Basic Methodology

PETAL - Basic Methodology

The project’s title “Performing, Experiencing and Theorizing Augmented Listening” implies that “listening” here is conceived in a particularly broad sense, encompassing not only auditory listening in a phenomenological or historical definition but also the kind of listening implied in the making and articulation of performance/interpretation and theory/analysis. This kind of inherent listening has been a strong argument in favour of performance-related musicology for about two decades, documented in claims that “every study of music presupposes an imagined reproduction” (Hinrichsen 1999, 9f.) or “as soon as we start to think about the relationships between notes we have to imagine those notes sounding […] in a particular performance style, the performance style current around us” (Leech-Wilkinson 2012). As outlined above, it is also evident that each performance articulates or suggests specific manners or strategies of listening while marginalizing others: performances always reference performative acts of perception by listeners, focussing but potentially also expanding the multiplicity of meanings inherent in a musical score.

The term “augmented listening” is gleaned from Cook who mentions it only once (2014, 1) while also referring to the same phenomenon as a combination of “close” and “distant listening” (2013, chapters 5 and 6): analogous to “close reading” in the New Criticism of literature studies, established in the 1930s and bearing a structuralist accent (see
Brooks/Warren 1984), “close listening” defines an attentive and analytical listening mode, aiming at a comprehensive hermeneutic interpretation of the musical work. By contrast, “distant listening” (analogous to “distant reading” as developed most prominently by Franco Moretti; see Moretti 2005) implies the use of statistical and quantitative methods of large data-sets on a corpus level as, for example, all (or a large selection of all) recordings from the recording history of a certain work or group of works. While distant listening can help to correct the broad number of implicit assumptions associated with particular performers, performance styles or historical and cultural contexts, in addition to helping to avoid interpretations merely based on subjective hearing conventions of the analyst, close listening is necessary to interpret the quantitative findings and to place them in an adequate theoretical and historical context.

The pilot studies in Utz 2016c and 2017 exemplify this approach of “augmented listening” in a basic form and demonstrate how historiographical evidence, statistical data and structural analysis may be meaningfully interrelated. The methodology used in these studies is a systematic comparison of recordings on a corpus level, here restricted to tempo and timing, combined with CTPSO-based close listening of specific sections and passages with the aim of scrutinizing the kind of “temporal experience” conveyed or “encoded” in these recordings, cross-referencing the impact of historically informed performance and historical performance styles. The PETAL project will expand and systematize this methodology, aiming at a comprehensive picture of an interlocking field spanning performance styles, specific performances, analytical methods, listening strategies and the musical text, along with references to (culturally shaped) “supra-audible” meanings as well as facets of meaning emerging spontaneously during the act of performing. To this end a threefold research strategy is proposed, encompassing (1)
historical research (HR) into the performance and analysis of macroform; (2) quantitative and qualitative performance research (PR) including CTPSO-derived analytical approaches; and (3) dialogic forms of research (DR) carried out in three performers-scholars-listeners-workshops.

The analyzed repertoire includes four complex keyboard and piano variation cycles: Bach’s “Goldberg Variations” (1741), Beethoven’s “Diabelli Variations” op. 120 (1819–23), Schumann’s
Carnaval op. 9 (1834–35) and Rzewski’s The People United Will Never Be Defeated (1975), seven piano miniature or character-piece cycles: Chopin’s 24 Préludes op. 28 (1836–39), Schumann’s Kinderszenen op. 15 (1838), Brahms’ Fantasien op. 116 (1892), Debussy’s Préludes (1909–10, 1912–13), Schoenberg’s Piano Pieces op. 19 (1911), Boulez’s Douze Notations (1945) and Cage’s Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano (1946–48) as well as seven song cycles by Schubert (Die schöne Müllerin, 1823, Winterreise, 1827), Schumann (Frauenliebe und -leben op. 42, Dichterliebe op. 48, 1840), Debussy (Ariettes oubliées, 1885–87), Schoenberg (Das Buch der hängenden Gärten op. 15, 1907–09) and Kurtág (Kafka-Fragmente for soprano and violin, 1985/87). The corpus thus exclusively covers cyclic works of several movements that result in a complex large-scale formal disposition and afford multiple cross-relations and dramaturgies. Also, the selected works are relatively well-established in music historiography and allow for differentiated research into their reception and performance history.