Abstracts

 

A Mere Mechanicus: Technical Innovations and Aesthetic Shifts in Piano Virtuosity at the Turn of the Nineteenth Century

In the history of Western music the concept of "mechanicalness" has usually had negative connotations in both composition and execution, while all positive aspects have been attributed to expressivity and variety of character. In the Baroque and early Classical eras, but also during Romanticism, mechanical traits in music were regarded as manifesting a lack of ideas and, ultimately, meaning. At the beginning of the 19th century, with the diffusion of the new, highly "mechanical" piano and the age of the metronome, the category of the "mechanical", perceived as physical efficiency and exploration of new effects, attained an autonomy and a respectability that it never enjoyed in previous centuries.

This paper aims to show how this new way of "expression" (as contradictory as this may sound) entered major piano repertoire, what features it displayed and why it was associated with a certain kind of "mere" virtuosity, often regarded with suspicion, and yet capable of poetic impulses.

Domenico Scarlatti, as early as the 1730s, had already exploited a huge variety of keyboard patterns like scales, runs, thirds, sixths, hand-crossing, leaps, etc. ; later, Muzio Clementi expanded on this, earning the appellation "mere mechanicus" from W.A.Mozart on the occasion of their contest in Vienna in 1782 in the presence of the Austrian Emperor and the Russian Grand Duchess. Mozart complained about Clementi's lack of expression and taste as a performer, while recognizing the brilliancy of his double thirds.

Exploring a certain kind of keyboard repertoire--some of Scarlatti's Sonatas, Clementi's Toccata Bb (which he played in front of the Emperor and Mozart) with a few brief incursions into the early Romantic literature (Czerny, Moscheles, Cramer)--I will draw a map of "mechanical" repertoire up to its Romantic apotheosis (Schumann's Toccata op.7 and Chopin's Etudes op.10), trying to show its most salient characteristics: repetitive patterns, demanding technical requirements, implacable rhythmic (often metronomic) pulse, almost complete absence of rests and very scarce use of punctuation--in brief, a style that stays at the antipodes of music conceived as rhetorical discourse.

Stefania Neonato

 

An Analysis of Schubert's Trockne Blumen based on Ribeiro-Pereira's Plastic Model

Conceived as an alternative paradigm to the Schenkerian linear approach and to the Riemannian harmonic dualism, Ribeiro-Pereira's model of harmonic modulation (2005) recaptures a pre-Eighteenth-century view of modulation as harmonic movement both within a key and between keys. This re-conceptualization of harmonic modulation is expressed by the change of harmonic context of a "fixed" object (scale degree, collection of notes, or entire scale). The model reinvigorates the plagal harmonic field, since it is this field that changes the harmonic context of the tonic. This theoretical framework is particularly apt to address issues of tonal syntax and tonal ambiguity in Schubert's song in ways that reinforce the bond between music and words and clarify the musical and textual position of the song within the cycle, strengthening its aesthetical coherence.

Consistently with the contradictory images suggested by the text (dried flowers/life vs. bloomed flowers/death), the music is characterized by tonal ambiguity, mainly caused by a noticeable lack of subdominant harmonies. On a large scale, the main key is not strongly established, having an important impact on the perception of the tonal syntax. On a small scale, the tonal uncertainty is especially evident in the E minor section, finding its extra-musical parallel in the interrogative character of the text. According to the change of mood that takes place in the last two stanzas of the poem, the music's tonal direction becomes more predictable in the E major section.

A study of the modulation process based on the change of harmonic context of scale degrees ^5, ^1, ^3, ^b3, and ^6 and the melodic interval of fourth (especially "B-E", "F#-B", "C-G", and "C#-G#") contributes to a better understanding of the tonal syntax of the music in connection with the poem. An examination of the increasing dissonance (and consequent need for resolution) on the scale degrees mentioned, as well as the degree of harmonic definition of the interval of fourth, illuminates the comprehension of the modulatory path.

The proposed analytical interpretation of Schubert's Trockne Blumen contributes to two different areas of the study of music: Tonal Music Theory, since it presents the first analysis of the song based on Ribeiro-Pereira's Plastic Model and one of the first applications of the theoretical model, and Music Performance, since it illuminates interpretative aspects of the piece.

