Abigail Dolan

Shaping directionality in performance: The Syrinx case (22/03/11)

Shaping directionality, or a sense of directed movement in time, is one of performers’ main tools in conveying their reading of the structure of a piece, and in shaping their narrative. By focusing on the 78rpm recordings of Syrinx for solo flute by Debussy as a case study, the proposed paper presents a method to asses the elusive notion of directionality in performance; identifies the different strategies taken by performers in shaping timing; and explores the implications of these strategies for the perception of the structure of the piece and of its different expressive qualities. The method of work consists of using software for sound analysis for studying the performer’s use of grouping structure (Lerdahl and Jackendoff, 1983), and of considering the expectations raised by the performer’s choices (Huron, 2007; Cohen, 1994). The results are contextualized in terms of cognitive significance and its resultant impact on the perception of expression. The study sheds light on the complex and creative strategies used by performers to navigate between structure and freedom in performance. It gives a new perspective on the multi-facets phenomenon of rubato, and revaluates the ways performers relate to the score.

Department of Computing, Goldsmiths College, University of London, New Cross, London, SE14 6NW

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