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Eero Tarasti

Eero Aarne Pekka Tarasti
Born September 27, 1948, Helsinki.

Master of Arts, 1973, Licentiate of Philosophy, 1976, and Doctor of Philosophy (Musicology), University of Helsinki

Professor of Musicology, 1984–2016, University of Helsinki
Professor of Musicology, 1983–84, University of Jyväskylä
Professor of Arts Education, 1979–83, University of Jyväskylä

Vice-president, 1994–2004, President, 2004–2014 and Honorary President, 2014-, IASS/AIS:n (International Association for Semiotic Studies)
Founder and President, ISI at Imatra (International Institute for Semiotic Studies), 1988–2013
Chairperson, Finnish Semiotic Society, 1979-
Founder and Editor-in-chief, Synteesi arts research periodical, 1982-

Publications, research projects and other academic activity

Awards and special achievements
J.V. Snellman Prize, University of Helsinki, 1997
Honorary Doctorates in four universities abroad (Bloomington, Indiana; Tallinn, Estonia; Sofia, Hungary and Aix-Marseille, France)
Honorary member, Victoria College, University of Toronto

Written by Eero Tarasti and Riitta-Ilona Hurmerinta (ed.)
Translated by John Calton

What have I studied?

How has all that I have experienced influenced my academic productivity? Well in a way I have had two roles as a researcher: that of musicologist and semiotician.

As a musicologist I have only studied classical music, and then for the most part central representatives of the Western classical canon – Mozart, Beethoven, Wagner, Schumann, Chopin, Liszt and French composers from Chausson to Debussy. I have also studied Finnish composers, above all Sibelius, but also Kajanus, Launis and Marttinen.

As a semiotician I have studied every possible aspect of human culture and theoretical formation.  I began as a structuralist in the Lévi-Strauss school, then moved to the so-called Paris school as a student of Greimas. In the last two decades I have developed my own theory, which I call existential semiotics. Probably its most incisive semiotic concept is that of transcendence. My most recent works have been Existential Semiotics (Indiana University Press, 2000), Fondements de la sémiotique existentielle (‘The foundations of existential semiotics’ L’harmattan, 2012), which has been translated into Italian, Chinese and Bulgarian. In May 2015, the new work Sein und Schein. Explorations in existential semiotics is published in New York by Mouton de Gruyter.

I have of course combined music and semiotics. In this regard I set up in 1984 on French radio an international project Signification musicale (‘Musical signification’), which has grown into a considerable community of some 500 scholars; congresses have been arranged around Europe. In the same connection I have also led international biennial doctoral seminars on music no fewer than a dozen times. Through the seminar quite a large group of postgraduate students have been recruited for the University. For a long time my main contribution to this field has been A Theory of Musical Semiotics (Indiana University Press, 1994), which has been widely used as a coursebook in different parts of the world. My latest work is Semiotics of Classical Music. How Mozart, Brahms and Wagner Talk To US (Berlin:  Mouton, 2012). It sold out within a month.

Eero Tarasti’s monograph Existential Semiotics. Bloomington, Indianapolis: Indiana University Press 2000.​
Eero Tarasti’s monograph Existential Semiotics. Bloomington, Indianapolis: Indiana University Press 2000.​


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