Title

Music as Communication: A Rhetorical Perspective Based on Susanne Langer's Theory of Aesthetic Symbolism

Date of Award

12-1991

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Teaching & Learning

Abstract

The purpose of this dissertation is to create a rhetorical perspective by which to understand and analyze music as aesthetic communication. Specifically, this study extends Susanne Langer's theory of aesthetic symbolism as it relates to music as a mode of communication. Once the rhetorical perspective for analyzing music as communication has been depicted, the perspective is operationalized to analyze music from two contemporary social movements in the United States. The music analyzed in this dissertation comes from the Neo-Nazi Skinhead movement and the New Age movement. By approaching music as aesthetic communication in this way, the reader is able to determine how music can communicate, as well as how it is used as a mode of communication in these two social movements. Further, the value of this rhetorical perspective as a means by which to understand and analyze music as communication is ascertained.

Several conclusions may be drawn from this study. First, this study furthers the inquiry offered in existing literature with regard to analyzing music as communication. By approaching the procedure from an aesthetic perspective, this dissertation provides a means by which to analyze music as it may communicate using both lyrical content and musical score, as well as how music can communicate without lyrical content. In addition, based on the data in this dissertation, this author confirms the ideas presented in the existing literature that music communicates for social movements. Finally, this author concludes that music does communicate for the Neo-Nazi Skinhead movement and for the New Age movement.

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