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Abstract

Although Barthes is perhaps best known as a semiotician, he is paradoxically always in search of precisely that which defies the constraints of language, whether art, signs or, in fact, language itself. Enter the relevance of music for Barthesian aesthetics. Barthes called for a "second semiology," in contrast to the classical semiology, which would explore "the body in a state of music." In this essay, I explore Barthes' musical semiology in terms of key concepts, including gesture, pulsion, grain, and jouissance. I extend the relevancy of Barthes' concepts, often articulated within the context of the Western classical musical tradition, to more contemporary examples from popular music and jazz. Here, free jazz drumming shows the way to the pulsion so integral to Barthes' emphasis on the bodily in music, and Tom Waits and Bjork demonstrate the gritty materiality of geno-song.

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