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A Peircean Model for Music and Sound-Based Art: a Pragmatist Approach to Experiences in the Artistic Use of Sound

León Enríquez

León Enríquez, Centro de las Artes de San Luis Potosí, S.L.P México


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As a composer of music and an art educator, I delved into C. S. Peirce’s theory of semiotics searching for possible connections between both practices and to other arts and disciplines. The application of peircean semiotics to the study of the artistic use of sound has confirmed the inherent interdisciplinary nature of music. Semiotics has provided clear methods to reveal and construct significant relations between artistic sound and other areas of knowledge.

What this model offers is a method of observation of the processes of signification in experiences in the artistic use of sound. The model’s first categorical proposition is the recognition of three moments of artistic communication: Reception, Production and Analysis. These describe differentiated participations of interpreters in musical events and rituals. A second set of categories organizes the referential potential of sound, music and musical experiences, and establishes three planes of signification: Temporal, Spectral and Ritual. Both trichotomies respond to an application to music of Peirce’s tri-relative sign unit of Representamen, Object and Interpretant and his phenomenological categories of Quality, Relation and Law. The model takes metaphor, understood by Peirce as a hypoicon, as guiding principle and mediator between the model’s proposed categories.

EMS12 Proceedings