The Semiotics and Rhetoric of Music: A Case Study in Aesthetic Protocol Analysis

  • Christian Kock
Part of the Rhetoric, Politics and Society book series (RPS)


This paper investigates musical semiotics (how listeners experience meanings in music). It discusses what bearing listeners’ experience of meanings may have for their aesthetic experience of music. The study is rhetorical because its focus is effect, not meanings in themselves. It employs “aesthetic protocol analysis,” a design where informants write about their responses and associations while they experience an aesthetic artifact—in this case the first movement of Edward Elgar’s Cello Concerto. It is found that listeners’ experienced meanings are fleeting and of multifarious types, showing both intersubjective overlap and divergence. The main claim is that finding meanings in music should not be the purpose of listening; rather, engagement with musical meanings should be seen as a source of, and a means to, aesthetic experience.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christian Kock
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Media, Cognition and CommunicationUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark

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