Musical Time and Memory: A Bergsonian Interpretation of Sergei Rachmaninoff's Prelude Op. 32 No. 10 in B Minor

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This study uses Bergson's concepts of duration and spontaneous (now termed episodic) memory to reveal how musical material in Rachmaninoff's Prelude Op. 32 No. 10 in B Minor (1910) turns back on itself in recurring remembrances of its own past, bringing the listener out of ordinary time; a process that mirrors themes both from Rachmaninoff's life, and Arnold Böcklin's Die Heimkehr, the painting that inspired this piece. Time perception slows or even suspends when one reflects on the past, either a personal past or the historical past. Musical material in the Prelude undergoes analogous time warps. In conversation with Bergson's ... continued below

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Buxton, Robert S August 2018.

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  • Buxton, Robert S

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This study uses Bergson's concepts of duration and spontaneous (now termed episodic) memory to reveal how musical material in Rachmaninoff's Prelude Op. 32 No. 10 in B Minor (1910) turns back on itself in recurring remembrances of its own past, bringing the listener out of ordinary time; a process that mirrors themes both from Rachmaninoff's life, and Arnold Böcklin's Die Heimkehr, the painting that inspired this piece. Time perception slows or even suspends when one reflects on the past, either a personal past or the historical past. Musical material in the Prelude undergoes analogous time warps. In conversation with Bergson's ideas, this study illustrates the unique temporal qualities in the musical language of the Prelude, for which standard forms of analysis fail to completely capture the essence. The overall aim is to demonstrate Rachmaninoff's idiosyncratic approach to piano writing, which many have discredited as anachronistic. This study suggests a new methodology – Bergsonian musical analysis – with which to understand the concealed innovations in Rachmaninoff's piano idiom. This study of Rachmaninoff's B Minor Prelude builds on publications concerning other Bergsonian interpretations of music in pursuing a thorough investigation of one work and its relationship with broader issues in philosophy and visual art. The result is a theoretical engagement with the Prelude that establishes a new methodology to deal with Rachmaninoff's piano idiom in general. A Bergsonian analytical technique reveals the real artistry behind Rachmaninoff's compositions – not just remnants of some past romantic idiom, but an idiosyncratic musical grappling with the nature of time and memory.

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  • August 2018

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  • Sept. 26, 2018, 6:16 p.m.

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Buxton, Robert S. Musical Time and Memory: A Bergsonian Interpretation of Sergei Rachmaninoff's Prelude Op. 32 No. 10 in B Minor, dissertation, August 2018; Denton, Texas. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc1248480/: accessed July 20, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; .