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1996 Lecture: Jean-Jacques Nattiez
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Jean-Jacques Nattiez will present the 1996 Charles Seeger Lecture at the 41st Annual Meeting of the Society in Toronto. Born in Amiens (France) in 1945, where he received his initial musical training, Nattiez first completed graduate degrees in modern languages and linguistics. His doctorate for the Université de Paris on musical semiology formed the basis for his widely influential books in this field. Since 1970, he has taught at the Université de Montréal.

Jean-Jacques Nattiez defines his main scholarly purpose as the "redefinition of the aims and methods of musicology within the general framework of semiology,” the field in which he is clearly a forerunner (e.g., Fondements d’une sémiologie de la musique (1975) and Music and Discourse (1990). In this context, he has always emphasized the paramount importance of ethnomusicology, following Charles Seeger in favouring the unity of musicology. Many of his copious analytical and historical studies have focused on Wagner (e.g., Tétralogies: Wagner, Boulez, Chéreau, 1983 and Wagner androgyne 1990, English translation 1993), Debussy, Varèse and Boulez (with whom he has collaborated in the production of the important series "Musique/passé/present” and whose writing he has edited in Points de repère, 1981, Jalons (pour une décennie), 1989, and Correspondance [Boulez – Cage], 1990). In addition, however, he has devoted a large part of his research to Inuit music, mainly the throat-games, for the study of which he animated the Groupe de Recherches en Sémiologie Musicale at the Université de Montréal (1974-80). In 1978, he expanded his investigations to Ainu Music (Japan) and in 1994, to the throat-songs of the Tchuktchi in Siberia.

Among the many articles and recordings resulting from his field work in Canada and Japan, several of the records have been highly acclaimed. The first, Chants et jeux des Inuit, initially published by UNESCO, was awarded the highly esteemed prize in France, "Grand prix international du disque de l’Académie Charles-Cros,” and contributed to international awareness of this aspect of Inuit music culture. He was awarded this prize a second time for his reedition of the "Collection universelle de musique populaire enregistrée,” established by Constantin Brailoiu in the fifties for UNESCO—a piece of the history of ethnomusicology comparable to the Hornbostel Demonstration Collection.

His involvement in sound documentation led him to propose a technological innovation of particular significance for ethnomusicology. Aware of the recordings of Inuit vocal games different from those accessible to the larger public, he produced a compact disc (published by French Radio) compiling collections of his own and five colleagues. The question arose as to the criteria for organizing the 90 short pieces. Nattiez enlisted the help of an electro-acoustic composer in his effort to offer a musical product that would satisfy listeners on the European and American markets without altering any of the material, while, at the same time, offering various listening routes (via generic type, village of origin, related texts, etc.) through the compact discs, routes which respect different enthographic relationships among the games. Furthermore, users are invited to "compose” their own disc of Inuit games. As Anthony Seeger stated in his Yearbook of Traditional Music review of this disc (1991:156):

"There is no question of the ethnographic value of the project, or of the years of scholarship Jean-Jacques Nattiez brings to this disc along with his recordings and those of several of his colleagues. But quite beyond its usefulness as a research publication, this compact disc is a very suggestive project for future music publications. Its lesson for ethnomusicologists thinking about producing field recordings is that we should not think of a CD as a compact LP vinyl disc, but rather as the beginning of creative new ways of presenting sounds to various audiences simultaneously—including the general public, members of a local community and research scholars—all in the same package.”

His third Inuit record, published by the Museum für Völkerkunde in Berlin, is mainly devoted to the drum dances of the Iglulik Inuit of Canada.

Jean-Jacques Nattiez has consistently aimed to ground his theoretical concept of music semiology in empirical data and this aim will be evident in his Charles Seeger Lecture. Recently, he has been involved in new research in Uganda: he intends to demonstrate how the musical units and syntactical rules obtained via paradigmatic analytical techniques may be connected with semantic and choreographic features in order to facilitate cultural interpretation.
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