At Prof. Dunsby’s request, we are posting the bibliography for the talk he will be giving at the PAIG meeting this week.
It may be downloaded using this link.
At Prof. Dunsby’s request, we are posting the bibliography for the talk he will be giving at the PAIG meeting this week.
It may be downloaded using this link.
We are looking forward to seeing you soon in Arlington! The PAIG meeting will take place on Friday, November 3, 12:15–1:45 in Studio A. Our program will comprise three short papers (chosen through a blind review process) followed by a business meeting and general discussion. Thank you to everyone who submitted proposals and/or assisted with the review process!
Please scroll down to the bottom of this post for abstracts for all three papers. During the general discussion,
ABSTRACT: “USING EMBODIMENT SCHEMA TO HELP STUDENT PERFORMERS RELATE TO THEIR THEORY WORK” (BONNIE McALVIN, CUNY GRADUATE CENTER)
This brief talk illustrates how embodiment schema (Lakoff and Johnson 1980) can be used to engage performance students in their music theory work, by bridging students’ analytical work to the development of their narrative imagination and mastery of grouping and expression. An important function of analysis is that of revealing potential groupings. In many cases, groupings map readily onto embodiment image schema such as UP/DOWN, CONTAINER, and BARRIER. We are able to empathize with motions UP, DOWN, IN and OUT, so groupings which map onto these schema are in turn readily anthropomorphized. An approach to a passage might ask whether a middleground reading moves UP or DOWN, and what the anthropomorphized pitch-group hopes to achieve in moving UP/DOWN? Contextualizing the slope is part of this work: is the anthropomorphized pitch-group navigating a slippery cave, battling a current, or wafting a hillside? As students master analytical tools, mappings can become sophisticated. What awaits the pitch group at the end of the PATH: a tonic chord or a betrayal? Which of the steps UP/DOWN are in the diatonic CONTAINER, and which are chromatic? Of the scale degree steps, which are part of the governing harmonic CONTAINER? How does each step relate to the various metric CONTAINERS and how does this enliven the narrative? The talk suggests some group activities that use embodiment schema mapping to prime students toward higher engagement in the intricate analytical work of harmonic, voice-leading, Schenkerian, and set class analysis.
ABSTRACT: “THREE CASE STUDIES IN SEARCH OF HOLISTIC PERFORMANCE RESEARCH” (JONATHAN DUNSBY, EASTMAN SCHOOL OF MUSIC)
I offer three short case studies:
1) a critical aspect of microtiming studies, specifically Llorens’ recent article researching onset asynchrony in Brahms performance, with a minimum perceptibility threshold of 100 ms;
2) Gould’s ‘prelude’ to Webern’s Op. 27i, which to my knowledge has not been studied theoretically before, despite the wealth of recent performance research on the Piano Variations; and
3) another look at Schenker’s graphic analysis of Chopin’s Fourth Prelude and Schachter’s durational reduction, in light of actual ‘readings’ old and new (for example here, Pollini’s and Trifonov’s).
I briefly air my position that what typically appears in theoretically-informed performance studies is a disassembled practice, the investigation of only those elements of a performance that can be measured, assessed, or manipulated, always in danger of being called ivory-tower rather than real-life. Equally, the concentration on surface analysis, on the results of the application of what followers of Lewin call the ‘technology’ of music theory, may be considered to have evaded a concrete engagement between interpretive practice and musical meaning in its deepest, inclusive senses.
In the first two case studies we see Kerman’s ‘positivism,’ through, first, excusable, totalizing assertion of perceptual pertinence, and, secondly, the understandable exclusion of obscure but intriguing creative evidence. The second two cases show how an engagement with precompositional materials, or structurally remote features of the ‘inner’ form, can be part of interpreters’ volitional agency and affect all parameters of the sounding score.
ABSTRACT: “PARADOX OF INTERPRETATION AND THE RESOLVED(?) DUALISM” (WING LAU, UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS)
The paradox of interpretation, the belief that performance serves the work and the composer but the performer’s subjective contribution is inevitable, has a long history in performance discourse (Rosen 2002 and Cook 2013). The attempt to reconcile such paradox, the notion “to play as if from the soul of the composer” represents an early Romantic subjectivity (Hunter 2005), a resolved dualism that still influences the classical music culture today.
