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Making things louder: Amplified music and multimodality

Mulder, JohannesORCID: 0000-0002-0258-624X (2013) Making things louder: Amplified music and multimodality. PhD thesis, University of Technology, Sydney .

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This thesis looks at the use of electronic amplification at concerts of music. A broad introduction, constituting both a technological and a musical history, precedes a literature review that identifies the topic as under-researched in musical, technological and critical discourse. Proceeding from that broad approach which covers the first three chapters the analytical focus is narrowed by applying key concepts from social semiotic multimodal discourse analysis, as developed by amongst others Gunther Kress and Theo van Leeuwen and rooted in the work of linguist Michael Halliday. In addition, elements of the work of sociologist Erving Goffman are explored; notably his use of ‘decorum’, the ‘participation framework’ and ‘production formats’. Amplification is treated as a semiotic mode; the different meaning potentials of the use of technology are outlined and contrasted with the notion of reproduction technology as a neutral channel. Questions of the relation between original (or acoustic, ie the sound that is amplified) and the amplified sound are analysed using the concept of linguistic modality, so as to investigate how notions of musical truth such as authenticity or fidelity, are encoded in expressions. Music is considered as social action, and this encompasses both the music itself and the musical experience in which it is embedded. In social semiotics making meaning is an activity, and technological practices form an integral part of this. The final chapter therefore interrogates matters of agency in relation to the use of amplification and its use in musical performances.

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