Measuring Expression: Between Individual Expressivity and Cultural Similarity (27/05/10)
I present two contrasting empirical analyses of expression by measurement in selected commercial cello recordings; one discussing the expressivity of Casals' interpretation and the other considering the cultural understanding of expression. The first case study considers the cellist Casals' expression with reference to his own performing philosophy in the repeat performance structure of performing the two contrasting movements of J.S.Bach's G major cello suite BWV1007. Following a discussion of the pros and cons of previous approaches to measuring expression; i.e the ethnographic approach (Clarke et al 2005, Cook et al 2005) and the cognitive investigation of rhythmic patterns (Windsor et al 2001, 2006), I present the characteristic features of Casals' expression. My findings suggest that although the cellist's own performance might not conform to all his performing thoughts which are indicated in the published interviews, his main performing principles of expression lie in an interpretative consideration towards the design of musical work. The second case study discusses the cultural influence of expressive timing and dynamics using a modelling method in twelve selected commercial recordings of the Adagio affettuoso of Brahms' F major cello sonata Op.99. I review the pros and cons of previous approaches to expression in quantitative commercial recordings, such as principal component analysis (Repp 1998) and the CHARM scape correlation analysis (Sapp 2007). Given that a fair similarity of expression and a fair dissimilarity of algorithmic expression (from which cultural elements are eliminated) are identified respectively in my findings, a cultural understanding of performing Brahms could be conceptualised.