In(-)formations. The Meaning of Paratextual Elements in Debussy's Syrinx

  • Marcel Cobussen
Keywords: deconstruction, paratext, breath marks, Syrinx, Debussy, Genette, Derrida, ornamentation, titles, incidental music, binary oppositions, Pan


According to Gérard Genette, paratextual elements can be defined as that what comes against, beside, and in addition to the text (a score for example) 'itself'. In that sense, they are always subordinate to 'their' text. The paratext is all material other than, though very closely connected to, the 'actual' text: the cover, the author's name, the title, preface, illustrations, notes, etc. It is therefore located in the space between inside and outside, the space between still belonging and not yet belonging to the text. This essay first of all investigates how paratextual elements (especially breath marks) are necessary to provide a musical text (in this case Debussy's Syrinx for solo flute) with a (temporary) meaning and how they direct possible interpretations. Secondly, this essay also suggests that within the musical text 'itself', paratext is always already present (for example in ornamentation). However, in Syrinx, the borders between text and paratext are remarkably porous, creating a noteworthy questioning and shifting of hierarchies.


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How to Cite
CobussenM. (2005). In(-)formations. The Meaning of Paratextual Elements in Debussy’s Syrinx. Musicological Annual, 41(2), 55-70.