Cecilia Taher

 

"Progressive" Style in the A-minor String Quartets of Felix Mendelssohn and Norbert Burgmueller

In 1827, Felix Mendelssohn acquired a newly published copy of Beethoven's late string quartets, and almost immediately the young composer completed two string quartets of his own. His op. 13 in A minor and op. 12 in E flat are filled with thinly veiled allusions to Beethoven's late style that are, to quote Charles Rosen, "intended to be noticed. . . to produce the satisfied glow that comes from being in on the secret. "  Beyond this recognition of Mendelssohn's modeling, though, few commentators have discussed the potential audience for these works. For whom were these blatant references intended? I posit that Mendelssohn designed his early quartets for a community of fellow musical progressives comprised of composers and performers who would recognize Mendelssohn's allusions and innovations and would respond with progressive works of their own.

One such respondent was Norbert Burgmueller, a student of Spohr and native of Dusseldorf who befriended Mendelssohn when he arrived in that city in 1833. Accomplished composers and performers, the two men spent many winter evenings together exploring music for keyboard, vocal ensembles, and string quartet. Not surprisingly, Burgmueller's next string quartet, his op. 14 in A minor, reveals a marked change in musical style from his earlier works, evincing a shift from Spohr-like brilliant writing for strings to Mendelssohnian motivic and formal working-out. Like Mendelssohn's A-minor quartet, Burgmueller's work contains many allusions to Beethoven's late style generally and to his op. 132 quartet specifically. Several aspects of Burgmueller's quartet also suggest a critique of Mendelssohn's early quartets, rejecting his colleague's incorporation of a vocal model in op. 13 (Mendelssohn's own lied, "Frage") and cyclicity within an overall conservative treatment of sonata form. Burgmueller offers a counter-argument by way of an altered sonata-form first movement, a lengthy rondo-finale, and a rapprochement with Beethoven's tonal-modal ambiguity (i.e. , the struggle between A-minor and F-major prominent in op. 132).

These quartets imply an audience of connoisseurs capable of following the musical argument taking place between the two works. The importance of performance venue in stimulating and cultivating this type of musical conversation should not be underestimated; by convening for private performance of new works, musicians provided an intimate space in which composers could explore new ideas about musical style in the Romantic age.

Marie Sumner Lott


Guillame Bouzignac Reconsidered: The Case for a New Chronology

Guillame Bouzignac (c. 1587-after 1642) was at best a marginal figure on the French musical scene. Despite one documented trip to Paris, he never received an appointment there, spending his entire career as maitre de chapelle at a number of provincial cathedrals which were geographically isolated from major musical centres. Perhaps due to his isolation and the extreme centralization of French musical culture in the seventeenth century, Bouzignac's music does not appear to have proliferated or influenced later developments and was rediscovered only in the early twentieth century by Henri Quittard. Despite his commonly accepted status as a curious evolutionary dead-end, Bouzignac's music nonetheless provides a number of important clues as to how musical trends and innovations were transmitted in seventeenth-century Europe outside of the large musical establishments in major cities. Musical prints seem to have played a key role in the dissemination of new ideas from major compositional centres to the provinces, where a public of geographically isolated composers could then engage in their own compositional dialogue with these texts, engaging with and occasionally incorporating into their own work new stylistic trends that had developed elsewhere.

An example of this process of reception and dialogue can be found in a clear case of compositional modeling: Bouzignac's motet "Dum Silentium" bears more than a passing resemblance to Monteverdi's "Or che ‘l ciel e la terra" from the Ottavo libro (Venice, 1638), a fact that was noted by George Roberts Kolb in his dissertation on Bouzignac's music. No musicologists have yet addressed the fact that the commonly accepted chronology for Bouzignac's life dates the composition of "Dum Silentium" to nearly a decade before the publication of the Ottavo libro and sought to reconcile it with the overwhelming similarities between the two pieces. In this paper I will reconsider the currently accepted chronology of Bouzignac's life as hypothesized by Denise Launay and Martial Leroux and use the available archival and musical evidence to construct an alternative chronology for Bouzignac that not only addresses a major biographical lacuna, but also permits the aforementioned case of compositional modeling and allows the political references in Bouzignac's motet texts to fit in more convincingly with the overarching political context of France's involvement in the Thirty Years' War.

