It's so easy to speak of lyrics's implicatures -- McEvoy likes Dylan's
implicatures, for examples -- and this is what Tommasini does in today's NYT,
Only, alas, as in a recent issue of The NYT by another author, Tommasini uses
'implication', in the plural I guess had Tommasini attended St. John's, at
Oxford (we don't say "in Oxford," even if Oxford is a _city_ -- with a
definitional cathedral [vide Popper on the definitional conceptual analysis of
an English city in terms of 'cathedral]) he would have said (or written,
strictly) 'implicatures', rather. Or not.
Tommasini's passage goes:
TOMMASINI: Are words — the sound, meaning, expression and implications of
specific lyrics — necessary to spur his music?
------------------- Is that why composing concertos or quartets doesn’t appeal?
SONDHEIM: I’m not sure that’s true.
Surely, Sondheim's implicature is that Tommasini should have used
'implicatures,' and not (logical) 'implications'. Or not?
Tommasini gives two illustrations. One he does not provide Sondheim's input
for. The other gets actually REFUTED (as Popper would say) or 'refudiated' by
The first illustration is from "Sweeney Todd". Tommasini notes about the
utterance by Sweeney Todd,
i. She was beautiful.
"[T]he end of the first phrase of 'The Barber and His Wife' [number] from
"Sweeney Todd". When Sweeney, recalling his wife, sings, "And she was
the undulant accompaniment at the word “beautiful” stabs you with a subtly
piercing dissonant chord."
i.e. in terms of the question that Tommasini poses to Sondheim, 'the sound,
meaning, expression and [implicatures] of ["beautiful"] is "necessary" to spur
that "subtly piercing dissonant chord."
The second 'refuted' illustration is from "Sunday in the Park With George".
"At the start of "Sunday in the Park With George," George explains [or
explicates, as I prefer -- as opposed to 'implicates' -- Speranza] to the
audience [or spectator, as I prefer, since HE sees, too -- Speranza] how a
painting is created from a blank page or canvas."
GEORGE: The challenge: Bring order to the whole. Through design, composition,
balance, LIGHT and HARMONY."
"To underscore each of these spoken words [expressions and their attending
implicatures -- Speranza], Sondheim comes up with a pungent chord built from
five notes played in arpeggio."
"Each one seems to evoke these elements in sound. Sonorities shimmer in the
'light' chord, so brightly that as you listen you want to squint."
"Finally comes "HARMONY," a plush, grounded E-flat chord with an enriching F
Tommasini wants to corroborate his exegetical hypothesis with the m-utterer,
i.e. Sondheim, and blatantly asks:
TOMMASINI: Surely, the specific verbal images led you to write these specific
But Sondheim goes on cleverly and refudiate the exegesis:
SONDHEIM: Not really. The chords are all VARIANTS of the first one. The series
is a progression — in essence, a musical phrase. What [the lyrics are -- or
rather the lyricist is] doing [is] telling us, though [George]: this is the way
you make a painting. You have this element, and this element, and this element,
and you put them together; they make harmony."
Griceian harmony, I would add -- if not implicate.(*)
(*) For Popper, to explicate that you implicate is an anti-Goedelian paradox.