Music as a non-arbitrary avenue for exploration of the social

Keywords: semiosis, social, relations, Charles Sanders Peirce, Z-model, metaphor, experience, music analysis


The article examines how music affords exploration of social aspects of semiosis: how music signifies the social, beyond the fact that music is an inherently participatory social process.

Pentti Määttänen extends Peirce’s notion of ‘hard fact’ to ‘soft facts’ to which we accommodate our behaviour in order to get along in society. As mutual beliefs, soft facts are continuously tested and updated in inquiry. Representation of oneself is also continuously correlated, thrown together, with that of the rest of the world, yielding positioning of self in ways we call emotions.

In music, com-positions of sound constitute hard facts that stand for other facts, soft or hard, by being their metaphors. Shaping and reshaping music allows for safe playing and testing of acts and events, anticipating upcoming situations and changes through virtual situations of the world, social and non-social.

Music analysis examines how features of sound offer complex ways of constructing and interpreting metaphors, and how the narratives in music unfold through presentation of metaphors of subjects’ existence, identity and relations, evoking dialogue, drama, tension, even crises to be resolved.


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Author Biography

Juha Ojala, DocMus doctoral school, Sibelius Academy of the University of the Arts Helsinki, P.O. Box 30, FI-00097 UniArts, Helsinki, Finland



How to Cite
Ojala, J. (2021). Music as a non-arbitrary avenue for exploration of the social. Sign Systems Studies, 49(1-2), 86-107.