Centrum för kognitiv semiotik (CCS)

Humanistiska och teologiska fakulteterna | Lunds universitet


Gestural-Sonorous Objects in Rolf Riehm's Toccata Orpheus

Stefan Östersjö


In this paper I develop some ideas on how a musical work can be analyzed in terms of its ’gestural sonorous objects’ (Godøy, 2006). Following Rolf-Inge Godøy (2003) and Alexander Refsum Jensenius (2007), I approach musical gesture analyzed in three categories:

  • Sound-producing gesture.
  • Sound-accompanying gesture.
  • Communicative gesture

In essence, the discussion deals with the function of visual gesture in a specific contemporary performance practice and specifically how the bodily action of the performer is treated as an intentional compositional parameter in Rolf Riehm’s Toccata Orpheus for solo guitar (Riehm, 1990): the expressive units of visual gesture and the sonic result of the action cannot be analysed merely as a sonorous object. In the performance practice of Riehm’s music, the theatricality of performance is an essential component but interestingly enough, the performance instructions have very little to say about this. Most of the visual expression is woven into the sound-producing gesture of the music such as notated. The analysis draws on material from my rehearsals with the composer, documented on video and previously discussed in my thesis SHUT UP ’N’ PLAY! (Östersjö, 2008).


  • Godøy, R. I. (2003). Motor-Mimetic Music Cognition. Leonardo, 36(4), 317-319.
  • Godøy, R. I. (2006). Gestural-Sonorous Objects: embodied extensions of Schaeffer's conceptual apparatus. Organised sound, 11(2), 149-157.
  • Jensenius, A. F. (2007). Action - Sound: Developing Methods and Tools to Study Music-related Body Movement. University of Oslo, Oslo.
  • Östersjö, S. (2008). SHUT UP 'N' PLAY! Negotiating the Musical Work. Lund University, Malmö.
  • Riehm, R. (1990). Toccata Orpheus. Munich: Ricordi.