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Studio A • Friday afternoon, 12:15–1:45
Performance and Analysis Interest Group Meeting
Edward Klorman (McGill University), Chair
The PAIG meeting will comprise three short position papers (selected through a blind review process) followed by a brief business meeting and general discussion.
|12:15 p.m.||Introduction, Christopher Segall|
|12:20 p.m.||“Using Embodiment Schema to Help Student Performers Relate to
Their Theory Work”
Bonnie McAlvin (CUNY Graduate Center)
|12:40 p.m.||“Three Case Studies In Search of Holistic Performance
Jonathan Dunsby (Eastman School of Music)
|1:00 p.m.||“Paradox of Interpretation and the Resolved(?) Dualism”
Wing Lau (University of Arkansas)
|1:20 p.m.||Business meeting and general discussion|
Using Embodiment Schema to Help Student Performers Relate to Their Theory Work
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.
Three Case Studies In Search of Holistic Performance Research
I offer three short case studies:
- a critical aspect of microtiming studies, specifically Llorens’ recent article researching onset asynchrony in Brahms performance, with a minimum perceptibility threshold of 100 ms;
- 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
- 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.
Paradox of Interpretation and the Resolved(?) Dualism
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.