RESEARCH QUESTION & RELEVANCE
QUESTION: What can expressive timing tell us about how performers delineate formal boundaries in passages that exhibit form-functional fusion?
SPECIFIC QUESTION: How do different performers interpret, through expressive timing, the structure of the main theme-transition complex of Mozart’s Piano Sonata in C, K. 545, Allegro?
1) Form-functional fusion: the merging of two formal functions within a single unit
MT-TR complex: a formal unit in which the cadence typically found between MT and TR is eliminated, thus giving rise to the the fusion of main theme and transition functions (the point is that the formal boundaries are blurred, at least from a theoretical perspective)
IMPORTANCE OF QUESTION: The current theoretical perspective on form-functional fusion (Caplin 1997) provides no insight into the point at which MT function becomes TR function in a MT-TR complex. A study of performances of Mozart’s K. 545, which contains such a complex, promises to give us some idea of how performers interpret this transitional moment.
METHODS & PREDICTED OUTCOME
The project I’m proposing is analytical. In other words, I’m interested in applying the results of current research to a specific case study (K. 545, Allegro).
I will first determine how performers group the first 12 measures of K. 545 by extracting timing profiles (IOIs) from a large body of commercial recordings.
I will then compare the grouping structure(s) that emerge from this data to musical characteristics in the score.
The format of the final project will be in two main parts: 1) the experiment and its attendant formalities; 2) discussion, which will branch out into the music-theoretical literature (particularly Caplin’s theory of formal functions)
The final product will analyze the results to see if a normative timing profile emerges, from which we can then extract a more nuanced idea of how MT-TR complexes work from a structural standpoint.
PALMER, C. (1989). “Mapping musical thought to musical performance.” Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance”, 15 (2), 331-346. (PSYCNET)
ABSTRACT: Expressive timing methods are described that map pianists’ musical thoughts to sounded performance. In Experiment 1, 6 pianists performed the same musical excerpt on a computer-monitored keyboard. Each performance contained 3 expressive timing patterns: chord asynchronies, rubato patterns, and overlaps (staccato and legato). Each pattern was strongest in experienced pianists’ performances and decreased when pianists attempted to play unmusically. In Experiment 2 pianists performed another musical excerpt and notated their musical intentions on an unedited score. The notated interpretations correlated with the presence of the 3 methods: The notated melody preceded other events in chords (chord asynchrony); events notated as phrase boundaries showed greatest tempo changes (rubato); and the notated melody showed most consistent amount of overlap between adjacent events (staccato and legato). These results suggest that the mapping of musical thought to musical action is rule-governed, and the same rules produce different interpretations (Palmer, 1989).
RELEVANCE: Palmer’s work concludes that there is a general consensus among performers on how to express phrase boundaries. More specifically, she finds a correlation between such boundaries and tempo variation, indicating that timing is intimately related with the expression of musical form. And so it gives me reason to look at timing profiles for signs of such expression.
REPP, B. H. (1997). The Timing Implications of Musical Structures. In D. Greer (Ed.), Musicology and Sister Disciplines: Past, Present, Future. Paper presented at The 16th International Congress of the International Musicological Society, London (pp. 60–70). London: Oxford UP. (PART OF MY SPECIAL TOPIC READINGS)
ABSTRACT: For the last decade or so, the author has been engaged in empirical research on the small, unnotated variations in musical sound patterns that convey what is commonly referred to as expression in performance. The work has focused on piano performance, in part for methodological reasons and in part because the author is a pianist himself. Among the several parameters of expression, timing (rubato) has received the greatest attention. This paper summarizes the results of recent studies which have yielded four kids of empirical evidence converging on a single hypothesis: that musical structures have specific timing implications which constrain the considerable variety of expressive timing patterns observed in individual performances.
RELEVANCE: This paper addresses the potential results of my experiment in that it posits the existence of normative timing profiles that are suggested by the music itself. In other words, specific musical features constrain the expressive possibilities available to the performer. Greer’s findings suggest that by analyzing performances we can come to understand features inherent in the musical structure. More specifically, if normative timing profiles emerge, they will tell us something about the internal structure of Mozart’s MT-TR complex.
TODD, N. P. (1985). A Model of Expressive Timing in Tonal Music. Music Perception, 3, 33–58. (JSTOR)
ABSTRACT: During a performance, a pianist has direct control over only two variables, duration and intensity (Seashore, 1938). Other factors such as pitch and timbre are determined largely by the composer and the mechanics of the instrument. Thus expressiveness imparted to a performance lies in the departures from metrical rigidity and constant intensity. In this article, the first of the two variables is considered and it is shown how a duration structure can be generated, corresponding to the rubato in a performance, from the musical structure.The main input to the model is the time-span reduction of Lerdahl and Jackendoff’s theory (1977, 1983). Also shown is an interesting analogy between this model and the algorithms of Grosjean, Grosjean, and Lane (1979). Thus the hypothesis that expression is largely determined by musical structure, and the formal parallel between time-span reduction and prosodic structure are given empirical support.
RELEVANCE: Todd places musical phrase-final lengthening into a larger context, noting parallels in speech and other motor sequences. And so the impetus for using this tendency to slow down at a phrase’s end as a way of gleaning one’s conception of a formal structure is given a more universal significance. Todd’s formalization of phrase-final lengthening is also potentially useful in terms of how it might be represented both mathematically and graphically.