Opera, oratorio, and iconic strategies

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Iconic structures pervade Opera and Oratorio. While recitative relies mainly on imagic iconic strategies (imitation of the prosody of common speech), arias seem to rely more on diagrammatic iconic strategies and symbolism. A recitative is straightforward, dynamic: music follows the spoken word whereas an aria ties the text to periodic-symmetric musical structures and to melodies that defy prosody. However, we will show that imagic iconicity determines arias as well as the oriented succession of recitative and aria, the basic unit of an opera. What characterizes arias is that they mostly mime behaviour of people who suffer from stress: repetition of syllables, words, syntagmata, and sentences; use of common places, altered pitch of the voice, incomprehensible syntax, etc.


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