In this paper, I suggest that the attempt to reconcile such paradox, the resolved dualism, is paradoxical in and of itself. I illustrate discrepancies between the recordings of Artur Schnabel, a pianist who strives to reach the “same free spiritual height” as the composer, and his interpretative rationales documented by his students in Wolff 1979. In addition to the dissonance between his rationales and the interpretive choice documented in his recordings, I demonstrate the dissonance between his rationales and his perceived intention of the composer. I ask, can one be truly immersed in the soul of another? Can we not argue that the composer’s supposed intention is actually Schnabel’s own subjectivity masked behind authenticity, consciously or not? As this paper shows, the performers’ subjectivity and their perceived intention of the composer could be hard to distinguish, and that the resolved dualism could be more apparent than real. Recognizing this paradox sharpens our sensitivity towards performers with the authentic reputation and help us better understand the epistemology of the faithful performance.
By Edward Klorman (McGill University)
Author’s note: This blog post is adapted from Chapter 6 of my book Mozart’s Music of Friends: Social Interplay in the Chamber Works (Cambridge University Press, 2016).
When examining a metrically ambiguous passage, many musical analysts will seek to untangle problems by explaining which among multiple metrical interpretations is “the correct one.” In this blog post, I explore metrical conflicts from a different point of view—namely, that of the performers.
Musicians often strive to find ways to play better together, to match their phrasing and shaping in order to “feel” the music in a unified way. But what happens when they encounter a passage in which their parts don’t match, but are in conflict? The subordinate theme from Brahms’s Sonata in E♭ Major for Piano and Clarinet, op. 120, no. 2 is a case in point.
You can get a sense of the issue—and imagine how you might approach it in performance—from this video. (Since my clarinet skills are a little rusty, I perform on viola instead!)
To provide some context for the subordinate theme, let’s first look briefly at the main theme and transition. The sonata opens with fairly regular four-bar hypermeter, as I’ve shown in my markings above the staves.
Some metrical dissonance arises in mm. 15–17, which tend to sound more like 3/2 meter than the notated 4/4. Within these four bars, the piano’s left hand emphasizes the off beats, playing on the weak quarters of each half-note pulse. The four-bar hypermeter is restored in mm. 18–21, but the piano’s syncopations continue to emphasize weak quarter notes. (These syncopations foreshadow an ambiguity I will discuss in the subordinate theme.)
In m. 21, the final bar of the transition, the diminuendo hairpin and the rest on beat 4 encourage the players to use some rubato, allowing the sound and momentum to dissipate as the passage comes to rest on a tentative German augmented-sixth chord in B♭ major (a harmony that yearns to resolve to V in the new key, the traditional cadential goal of an expositional transition).
And then what? After the general pause, the clarinet begins the subordinate theme on the notated downbeat, with the piano imitating one beat later.
The Subordinate Theme in Brahms’s Notation
This imitation constitutes a canon per arsin et thesin, whereby strong beats in one part coincide with weak beats in the other. Coming right after a general pause, this passage would challenge many listeners to determine whether it is the clarinet’s entrance or the piano’s that falls on the “true” downbeat (if the listener is not following the score).
Indeed, for the first several bars of the theme, it seems plausible that the bar lines might be located one quarter note later than how Brahms notated them, as shown below. Only by m. 28 (best seen above, in the print of Brahms’s score) is the notated bar line unequivocally confirmed: the clarinet’s eighth-note upbeat clearly establishes the downbeat of m. 28, and moreover it is at this juncture that the piano gives up the metrically ambiguating canon. Simply put, my alternative notation below seems plausible initially at m. 22 (making the placement of bar lines difficult to discern for several measures), but by m. 28 it is absurd.
