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January 2022

Anatomy of a performance: Sources of musical expression

Journal/Book: Music Percept. 1996; 13: Journals Dept, 2120 Berkeley Way, Berkeley, CA 94720. Univ Calif Press. 433-453.

Abstract: Research on music performance often assumes that a performer's intention to emphasize musical structure as specified in a score accounts for most musical expression. Relatively unstudied sources of expression in performance include notational variants of compositional scores, performer-specific aspects, and the cultural norms of a particular idiom, including both stylistic patterns that exist across musical works and expectations that arise from a particular musical context. A case study of an expert performance of a Mozart piano sonata is presented in which influences of historical interpretations of scores, performer-specific treatments of ornamentation and pedaling, and music-theoretic notions of melodic expectancy and tension-relaxation are revealed. Patterns of organization internal to the performance expression transcended the coarse-grained information given in scores, suggesting that performance is a better starting point than a musical score for testing theories of many musical behaviors.

Note: Article C Palmer, Ohio State Univ, Dept Psychol, 1885 Neil Ave, Columbus, OH 43210 USA


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