City Research Online

Meaning, communication, music: Towards a revised communication model

Inskip, C., MacFarlane, A. & Rafferty, P. (2008). Meaning, communication, music: Towards a revised communication model. Journal of Documentation, 64(5), pp. 687-706. doi: 10.1108/00220410810899718


If an information retrieval system is going to be of value to the user then it must give meaning to the information which matches the meaning given to it by the user. The meaning given to music varies according to who is interpreting it – the author/composer, the performer, cataloguer or the listener – and this affects how music is organized and retrieved. This paper examines the meaning of music, how meaning is communicated and suggests this may affect music retrieval.

Musicology is used to define music and examine its functions leading to a discussion of how music has been organised and described. The limitations of notation are discussed. Various ways of establishing the meaning of music are reviewed, focussing on established musical analysis techniques. It is suggested that traditional methods are of limited use with digitised popular music. A discussion of semiotics and a review of semiotic analysis in Western art music leads to a discussion of semiotics of popular music and examines ideas of Middleton (1990), Stefani (1987) and Tagg (1999).

Agreeing that music exists when communication takes place, a discussion of selected communication models leads to the proposal of a revised version of Tagg’s (1999) model, adjusting it to include listener feedback.

Originality/value of paper:
The outcome of the analysis is a revised version of Tagg’s (1999) communication model, adapted to reflect user feedback. It is suggested that this revised communication model would more accurately reflect user need in the design of music information retrieval systems.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This article is (c) Emerald Group Publishing and permission has been granted for this version to appear here Emerald does not grant permission for this article to be further copied/distributed or hosted elsewhere without the express permission from Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
Publisher Keywords: music information retrieval, analysis, semiotics, communication
Subjects: Z Bibliography. Library Science. Information Resources > Z665 Library Science. Information Science
Departments: School of Communication & Creativity > Media, Culture & Creative Industries > Library & Information Science
SWORD Depositor:
[thumbnail of Meaning communication music towards a revised.pdf]
PDF - Accepted Version
Download (359kB) | Preview


Add to AnyAdd to TwitterAdd to FacebookAdd to LinkedinAdd to PinterestAdd to Email


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics

Actions (login required)

Admin Login Admin Login