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October 2021

A microcosm of musical expression: II. Quantitative analysis of pianists' dynamics in the initial measures of Chopin's Etude in E major

Journal/Book: J Acoust Soc Am. 1999; 105: 1972-88.

Abstract: Patterns of expressive dynamics were measured in bars 1-5 of 115 commercially recorded performances of Chopin's Etude in E major, op. 10, No. 3. The grand average pattern (or dynamic profile) was representative of many performances and highly similar to the average dynamic profile of a group of advanced student performances, which suggests a widely shared central norm of expressive dynamics. The individual dynamic profiles were subjected to principal components analysis, which yielded Varimax-rotated components, each representing a different, nonstandard dynamic profile associated with a small subset of performances. Most performances had dynamic patterns resembling a mixture of several components, and no clustering of of performances into distinct groups was apparent. Some weak relationships of dynamic profiles with sociocultural variables were found, most notably a tendency of female pianists to exhibit a greater dynamic range in the melody. Within the melody, there were no significant relationships between expressive timing [Repp, J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 104, 1085-1100 (1998)] and expressive dynamics. These two important dimensions seemed to be controlled independently at this local level and thus offer the artist many degrees of freedom in giving a melody expressive shape.

Keyword(s): Comparative Study. Female. Human. Male. Music. Psychomotor Performance/physiology. Sex Factors. Speech Acoustics. Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.. Time Factors. Voice/physiology. Voice Quality

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