Sound, Music and Visual Culture: The Influence of Multimodality on Meaning-making in a Multicultural Society

Desmond Ekeh


Current arguments - sometimes made boldly, and sometimes subterranean - by some scholars in visual culture studies point to the historical superiority of literature over visuality. This position is preposterous, atheoretical, and plausibly ahistorical. It is arguable whether literature precedes visuality, as visuality streams from the consciousness of sight and what is visible. The emergence of signs and symbols existed from the time of the caveman before literacy and literature. Meanwhile, in the postmodern world of visual preponderance, meaning is derived by the application of multimodal decoding techniques with the attendant consideration of a specific cultural ecology in which the discourse is coded or formulated.  This paper argues that communication involved visuals and pictures before they were transferred into literature forms. The paper also posits that even though visuals and images may be pervasive and preponderant in the contemporary world, they by themselves do not facilitate meaning-making unless combined with other symbolic forms including text, sound, and music. The paper further argues that meaning-making is facilitated by two major interdiscursive modalities – multimodality and the multicultural ecology of discourse. In other words, multimodality and the socio-cultural environment are key determinants of meaning-making in a visual culture discourse. The paper finally supports and highlights the argument that in a multicultural society, such as Nigeria, for instance, meaning-making is a function of multimodality in consideration of the cultural environment of the discourse.


Music, Sound, Visual Culture, Multimodality, Multiculturalism, Meaning-making.

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