"In Mozart and Enlightenment Semiotics, Stephen Rumph shifts the ground of interpretation for late eighteenth century European music by reinstating the semiotics and language theory of the period. In so doing, Rumph challenges and reappraises current orthodoxies. These challenges are extremely valuable, bravely offered, and intuitively right as well as convincingly argued."
--Matthew Head, author of Orientalism, Masquerade and Mozart's Turkish Music
"Stephen Rumph's book is, to my knowledge, the first successful attempt to ground classical music in its contemporaneous intellectual context. In this respect, Rumph's book is a great achievement. It is an imaginative tour-de-force bursting with dazzling insights, and with an apparently encyclopedic range of intellectual reference in several languages."
--Michael Spitzer, author of Metaphor and Musical Thought
"By keeping so many things in focus at the same time, Stephen Rumph has really written several books in one: an introduction to Enlightenment theories of the sign for scholars of music; a much-needed historical context for modern musical semiotics; a sensitive new exploration of the circulation of meanings in and through Mozart's music; and an important contribution to the ongoing integration of musicology into cultural studies. I suspect that in the course of several readings, one would come away each time with a different set of equally valuable revelations."
--Elisabeth LeGuin, author of Boccherini's Body: An Essay in Carnal Musicology
In this groundbreaking, historically-informed semiotic study of late eighteenth-century music, Stephen Rumph focuses on Mozart to explore musical meaning within the context of Enlightenment sign and language theory. Illuminating his discussion with French, British, German, and Italian writings on signs and language, Rumph analyzes movements from Mozart's symphonies, concertos, operas, and church music. He argues that Mozartian semiosis is best understood within the empiricist tradition of Condillac, Vico, Herder, or Adam Smith, which emphasized the constitutive role of signs within human cognition. Recognizing that the rationalist model of neoclassical rhetoric has guided much recent work on Mozart and his contemporaries, Rumph demonstrates how the dialogic tension between opposing paradigms enabled the composer to negotiate contradictions within Enlightenment thought.