As demonstrated in this paper, these musical texts are 'meaningful' on many different levels and have provided us with some new theoretical possibilities from a musical context. On a personal level, I have realised that there is a strong relationship between the cubo-futurists' avant-gardistic rejection of traditional language forms which resulted in the adoption of zaum with my own theatre work which reacted against that division within culture that inform us that 'music' fits into a certain mould. As demonstrated to me by the physical experiencing of music and dance forms from other cultures, I am aware that the way music is actually experienced is merely a cultural creation, and my move towards a new type of music-language was a natural step to take in a clear dissatisfaction with my own culture. As a consequence of this we can see that musical experience need not only be viewed from the perspective of aural sound, that music can, in fact, be extended to include many different types of cultural experience. Music as the expression of culturally accepted sound structures may be the most common way that a musical understanding is produced for general consumption in society, but it can not be considered the only way to experience music. Using this as a given it is possible to try and lay the groundwork for an extended communication model.

At the end of the journey that makes up the music-theatre composition Zaum we are left with a number of different levels within which musical meaning can be viewed, spanning from the ways in which music affects our everyday social existence to a deeper level in which music is considered as the expression of structures within the subconscious that affect our thought processes. It is possible to grade these levels on four planes, beginning with the surface level and moving on each descending level further into the realm of 'musical' thinking:
(1) On a surface level, music interacts with social life affecting our everyday existence in many different ways. This spans from uniting us with a certain cultural group or simply demonstrating that we belong to a certain social class.
(2) Music provides a structural bed in which other social and ritual functions can take place. This stresses the importance of viewing music within a wider cultural context. On this level, interaction between music and other discourses could be examined. This would include the role of musical experience in dance and ritual, as well as the ways language is used in combination with music to help make the musical experience accessible to those involved.
(3) The musical environment provided by our culture surrounds us and influences our behaviour. Careful cultural crafting designs it in such a way that it can be used both to restrict behaviour, as well as helping to provide one with tools in which these cultural expressions help one to encompass reality.
(4) Musical experience can be said to be a direct cultural expression of structures within the subconscious of every individual, forming an important tool for both self-understanding and for the understanding of ourselves within culture.

Encompassing these levels of music experience into a usable theoretical model is the primary goal of my new research project which is involved in exploring the role of music in the life of the Balinese. By examining the complex role that music plays in other cultures, the intention is to develop a theory that will have significance also to the complex role of music-in all its possible appearances- in western society. At this point it is impossible to present any definitive statements regarding such a music-communication model, although I would like to add at this point that new streams of thought influencing the music of today can help point us in the right direction. It can be sensed that contemporary 'classical' music is being influenced in two major areas:

(1) a move towards the influence of popular music (exploration of cultural structures), and

(2) a move to express different types of structure in music-such as DNA or quantum theory-that are not created within the context of cultural experience (exploration of natural structures).

These observations help me to form two major divisions in which music can be considered:

(1) The importance of music in relationship to other cultural structures. This involves an exploration of the importance of music in ritual, dance and theatre. This theoretical standpoint begins with the assumption that ritual theatrical events act largely as symbolic expressions of cultural needs; complicated meaning-based structures in which music can be seen as only playing a role in combination with other communication systems.

(2) The importance of music as a biologically structured way of thinking. This area of exploration is involved with how we 'think' musically, and is concerned with musical structures that exist in our subconscious. It is more concerned with music as a direct expression of biological structures than as an expression of cultural systems. In this way, it is involved with the type of structures that music communicates.

Kristeva has also encountered these two dimensions in her studies of semiotics. She suggested that a possible way for semiotic theory to develop would open itself to influences both from the conscious and the unconscious world, in which 'meaning' is considered in terms of the signifying process itself rather than the more traditional sign-system analogy, resulting in influences provided by "on the one hand bio-physiological processes" and on the other hand "social constraints."27 The collision between these two levels as viewed from the perspective of musical experience will certainly be an important dimension of my research, representing a general level of controversy in contemporary cultural/anthropological research. To what extent is our musical knowledge culturally based and to what extent is it inherent and biological? To what extent is musical experience an expression of cultural values and to what extend it it a deeper expression of 'musical' thinking? How can we compare these two contrasting levels of human-cultural experience? Where does culture end and music begin?


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September 27 2013.



Major Writings