Amelie – the moped

Posted by jerry on May 27th, 2007 — Posted in Journal, Motorcycling

I have begun a slow restoration of my Motobecane 40V moped. The ped was built in 1970 and I have owned it since near new. I rode it for several years, before putting it into storage for almost 20 years. It’s all eBay’s fault! I finally found some 6V light globes to fit the indicators, so now there is a real chance of getting them to work again.

Motobecane 40V 1970 moped

The moped has been reluctant to start, requiring a squirt of ‘Aerostart’ straight into the spark plug hole before it even thinks about it. So today I took the points out and filed them and reset the gap, and then dismantled the carburettor and cleaned the jets – and now it starts easily and runs well.

The points are located behind the magneto rotor on the right side.

Motobecane magneto and points

Here is a short video of that starting procedure – just turn on the fuel, roll the throttle forward to decompress the engine, start pedalling and bring the throttle to idle and the engine starts easily.

If you look carefully you should be able to see the clever expanding pulley “variator” in action on the left side of the moped. This provides an infinitely variable gear enabling the engine to maintain power even on hills (for steep hills some light pedal assistance is required)

Once I have the indicators working, I’ll start work on restoring the engine – notice the seepage from the head gasket – I’ll strip it down and rebuild it as the historic vehicle it is 🙂 Watch this space!


Semiotics of music – blogged!

Posted by jerry on May 22nd, 2007 — Posted in Journal, Music, New media, Theory

New media researcher Angela Thomas has written a lovely post about my semiotics of music experiment. I have drawn on MAK Halliday’s systemic functional semiotics to develop a schema for music, which can be used to analyse multimodal texts.

semiotics of music

Interestingly there seems to have been very few attempts at developing such schemas. Angela raised a useful question in relation to my schema, namely that there is no listing for an analogue of adverbial phrase – or even adjectival phrase come to think of it. My response is two-fold. Firstly, if an adverb-function were to exist, it would probably lie in the selection of mode – major, minor, dorian etc – which would provide a sense of the manner in which a musical phrase acts/creates drama or action.

My second response is that music, along with other non-linguistic systems of signification, probably doesn’t translate directly into a linguistic model. Sure, linguistic or literary semiotics is probably the most highly developed as a means of analysing texts (however broadly defined), but I’m not entirely convinced that such a model maps all the signifying activity of a non-linguistic or multimodal text. It does, however, form a useful point of entry to any discussion of how we make meaning with non-linguistic or para-linguistic signs. Is there a grammar of music? Emphatically yes, but beyond forms of analogy, I remain uncertain as to how far one can map it directly onto a linguistic model.

But there remains the tantalising possibility that one could develop a metalanguage for analysis of music and how it functions to make meaning within a sign system.


USA – more impressions

Posted by jerry on May 17th, 2007 — Posted in Journal, Travel

This is the land of commerce! Where else in the emergency instruction would you find, not only the emergency escape route marked out in case of fire, but also the

emergency route to the vending machines in case you have a bad attack of the munchies! And all this in your hotel safety instructions…

room sign

Meanwhile the Mall roof references the height of Victorian railway station design. The interplay of line, angle and curve works very well. And the palm trees are reminiscent of the Paris Orangerie – a signifier of elegant fashion.

mall roof

And to add to the sense of being in a gallery of contemporary style there are artworks positioned around the mall – like the cubist violin series, called “Three Violins”. It’s more like what happens when your violin has an industrial accident with a bandsaw… I actually liked the way the violin has been sectioned and displaced, giving the violin a sense of movement and time.

three violins

I knew I should have brought mine to the ‘States – I was offered a spot at the open mic session at the hotel. I said I’d do it if they could locate a violin. They didn’t so I didn’t, but it was kinda fun to think I could’ve started my overseas tour right then and there! I guess they didn’t know who I was…. 🙂


USA elements of style

Posted by jerry on May 16th, 2007 — Posted in Journal, Travel

The US is a land of contrasts, from the elegance of the parks to the visually rich malls. This elegant park bench is in The Mall, Washington DC

swan bench

as is this floral urn, with its Classical references


And even in the shopping malls there are elements of wonderful design, like these power sockets in the shopping mall

power sockets

And in the shops, there are the fleeting clothing styles, but these bags caught my eye – completely encrusted with beads and ‘bling’.


Interestingly, the design of the stores themselves, also referenced classical architectural style, but did so by creating facades resembling furniture display cabinets, rather than purely architectural buildings. It was like these stores saw themselves as indoors rather than as retail spaces, adding an elegant domesticity that referenced the interior of elegant homes. Given their up-market contents it is not difficult to see why such a style would appeal. But I thought it was an interesting stylistic feature 🙂

mall stores


Music – a Systemic/Functional semiotic approach

Posted by jerry on May 15th, 2007 — Posted in Journal, Music, Theory

Music – a Systemic Functional Approach

Some years ago, when studying under Michael O’Toole at Murdoch University, I began experimenting with some thoughts on applying MAK Halliday’s systemic functional semiotics to music. To my knowledge, even 20 years later no-one else has sketched out such a schema. So, with some trepidation I thought I’d dig out that early naive schema and seek views on whether such a schema might still be useful as a point of entry into musical semiotics, and as a means of finding a language with which to deal with extra-linguistic artistic works. All that remains of that original lecture is the diagram that I developed and which I will lay out below. Then I’ll try to reconstruct a pathway by way of explanation for each element of the schema.

Music – a semiotic schema






(Ideological base)


i)Form (eg Classical)
ii)Ornament (eg baroque)
iii) Sense (eg romantic)
WORK Type of orchestration/Intertextuality Modality
– fantasy
as expressed by:
-‘weight’ etc
eg song/folk dance/tonepoem/sonata/etc

Interplay of
i)thematic structure
eg: statement, recapitulation,cadence (ending), conjunction

eg slow movement

eg -major
-pentatonic etc



Textual coherence :
-interplay of theme
-to different key
-to different mode
-tonal ambiguities

(Verbal group)



Contrast options:
-dynamic range(loud/soft)


(nominal group)

Play of figures
(nominal ‘characters’)

relation to hearer – ‘gaze’
-pointers to key tonality
-line (melodic sequence)

Tonal qualifiers – flat 5ths/7ths etc

Key statement

Cadences (endings)


Lexical content
recognisable figures

recurrent patterns

Lexical Register:
Modified motifs:
-changed mode
-changed key
-changed rhythm
-position in theme
-posn in movement
-posn in Work


Basic unit of information:


degree of scale:


high/low (pich)
chord/single note

Position in harmonic series





Much of this is self-explanatory, and has to do with the orientation of the music to the listener and to the culture into which it is inserted. Like all modes of signification, music has context, and a relationship to that context, whether to music history, or to style, or to genre. Each individual work is made up of elements each with their defining characteristics such as relationship to the key, voicing, sound/silence oppositions and so on.

The object here is to develop a way of talking about non-linguistic artistic texts in a schema that is relatively independent of a formal knowledge of music. That is, to try to come up with a descriptive semiotics of music by observing how it is structured, and how it functions within the culture.

I welcome suggestions on how I might develop this crude model further. In the meantime, I thought that after 20 years it is high time it got some wider exposure. If you use it, please acknowledge the source, but otherwise feel free to use and modify as you see fit.

And I welcome comments.