PETAL (Performing, Experiencing and Theorizing Augmented Listening)

Interpretation and Analysis of Macroform in Cyclic Musical Works

The project set out to scrutinize the intersection between musical analysis and musical performance by building on the interaction of quantitative and qualitative research methods, here signified by the term “‘augmented listening’” (N. Cook). The research undertaken in this project focused on the area of macroformal analysis by systematically investigating and categorizing performance strategies towards cyclic works, taking up the idea of a “(formal) analysis in real time” (R. Hill) through a specific disposition of tempo, dynamics, articulation etc. in performance. The research team further deve-loped the idea that musical form is not grounded in the score alone, but is also brought forth by performers. Expanding this idea, one might argue that musical form is ultimately constituted only in the sounding event of a performance. We thus considered the musical text and its sounding performance(s) as central representations of a musical work. The goal was not simply to compare or even adjudicate between performances seen merely as different interpretations of a fixed text, but rather to emphasize the autonomy of a performance with respect to its model.

We investigated a corpus of cyclic compositions of the solo piano and lied repertoire comprising works from the 18th to 20th centuries, including complex cycles such as Bach’s “Goldberg Variations”, Beet-hoven’s “Diabelli Variations”, Schubert’s Winterreise, Mahler’s Lied von der Erde, Schoenberg’s Six Little Piano Pieces op. 19, and Kurtág’s Kafka Fragments for Soprano and Violin op. 24. We employed a threefold research strategy:

1. Research into secondary historical sources on the relationship between macroform-related analysis and performance practice(s);
2. Studies of musical recordings documenting a comprehensive performance and recording history of the aforementioned musical works; combination of quantitative (computer-based) and qualitative research methods;
3. Dialogic forms of research in a series of interactive workshops aiming at enhancing the dialogue between researchers and performers (including expert and non-expert listeners).

We have been guided by the hypothesis that varying conceptions of the performance of the large-scale form of a musical work can fundamentally shape both the perception and (music-theoretical) analysis of this form, and can lead to markedly different interpretational consequences. Our research attempted to demonstrate that practical, sounding interpretations can exhibit fully valid analyses of a work.

PETAL - Final Report

final report [PDF-download, public version, 2020-10]