Thirteenth International Congress on Musical Signification

  • Russell Millard (Speaker)

Activity: Participating in or organising an eventParticipation in conference


Un point d’honneur: Narrating Masculinity in Daphnis et Chloé
The Dance Contest between Daphnis and Dorcon forms one of the cardinal points in the narrative trajectory of Ravel’s ballet Daphnis et Chloé, one with significance beyond its localised function as confirmation of Daphnis’s rank within an actorial hierarchy. As a narrative of contest between two male characters, the scene evokes the contemporary phenomenon of the duel – of great cultural significance in the France of the Third Republic – and sets in motion a sequence of narrative events that challenge the construction of gender throughout the remainder of the ballet.
Synthesising elements of a variety of musico-narratological methodologies, this paper explores isomorphisms between narrative and voice-leading structures, in particular the manner in which processes of tonicisation can be understood as instances of value transfer, or transvaluation. Central to the narrative analysis of the Dance Contest is the conceptualisation of a desiring musical subject, who seeks to establish a state of conjunction with an object of value, in this case, a specific tonal centre. Additionally, recurrent, disruptive harmonic and contrapuntal features are examined as instances of hypotaxic (internal) and hyponomic (external) obstacles, the latter establishing the presence of a musical antisubject, in opposition to the aims of the musical subject.
The manner in which voice-leading structures inflect underlying tonal processes is considered in relation to an examination of the expressive course of the narrative discourse, leading to the articulation of a paradigmatic ‘plot’, or narrative archetype. The musical plot is then juxtaposed with that of the ballet’s libretto, establishing a ‘reading’ of the danced narrative by that of the music, bringing to light instances of dissonance between the two narrative structures.
Period4 Apr 20167 Apr 2016
Event typeOther


  • Semiotics
  • Narratology
  • Gender
  • Music analysis
  • Schenker
  • Tarasti
  • Greimas
  • Ravel
  • Ballets Russes