Translating music, translating sense: interpreting meaning in multimodal works

Minors, Helen Julia (2013) Translating music, translating sense: interpreting meaning in multimodal works. In: Multimodalities: aesthetic dimensions in music and education practices; 18 - 21 Jun 2013, Volda, Norway. (Unpublished)


This paper reassesses the transference of meaning between music, text and image in Erik Satie’s Sports et divertissements (1914/1922). Sports is a multi-art collage album, in which images by Charles Martin are co-presented with Satie’s humorist piano miniatures published in facsimile, superimposed with Satie’s own narrative text. Due to the visual emphasis of the work, presented as a large musical score (with images attached to each piece) able to be rested on the piano stand, for performance at the piano, there is an invitation to enquire how a performer, spectator or researcher may interact with the work. Music, considered a language in its own right, often refers to text discourse and other art forms. In analysing Satie’s musical and textual response, as well as Martin’s response in two sets of images from 1914 and 1922, to the leisure and sporting activities commissioned by the publisher Lucien Vogel, it is necessary to ask how the sense of both the text, art and the music are transferred. Reference is made to contemporaneous poets and composers who assert an inter-art aesthetic. This paper offers a fresh analysis of the multi-art processes at play between Satie’s music and text which is interpreted in dialogue with the images. How can one mediate the experience of Sports? In what ways can we, and might we, interact with the work to interpret its various meanings? In order to appreciate the multi-art nature of this work we must search the piece to become aware of its many attributes. Examples are drawn from those leisure and sporting activities which involve water. Primary source materials are utilised to chart Satie’s creative process and to reveal the nature of this limited edition high art collage album with a gestation encompassing pre- and post- World War One.

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