An Imaginary Musical Road Movie: Transmedial Semiotic Structures in Brad Mehldau’s Concept Album Highway Rider
The idea of ‘music alone’ as an independent auditory medium expressed in the
institutions of today’s academia does not resonate with how we listen to and perceive music in everyday life; music is always accompanied with paratexts such as programme notes, LP sleeve images or other types of media. This idea forms the basis for this essay and is used to present a number of issues concerning meaning production: How, where and when is musical meaning produced? To be more specific, this essay deals with how an intermedial music culture can be described and analysed through one specific case study. Intermediality arises in the crossings between constructed media borders, which means that different aspects of a specific medium can be transgressed in various ways. Based on the American composer and jazz musician Brad Mehldau’s (1970–) most complex instrumental work, the concept album Highway Rider (2010), this essay explores how such an album can be understood within an intermedial music culture. It merges formal and structural analysis with cultural, historical, technological and psychoanalytic aspects of music emphasising the role of subjectivity in the production of meaning. By
offering a varied and broad theoretical and methodological framework, the author
demonstrates ways to approach the work using concepts like transmediality, intermedial reference, meta-reference, iconicity, semiotics, paratext, psychoanalysis and ecological psychology.