Polysemy, Aporia, Irony and Indeterminacy
Polysemy connotes a multiplicity of meanings in a given compositional notation referring at once to multiple contexts for interpretation. Perhaps the most inclusive category of its kind, polysemy indicates the coincidence of multiple and sometimes contradictory meanings under the same notation, as opposed to irony, a discrepancy between two meanings or interpretations; aporia, a logical impasse; or indeterminacy, an indecision with regard to meaning.
There are two fundamental paradigms by which one can think about the occurrence of polysemy in musical composition; referential and differential.
The referential paradigm assumes that notation has the basic function of referentiality, i.e., it points to things that exist outside it; accordingly, polysemy would be understood as a trait of certain notational passages in which signs do not function ordinarily (having one or two referents at most) but bear multiple relational associations, so that such a notational passage becomes a reverberating echo chamber of meanings.
Nevertheless, these intricate webs of meanings and associations do not occur spontaneously but are aligned along the same axis of symbolical associations. A sign in a given polysemous composition will bear multiple relational meanings, while certain unassociated meanings will remain excluded from consideration.
Even though each signifier will have more than two signifieds, polysemy under the referential paradigm will always remain a polysemy of controlled meanings— confined, as it were, to the rule of association.