The Musical Topic

The Musical Topic

Hunt, Military and Pastoral
Raymond Monelle
Distribution: World
Publication date: 8/28/2006
ISBN: 978-0-253-11236-1
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The Musical Topic discusses three tropes prominently featured in Western European music: the hunt, the military, and the pastoral. Raymond Monelle provides an in-depth cultural and historical study of musical topics—short melodic figures, harmonic or rhythmic formulae carrying literal or lexical meaning—through consideration of their origin, thematization, manifestation, and meaning. The Musical Topic shows the connections of musical meaning to literature, social history, and the fine arts.

Author Bio

Raymond Monelle was formerly Reader in Music at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, where he is now an Honorary Fellow. His work on music theory and semiotics is internationally known. His books include Linguistics and Semiotics in Music and The Sense of Music. He has been a composer, pianist, and conductor, and writes music criticism for The Independent, Opera magazine, and other publications.


"In this persuasive, well-organized study, Monelle (Univ. of Edinburgh, Scotland) makes a significant contribution to understanding hunt, military, and pastoral music. . . . This clearly reasoned, charmingly written volume has the potential to change the way one hears, performs, and teaches significant portions of the musical canon from Haydn and Mozart through Debussy and Mahler. . . . Essential. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty and professionals; general readers." —Choice

"This book embarks on a cultural history of three tropes, or themes, that appear frequently in musical works. These topics convey meaning to the work by their perceived associations to literature, social history, or art. Listeners from Haydn and Beethoven's time may have immediately recognized the associations, but today we need critics and historians to return these contexts to the music." —Beethoven Journal , Vol. 22.1 Summer 2007

The Musical Topic marks the culmination of Monelle's developing thought on the book's titular subject. . . . Monelle has drawn upon an impressive array of sources in a variety of fields, producing an interdisciplinary study of unusual scope." —Current Musicology , No. 89, Spring 2010

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Table of Contents

List of Plates
Note on Titles of Musical Works
Part One: Topic Theory
1. Topic and Expression
2. The Literary Source of Topic Theory
3. Signifier and Signified in Music
Part Two: Huntsmen
4. Signifier: The Hunting Horn
5. Signified: Hunts Noble and Ignoble
6. Musical Hunts
7. The Topic Established
Part Three: Soldiers
8. The Military Signifier: 1. The March
9. The Military Signifier: 2. The Military Trumpet and Its Players
10. The Military Signified
11. The Soldier Represented
Part Four: Shepherds
12. The Pastoral Signified: The Myth
13. The Pastoral Signifier
14. The Pastoral in Music
15. New Pastorals
16. Epilogue
Appendix 1
Appendix 2