Subordinate Theme in a Plausible Alternative Notation
Why do I hear this passage as so metrically ambiguous? And how should musicians approach their performance of such a metrical conflict? I will explain my own understanding and performance approach:
After the German augmented-sixth chord and general pause in m. 21, the clarinet’s entrance on concert F may initially seem to represent dominant harmony, bolstering the sense that it is an upbeat to the piano’s tonic entrance. But when I play the passage (on viola), I try to make the entrance in a metrically neutral way, stressing neither note of the (concert) F–F gesture. Observing Brahms’s sotto voce marking and emulating a clarinet’s capacity for niente entrances helps to achieve this. Once the piano enters in canon, the two players might emphasize their conflicting meters with a gentle persistence—that is, with the piano emphasizing the long slurs beginning on beat 2 (and thus suggesting my alternate notation). Brahms’s beams across bar lines encourage the pianist to count in terms of my alternate notation. This performance approach heightens the conflict and suspends the sense of metrical ambiguity as long as possible (ideally until around m. 28), thus taking advantage of a special opportunity afforded by Brahms’s passage.
* * *
The approach I’ve suggested here is consistent with performance advice proffered in eighteenth-century performance manuals, such as those by Leopold Mozart, Johann Joachim Quantz, and Daniel Gottlob Türk. These authors encourage performers to emphasize beginnings of slurs, especially those that are syncopated against the meter (as in the piano part here). Brahms was certainly familiar with these ideas and harbored a highly traditional understanding of the meanings of slurs, one that is particularly relevant in a passage such as this. (On these eighteenth-century writers’ understanding of slurs and their execution, see my discussion in Mozart’s Music of Friends. On Brahms’s affiliation with older understandings about slurs, see Heinrich Schenker’s essay “Abolish the phrasing slur” in The Masterwork in Music, I ).
I’ll close with a perspective on performing metrical conflicts from an author more nearly contemporary to Brahms (and certainly one who felt a strong affinity to him), Heinrich Schenker:
It is the responsibility of the performer primarily to express the special characteristics of a composition, as they sometimes coincide with the meter, sometimes oppose it. Today, not only the failure to recognize rhythmic relationships but also sheer indolence creates a performance for the metric scheme alone—a dismaying evidence of decline (Free Composition, translated by Ernst Oster, emphasis added).
Leaving Schenker’s hortatory tone aside, he offers an idea well worth pondering. In everyday life, we strive to avoid conflicts or else to resolve them. But in playing music, our impulse to resolve conflicts should be questioned. A conflict-resolving performance strategy might conclude: “Brahms clearly intended the meter as he notated it, and this is confirmed by m. 28. Therefore, we should perform in accordance with the notated meter, minimizing signals that rub against it.” But a more satisfying approach, at least to me, is to allow the conflict to flourish and for the two musicians to each make an earnest bid for the meter as suggested by their own parts. The clarinetist’s bid for the notated meter ultimately prevails, of course. But our final-state understanding of the metrical structure is, like history, determined by the victor, and only after the conflict has ended.
We are thrilled to announce the publication of “Performance and Analysis Today: New Horizons” in Music Theory Online 22.2 (June 2016). These essays originated in a panel session sponsored by PAIG on the occasion of its tenth anniversary, which took place at the 2014 SMT meeting in Milwaukee.
We invite your thoughts about the collection here on the WordPress site. Here’s a list of the collection’s contents:
Thank you, and congratulations, to all the contributors!
By Edward Dusinberre
The author is the first violinist of the Takács Quartet and Artist in Residence at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Read more about his book at this link.
The interpretation of a professional string quartet that performs the same musical work repeatedly, evolves even from one night to the next. Beethoven for a Later Age: Living with the String Quartets explores this process in the Takács Quartet as we rehearse and perform Beethoven’s string quartets. ‘Art demands of us that we do not stand still,’ Beethoven remarked to a friend concerning the innovations in his last quartets. From the revised edition of his first published work, Opus 18 no. 1, to the alternative last movement of Opus 130, Beethoven’s restless spirit fueled his string quartet project, at times shocking the first players and audiences who encountered these complex works. As a young whippersnapper freshly out of Juilliard and daunted by my new position as first violinist of the Takács, I found the bemusement of violinist Ignaz Schuppanzigh and his friends reassuring.
