Information Structures in Notated Music: Statistical Explorations of Composers' Performance Marks in Solo Piano Scores
Description: Written notation has a long history in many musical traditions and has been particularly important in the composition and performance of Western art music. This study adopted the conceptual view that a musical score consists of two coordinated but separate communication channels: the musical text and a collection of composer-selected performance marks that serve as an interpretive gloss on that text. Structurally, these channels are defined by largely disjoint vocabularies of symbols and words. While the sound structures represented by musical texts are well studied in music theory and analysis, the stylistic patterns of performance marks and how they acquire contextual meaning in performance is an area with fewer theoretical foundations. This quantitative research explored the possibility that composers exhibit recurring patterns in their use of performance marks. Seventeen solo piano sonatas written between 1798 and 1913 by five major composers were analyzed from modern editions by tokenizing and tabulating the types and usage frequencies of their individual performance marks without regard to the associated musical texts. Using analytic methods common in information science, the results demonstrated persistent statistical similarities among the works of each composer and differences among the work groups of different composers. Although based on a small sample, the results still offered statistical support for the existence of recurring stylistic patterns in composers' use of performance marks across their works.
Date: May 2016
Creator: Buchanan, J. Paul