Musical semiotics in action: applying and debating Hatten’s semiotics in a musico-dramatic context

Journal article

Curry, B. 2010. Musical semiotics in action: applying and debating Hatten’s semiotics in a musico-dramatic context. Studies in Musical Theatre. 4 (1), pp. 53-65.
AuthorsCurry, B.

Robert Hatten’s work on musical meaning and the classical style has become widely respected amongst music scholars. Hatten has applied theories of markedness and correlation almost exclusively to instrumental music and one of the primary aims of this article is to investigate the usefulness of his analytical approach in the context of opera by way of an analysis of the opening section of the first duet in Act III of Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro. Further to this aim, this article looks to explore the relationship of Hatten’s work to the tradition of music analysis, thereby engaging with Scott Burnham’s assertion that Hatten’s work can be related to a wider shift in musicology away from the ‘Formenlehre tradition, which increasingly tended to treat…[sonata] form ahistorically’ toward ‘treatments of form that highlight a play of conventions’ (Burnham 2002: 903). This engagement will be carried out, in part, by reflecting upon the analytical findings below with particular reference to the relationship they open up between libretto and music. This will, in turn, offer insight into wider musicological questions concerning the usefulness and limitations of formalist analysis in general. The article begins with a brief introduction to Hatten’s application of markedness theory.

KeywordsMusical meaning; opera; semiotics; Mozart; Le nozze di Figaro; formalism
JournalStudies in Musical Theatre
Journal citation4 (1), pp. 53-65
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
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Publication dates
PrintAug 2010
Publication process dates
Deposited17 Apr 2012
Output statusPublished
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