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Music Without Sound: An Exploration of Music in Literary Texts

Aktivitet: Tale eller præsentation - typerForedrag og mundtlige bidrag

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Therese Wiwe Vilmar - Foredragsholder

Can music exist without sound? If we turn to a ground-breaking piece of musical literature – the “Sirens” chapter in James Joyce’s novel Ulysses (1922) – its suggestion is strong: “It’s in the silence you feel you hear” claims the character Leopold Bloom as he sits immersed in Irish folk songs in the Ormond Hotel’s concert room.
Many writers such as Joyce thematise music extensively in their fictional narratives. Literary characters attend concerts, play music themselves or listen to recorded music. The music described can be references to known pieces or songs as well as purely fictional compositions. Most importantly, this music in literature exists without actual sounds. Yet, readers are given a privileged opportunity to listen along fictional characters through the medium of text. Literary music descriptions appear in all kinds of genres, staging music in different settings of narration, time and space.
Music in its literary representations can then be widely experienced through what is popularly referred to as the reader’s “inner ear”; as a silent feeling of hearing, to return to Bloom’s musings. But when is music “real”? Is reading, say, a sonata in a novel a musical experience? And might fiction then be a democratised way of experiencing and sharing music?

Therese Wiwe Vilmar is a PhD Fellow at Aarhus University, School of Communication and Culture, Department of Aesthetics and Culture. Her research is concerned with precisely this sort of imagined, soundless music in literary texts. In this talk, she will follow the guiding questions above and explore some intersections of music in literature, arguing for the musical and aesthetic value of music in fiction. To frame her approach, she will introduce the term melophrasis, derived from the well-established theory of ekphrasis, to mirror some considerations from the field of Word and Image Studies in Word and Music Studies.
18 nov. 2020

Ekstern organisation

NavnRytmisk Musikkonservatorium, København

ID: 208296786