A whale of a sonata – Zoomusicology and the question of musical structures


Dario Martinelli



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The present article deals with the question of musical universals, as analysed from a zoosemiotic, and zoomusicological in particular perspective, focusing on a specific portion named “structures”. By structures are meant the musical traits in themselves, as distinguished from the para-musical aspects – that is behavioural patterns related with music - and the whole psycho-emotional dimension of music. Analysis of this structural level implies specific attention to notions of musical organisation, form, rhythm, timbres, repetition, compositional conventions etc. The argument implied in this analysis is that certain ‘universal’ musical features most of them, in fact, which I call transpecific traits, are not limited to thresholds of human music. A zoomusicological perspective shows that any qualitative distinction between the aesthetic use of sounds in human and in other species is in principle begging the question, and appears to be the result of a strictly behaviouristic (when not mechanistic) interpretation of animal behaviour. Since ethnomusicology has yet to take the animal issue into account, zoomusicology, as recent efforts in the whole biosemiotic area, are clearly challenging both the behaviourist and the ethnomusicology records.

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