Daniel Donnelly

 

Performing Faith: Finding Meaning in the Scordatura of Biber's Rosary Sonatas

Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber's Rosary (Mystery) Sonatas continue to "mystify" us over 325 years after their compilation. Biber's use of scordatura in the sonatas has raised questions regarding the context of Jesuit Catholicism, worship of the Rosary, and the church culture in 17th-century Salzburg. Was the altered tuning used simply as a means of dramatically enhancing programmatic music? Or was Biber engaged in a larger esoteric project of manipulating musical intervals (i.e. , numerical ratios) in order to uphold Pythagorean ideals? While Biber has been acknowledged as one of the premier violin virtuosos of his time, many sources make only passing mention of his use of scordatura, treating it mostly as a technical matter of performance practice, or writing it off as a virtuosic trick.

In this lecture-recital, we will discuss and perform Biber's Rosary Sonatas from an angle that has been all but ignored--that of the violinist. It is quite likely that Biber composed these sonatas to be performed by himself, either in church services, or in the smaller chambers of the Archbishop Maximilian Gandolph von Khuenberg. Both men were involved in such Catholic organizations as the confraternity of the Rosary (a chapter of which the Archbishop founded in Salzburg) and a brotherhood of the Cross.
When the Rosary Sonatas are considered from the position of the performer, a dramatically different experience of scordatura, "the programmatic", and meditation emerges. In this presentation, we will demonstrate how the use of altered tuning requires a performative act of faith on the part of the violinist as there is often a great difference between what one reads on the music, where one puts one's fingers on the fingerboard, and what sonorities actually sound. Other aspects of the sonatas that we will consider include their close adherence to the formal structure of the Rosary Prayers themselves, as seen in Sonata I ("The Annunciation"), Sonata X ("The Crucifixion"), and transformative uses of scordatura such as in Sonata XII ("The Ascension"). By performing these sonatas, we will show how the violinist enacts his or her own kind of meditation upon the Rosary itself.

Works to be Performed:

Sonata I: The Annunciation (7:00)
Praeludium--Aria-allegro--variation--adagio--Finale

Sonata X: The Crucifixion (6:00)
Praeludium--Aria variation--Adagio

Sonata XII: The Ascension (7:00)
Intrada--Aria Tubicinum--Allamanda--Courente--Double

Lindsey Strand-Polyak and Eric J. Wang

 

Benjamin Britten: Last Works, Late Style

While "Death in Venice" was not Benjamin Britten's last work, it was his last opera and so, inevitably, it is interpreted as such: with hindsight, we always know which are the last works. Lateness is a notion invested in last works as part of their reception, and thus becomes part of their historical baggage. The reception and retrospective evaluation of a composer's entire career are at issue here. The last works of any artist take on a different meaning in the minds of audiences and critics, for they are inevitably read as the definitive final statement, the finale of a career, what Albert Einstein called the "opera ultima. "

As a critical theorist and a medical doctor, our collective interest is in Britten's declining health in his last years and the impact of this upon his creativity. We will examine both this last opera and the final shorter works Britten composed after his cardiac surgery, that is, a few years before his death, for what they can teach us about late style in general and Britten's personal (artistic and psychological) variant in particular.

Linda and Michael Hutcheon

 

Formal Development in Elliott Carter' Fifth String Quartet: Large Scale Metric Tensions and the Embedded Tempo

My paper discusses how Elliott Carter creates an innovative formal structure in his Fifth String Quartet through the use of a device I call the embedded tempo. Many theorists have examined Carter's work through the linear connections made through metric modulations, a type of analysis that only allows comparison and contrast between sections articulated by those modulations. My analytic approach also looks at the simultaneous layering of tempi in Carter's narrative which create surface/depth differentiations of meter and tempo in order to relate constantly fluctuating surface tempi to layers of a more structurally conceived formal design. This procedure can be likened to local and large scale tonal relationships in earlier music. Thus Carter's music suggests a kind of "metric tonic" that serves as a frame of reference for otherwise consecutively heard events. Using the Fifth String Quartet as an example, I will show how Carter uses an embedded tempo, in conjunction with harmonic contrasts, to articulate a large scale formal design. The truly innovative aspect of Carter's embedded tempo is that it does not overtly create metric modulations. Rather, it is a constant tempo in the background of his work against which other metric developments are measured. The sense of background static tempo is what heightens Carter's surface modulations, by putting them into stark contrast with fundamental rhythms. My presentation will provide a complete overview of Carter's Fifth String Quartet and present in more detail how each metric area of the work relates to a fundamental "metric tonic." This analysis will serve as a model for understanding the sophisticated metric relationships in Carter's late work in general.