Twenty-three years later the music is more familiar but when I listen to our Decca recording of Opus 127 and compare it with other recordings, basic interpretative questions of character and pacing remain. Fortunately, for me at least, the performance of a Beethoven quartet will never feel definitive:
Excerpt from Beethoven for a Later Age: Living with the String Quartets:
While we had resolved questions about characters, balance and tempi in one particular way for the CD, no single recording could adequately explore the many interpretative possibilities the music suggested. This seemed particularly true for the ending of the whole piece, a section that Beethoven had himself modified between the first and second performances. According to the violinist Joseph Böhm, it had been Beethoven’s experience of observing Böhm’s quartet rehearse that encouraged him to change the tempo marking for the last section of the final movement. After a festive and at times rambunctious Allegro, the music winds down in dynamics and pace, the pulse briefly suspended as two violins trill on a long note. Out of this hiatus emerge fleeting pianissimo scales and the opening tune of the movement, whose transformed rhythm now adds buoyancy and lilt to the previously smooth legato line. The character of the ensuing climax and the last gestures of the piece depend largely on the choice of tempo.
Böhm later claimed he had suggested to his fellow musicians that they ignore Beethoven’s instruction, meno vivace (less lively), ‘which seemed to me to weaken the general effect . . . I advised that the original tempo be maintained, which was done, to the betterment of the effect.’ The first violinist continued his modest narrative:
Beethoven, crouched in a corner, heard nothing, but watched with strained attention. After the last stroke of the bows he said, laconically, ‘Let it remain so,’ went to the desks and crossed out the meno vivace in the four parts.[i]
Apparently the often volatile master, far from being offended by the tempo alteration, was willing to change his mind at this late stage. Böhm admitted that the composer could not hear how the musicians were playing, but Beethoven had probably sensed the extra exhilaration and excitement that came with the change. As he watched the newly configured ensemble rehearsing his music, he glimpsed a different way of ending this complex piece – at least according to the testimony of a first violinist. In published editions Beethoven replaced the meno vivace with Allegro commodo (comfortably fast), a rather wishful indication in my experience, given the difficulties of the passage.
Recordings of Opus 127 take a variety of approaches to this last section. The Budapest Quartet play a fast tempo in their version recorded in Washington’s Library of Congress in 1941, their last climax frenetic and exhilarating: a courageous choice considering that this was a live recording made with no editing sessions. They play the whole movement faster than many groups, as if Beethoven were determined to end this complex piece with a whirlwind of joyful activity.
Many groups, including the Takács, choose tempi that give the impression of meno vivace – the very instruction that Beethoven is purported to have deleted. One of the more dramatic examples of this comes in the Alban Berg Quartet’s recording, where a markedly slower tempo results in a powerful and majestic climax that seems to refer the listener back to the Maestoso mood at the opening of the whole piece. If Beethoven had experienced this version he might have been inclined to reinstate his meno vivace, while the Budapest Quartet’s rendition might have prompted him to add a Presto marking instead. The Takács ending was neither as fast as the Budapest nor as slow as the Alban Berg and I enjoyed our transparent, speculative sound at the beginning of the section. Beethoven created such an array of possibilities in Opus 127 that the piece can be concluded in a number of different ways.
[i] Alexander Wheelock Thayer, Thayer’s Life of Beethoven. Revised and edited by Elliot Forbes, 2 vols (Princeton, NJ, 1964), vol. 2, p. 941.
What Can We Learn About Ars Subtilior Temporality from Mala Punica’s Performances?
Timothy Chenette (Utah State University)
Performance Analyzing Analysis
Andrew M. Friedman (Harvard University)
Performers’ Analyses: Collating, Integrating, Assimilating
Charise Hastings (Tallahassee, FL)
A Tale of Two Recordings and Their Analytical Ramifications: Jane Bathori, Pierre Bernac, and Debussy’s “Colloque sentimental”
Peter Kaminsky (University of Connecticut)