Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures

School of Music

Music Research Seminar: Renee Timmers

Interrelations between cross-modal and emotional meaning in three performances of Schubert’s ‘Die Stadt’

This week’s research seminar in Lecture Theatre 1 of the School of Music will take place at 4.30pm on Thursday 16th October.

The speaker is Dr Renee Timmers (University of Sheffield)



While research has shed light on cross-modal associations with sonic features and on relationships between sonic features and perception of emotion in music, little attention has been paid to the relationships between these two types of associations. Using a more integrated approach and investigating meaning in a rich musical setting, visual imagery in the text of ‘Die Stadt’ (based on Heine’s ‘Am fernen Horizonten’) was analysed and the way Schubert’s text setting communicated or moderated this visual imagery. Light, distance and motion feature prominently in the text: A city is veiled in dusk, the sun rises from the earth, and the boatman rows with sad strokes. Schubert’s ‘Die Stadt’ interprets and illustrates these metaphorical dimensions and employs them with emotional effect. Performances of the songs further shape the communicated meaning through their modulations of tempo and dynamics. Previous empirical work is used to ground the interpretative analysis. Nevertheless, the interpretation of the song is necessarily speculative. The aims are to explore the connection between cross-modal metaphor and emotional association and to demonstrate the usefulness of empirical findings of cross-modal mappings of sound in exploring meaning in music, in particular in the context of a musical text-setting.

Author’s note: this work was done in collaboration with Zohar Eitan and Motti Adler from Tel Aviv University

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