Is music a pure icon?

Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society 43 (4):626 - 635 (2007)
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Abstract

: In his landmark book, Peirce's Theory of Signs, T. L. Short argues that music signifies as a pure icon. A pure icon, according to Peirce, is not a likeness. It "does not draw any distinction between itself and its object" (EP2:163), and it "serves as a sign solely and simply by exhibiting the quality it serves to signify" (EP2:306). In music, this quality consists of the specifically musical feelings or ideas contained in the piece in question, and such musical feelings are properly interpreted by means of an emotional interpretant rather than an energetic or logical one. Short, following Peirce, is correct in maintaining that music primarily signifies feeling-content whose proper means of expression is musical and whose proper interpretation by the listener involves the generation of a corresponding feeling. Nonetheless, musical signification is not purely iconic. Responding to the musical feelings presented in a work requires previous acquaintance with its style tradition, and this acquaintance involves logical interpretants. In addition, the integral temporality of music calls into question the possibility of its being purely iconic

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