[Smt-talk] Theory impacting performance

nancygarniez at tonalrefraction.com nancygarniez at tonalrefraction.com
Fri Jul 6 07:04:44 PDT 2012

Dear all:
In citing K. 545 John brings up what is to me the clearest example of how acoustical events generated by an instrument may be thought to generate structural ... fill in the blank... considerations?

Modern day musicians have to a large extent lost the sense of the astonishing difference in inflection between black and white keys. Because the action of the piano is entirely levered and because relative leverage has a direct impact on the resonance of individual tones, the notion of playing an idea in two different keys becomes impossible. A musical theme in two different keys becomes two different ideas. This is, of course, not a theoretical notion, but an experiential one. It is why I am a pianist, not a theorist. 

The black-key/white key phenomenon would have been stunning to a musician in the 18th century, as no other keyboard instrument possessed that characteristic. In modern times notions such as equal temperament have diminished auditory acuity for many students and teachers alike. 

Nancy Garniez

-----Original Message-----
From: John Snyder [mailto:JLSnyder at uh.edu]
Sent: Thursday, July 5, 2012 08:11 PM
To: 'Eric Knechtges'
Cc: smt-talk at lists.societymusictheory.org
Subject: Re: [Smt-talk] Theory impacting performance

Dear all,

 I'm not sure if this is what Prof. Knechtges had in mind, but I'll put my
 oar in anyway.

 One issue that comes up in any introduction to large forms is the complex
 nature of sonata form: the binary tonal structure overlaid with a three-part
 thematic plan (simplified, of course, for expediency). And one of the many
 pieces that throw that problem into sharp relief is Mozart's KV 545, first
 movement. Viewed as a three-part design, just where is the recap? Can it
 really be a recap in THAT key?? And so on and so forth. For a performer,
 that question becomes quite audible in that a decision must be made as
 to whether to mark or bring out in some way this (alleged) recapitulation.

 There are many recordings, with lots of gradations. Two that I find very good
 but very, very different with respect to this particular issue are those by
 Mitsuko Uchida and Christoph Eschenbach. I won't say here whose
 recording seems to illustrate which view of the form, and I certainly
 cannot begin to speak to either performer's influences or thought processes,
 but a comparison, after the class has wrestled with the issue in
 analysis, ought to provoke a lively discussion.

 With best wishes,

 John Snyder

 Eric Knechtges wrote:

Dear collective wisdom,
This is an incredibly broad question (and non-specific on purpose), so I'll gladly accept any and all suggestions you would like to send.
 I'm interested in specific examples of where a specific theoretical understanding of a piece of music has a direct and audible impact on one's interpretation of that piece in performance, especially in situations involving some ambiguity. This could manifest itself on any level. If this could be supported by references to different recordings showcasing competing interpretations, even better. My goal is to stimulate discussion among my undergrads about valuation and evaluation of different interpretations, and why analysis is an important piece of forming a personal (and "correct") interpretation.
Please feel free to take whatever tack you wish in responding. Even if you don't know of any accompanying recordings, anything is welcome! I'd like to focus on examples in purely instrumental music, but vocal music excerpts are certainly welcome as well.
Thank you!
Eric Knechtges, DM
 Assistant Professor of Theory/Composition
 Northern Kentucky University 

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-- John L. SnyderProfessor of Music Theory and MusicologyMoores School of MusicUniversity of Houston713-743-3143JLSnyder at uh.edu
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