Olivier Senn, Hochschule Luzern
Music, Language, and Embodiment.
The acoustics of a phrase by Sarah Vaughan
Phonetic and music notations usually represent sound with discrete characters (phonemes, notes). They modelize the sounds of music and speech as a series of distinct and stable acoustical states. When we analyze singing, the limitations of this kind of atomistic models become obvious.The human speech organs form a complex mechanical system. When we sing, all the parts of the speech apparatus (respiratory muscles, glottis, jaw, tongue, lips) are in permanent motion. Consequently, the sounds do not form a series of discrete acoustic states, but they change in a continuous manner.
In this paper, the acoustical properties of one recorded musical phrase by Sarah Vaughan are analyzed, and they are interpreted as indexical signs of a continuous physiological process. The paper aims at demonstrating how the singer superimposes phonetic and musical sounds and how, occasionally, the signifiers from these two systems collide.
Prof. Dr. Olivier Senn studied Musicology, Philosophy, and Linguistics at Zurich University, where he also received his Ph.D. with a dissertation on the musicologocial analysis of sound records. His current research focuses on musical performance and interpretation via examples of Jazz and Western art music. He has been head of the Institute for Research and Development at Lucerne University of Applied Scieneces since 2006.