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(Click photo to hear Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries.)
Through the use of the semiotic theory of iconic realism, artists shape the consciousness of various aspects of culture, including education, history, business, and aesthetics whereby their works of art combine an iconic figure with a realistic setting that communicates an incompatibility with the accepted environment in which the audience commonly associates the iconic figure. Understanding the language presented through the art form, be it literary, visual or aural, the audience may respond with an emotional resistance as it perceives the iconic representation in this new realistic setting.
An example of iconic realism in a musical composition utilizing instrumentation is Wagner’s mythical composition, The Ring of the Nibelungs. In this piece, Wagner represents various aspects of society through instrumental characterizations. As Eero Tarasti affirms, "the gods appear in the Ring not only as personifications of the elements of nature, for example, Loge as the god of fire, Donner the god of thunder etc, but also as a society, whose leader is Wotan."  His use of contrasting instrumentation throughout his opus reveals an intense desire to illustrate corruption within his society. Many filmmakers choose to accompany the drama of their themes utilizing the nineteenth century Wagner music. An example of such intense films is Apocalypse Now, which illustrates the corruption associated with war, in particular, the Vietnam War.
1. Tarasti, Eero. Myth and Music: A Semiotic Apporach to the Aesthetics of Myth in Music, especially that of Wagner, Sibelius and Stravinsky (Paris: Mouton, 1979) 177.