Musical Counter-Environments: Media Ecology as Art Criticism

Phil Rose


Beginning with an introduction of some of the basic tenets of an intellectual tradition called the media ecology perspective and a description of its general complexion, this article interrogates how the perspective—in tandem with Marshall McLuhan’s notion of how the arts function as “counter-environments”—can be effectively used for art criticism. The discussion emphasizes particularly the cultural study of musical multimedia. I outline the little-known affect-script theory of personality theorist Silvan Tomkins, and suggest how his work not only contributes to the media ecology perspective but can be likewise helpful in decoding musical communication, especially toward the more accurate elucidation of the content of such expression.


music, media ecology, art criticism, counter-environment, anti-environment, symbolic form, presentational symbolism, affect-script theory

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