Writes music formulaically

What is a topos?

by Ulrich Kaiser

As Topos (from the Greek τόπος tópos = place, place, place) are linguistic general places in a certain function, e.g .:

  • "Hello nice to see you, how are you?"
  • "All the best", "Sincerely" or "Yours faithfully"

to a.
A formulaic greeting. A Commonplace is this phrase because in everyday life you cannot assume that it will actually be perceived as nice, that you will be seen (and it is also not advisable to answer more than "good" or "it works"). This language formula has the Function of opening an everyday conversation.

to b.
A formulaic farewell to the Function of the degree an everyday conversation.

If the examples are viewed as platitudes or topoi and not as a literal statement, they provide information about the speakers and their relationship. In the case of the greeting, for example, politeness is evident, addressing the other person with "you" and showing sympathy by showing that the person who greets is not indifferent to whether the person is doing well or badly. Even those under b. Adoption formulas provide information about the relationship between the actors (friendly, neutral, respectful-distant) and everyone familiar with the cultural customs knows that it would be inappropriate to say goodbye to the employer with "All the best" and a letter to the friend with "Respectfully" to finish. In addition, platitudes can also provide information with regard to place and time: Mozart, for example, closed a letter from Italy to his sister in 1770 with "My handkus to the mama, and to all my well-known my recommendation, and I am like your brother at all times" and JS Bach ended a letter in the so-called “Prefect Dispute” to his superior in 1737 with the words: “Recognize this very highest Royal Grace with undying thanksgiving greed and persevere in the deepest submission Ew. Royal Your Majesty Most Submissive Most Obedient Johann Sebastian Bach «.

Topoi in music

In music theory, sentence models are often referred to as topoi. Hartmut Fladt writes:

The fact that certain models in certain genres or in certain formal-dramaturgical positions or in accounts of precisely definable semantics were and are called up again and again by the composer is an essential part of their topographic character; In this way, in addition to other types of contextual formation, basic musical modes of connection were established [...] ›Model‹ is primarily - abstract - structure, ›Topos‹ is the unity of structure and historically defined meaning / function.

Hartmut Fladt, "Model and Topos in Music Theoretical Discourse", in: Music theory 20 (2005), pp. 343-369.

From a constructivist point of view, the "unity of structure and historically defined meaning / function" is problematic in Fladt's definition, provided that this means a specific hermeneutic interpretation that allows speculation about the thinking of composers. On the other hand, the definition does not appear to be problematic if meaning and function are understood as attributions by an observer (the analyzer) who are not able to cross system boundaries (and thus do not suggest that it is possible to intervene on the composer's intentions). In this sense, however, the topos term is incorporated into a more comprehensive model term, since a model does not have to designate “primarily - abstract - structure” or typesetting facts, “but also for whom, when and for what purpose with regard to its specific functions it is a model «(Stachowiak General model theory, Vienna 1973, p. 133).

If one understands sentence models as models, they are suitable for referencing different sounding musical facts in their function and with their semantics in compositions of different times. Specific semantics such as complaining and whining, for example a lament bass design, may (or may not) be given. Such semantics may be obvious for operas around 1600 - some of the most beautiful lamento bass settings are found to the wailing of unhappy women and men, such as the Ninfa or Arianna - and also for instrumental music of the 18th century, but it would not be for pop music. Used in the context of a pop music analysis, the term Lamento bass is used, it is to be understood as a name or label, with which a certain fact is referred to, about which one can agree on the basis of this name about a corresponding design.

Creation of the article: November 24, 2019
Last change of the post on November 24, 2019