The Department of Music at The University of Edinburgh presents an international conference on Music Semiotics in memory of Professor Raymond Monelle on 26-28 October 2012. The aim of the conference is to promote the work of Professor Raymond Monelle in semiotics through the presentation and discussion of ‘new’ musical ‘topics’ as they emerge in the West European repertoire and in popular music during the last two centuries. The in-depth investigation of musical topoi was one of the main musicological outputs of Professor Monelle, a theory which has emerged in recent decades as a powerful tool for the analysis of musical signification. Topic theory suggests that a musical style which can be defined without the aid of a verbal text or title -that is, by purely musical characteristics- is a true musical topos. Musical topics are considered ‘cultural units’ that express different cultural contexts and reflect the political, social, and religious conditions of each era. They manifest themselves in concert halls, music festivals, practically every location where musical performance and attendance is occurring, and through any modern audiovisual means.
All musical signification is social and cultural, and no signification is ‘purely musical’ or ‘purely linguistic’ because topics are paradigms, signifying in relation to culture, not in relation to syntagmatics. Along with everything else, musical topics are signs of our connections with our sisters and brothers in literary criticism, art history, cultural theory, and social history; many of these connections are complex and elusive. The primary concern of the topic theorist is to give an account of each topic in global terms, showing how it reflects culture and society, not to focus on music alone […] (2006).