Rhythm and multimodal semiosis

Continuum International Publishing Group
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Semiotic margins: Meaning in multimodalities, 2011, 1, pp. 168 - 177
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I once heard the jazz bassist and composer Marcus Miller explain how he composed the score for the film 'Siesta', in 1987, laying a bass line first, the using a synthesiser to build up the percussion, layer by layer. At the end of that process, he realised there was something missing. The rhythm was all too mechanical. So he engaged a drummer to play a single drum in the studio, on top of the tracks he has already laid. What next, he then asked himself. I like Herbie Hancocks chords, I'll put some of those in. It was at this point that I had a revelation. I had always seen harmony as the language of Western music, and harmonic structure as its basic sources of textual development, whether in Beethoven, Broadway or the Beatles. But to Marcus Miller chords were just some added spicing, some added colour. It dawned on me that in multimodal texts any semiotic mode can in principle either provide the basic structure of remain incidental, fragmented, providing, here and there, some added colour.
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