John Aylward

 

A Vote for Change: Live Concert as Political Text in the 2004 U.S. Presidential Election

In 2004, the progressive activist group MoveOn presented the Vote for Change Tour (VFC), a series of concerts dedicated to advancing the political campaign of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry. Thirty-seven VFC concerts in thirty-three major cities in eleven swing states and the District of Columbia were performed from October 1st to October 11th and broadcasted live on major television networks and the internet.

Drawing on Richard Dyer's theoretical concept of the "star text," I will argue that Democratic party supporters organized and executed these performances for the distinct purpose of creating a microcosmic aural/visual utopia on stage where the diverse social/cultural identities and individual "star texts" of the artists, as communicated through their respective "voices," represented the diverse population of the nation itself. Within this context, the campaign songs performed at each of these events were transformed into an integrative political text, and thereby transcended some of their traditional associations of genre, time and space to take on added political significance--they reiterated the progressive American values of the party and put forth an idyllic vision of national unity. To theorize the formation of this integrative text, I will use film scholar Anahid Kassabian's model of the "compiled score," an amalgam of music drawn from preexisting sources, and its space for "affiliating identifications" to show how visual aspects of performance and the statements of the artists combine with the music to generate an overarching narrative.

By drawing on the theories of Phillip Tagg and Pierre Bourdieu, I will show how generic classification was deliberately problematized to meet a political goal and how the signifiers of a particular song were refashioned by the integration of new modes of performance as well as by the song's positioning as part of a larger integrative work. In the last part of my paper, I will apply these theoretical models to the analysis of two performances from the VFC Finale Concert, Bruce Springsteen's "Mary's Place" and John Fogerty's "Fortunate Son. "

Dana Gorzelany-Mostak

 

Political Rehabilitation? Or Private Dissent? Re-Examining Dmitri Shostakovich's Songs From "Jewish Folk Poetry", op 79(a)

The process of deciphering where Dmitri Shostakovich's song cycle, From Jewish Folk Poetry, Op. 79(a) fits within the context of both the composer's oeuvre and the official rise in anti-Semitism has been a thorny issue. Shostakovich composed the song cycle between August and October 1948 following months of continual denunciation as a ‘formalist' and ‘anti-people' composer, yet it did not receive its official premiere for seven years. Between the time of its composition and its premiere, Stalin's campaign against the Soviet Jewry gained momentum and resulted in the execution of nearly every Soviet Jewish cultural activist and many intellectuals–not to mention the USSR's complete opposition to the independent state of Israel. By the time From Jewish Folk Poetry received its premiere the cycle was no longer merely a work of "folk" art, but a prophesy of the ugly atrocities of the Soviet regime through its aesopian subtext. In 1963 Shostakovich turned to the Jewish cycle one more time, presenting an orchestrated version with an altered text setting.

Renowned Shostakovich scholar, Laurel Fay, has suggested that this song cycle was the composer's attempt at political rehabilitation after his public denunciation in January 1948, positing that he merely chose the "wrong" folk as his inspiration. However, the growing opposition to Fay's stance has begun to examine the composer's use of the Jewish folk idiom as a sign of self-identification with an oppressed minority. Further complicating the situation is the discrepancy concerning the dates of composition for both the piano and orchestral versions first hinted at in the scholarship of Soviet Jewish specialist, Joachim Braun. Once thought to have been arranged in 1963, my research at the Centre Chostakovich in Paris has revealed Braun's suspicions to be correct: the orchestral version of From Jewish Folk Poetry (Op. 79a) was composed alongside the piano version, yet placed aside until its premiere fifteen years later. In addition, a comparison of the original poetry with both versions of the song cycle reveals that Shostakovich had altered the text of the piano version, while retaining the original text for the orchestrated version, suggesting that he understood the gravity of the political situation in which he composed the cycle. This paper re-examines the context in which both arrangements of From Jewish Folk Poetry, op. 79(a) were composed in order to address these two opposing arguments and offer a revised interpretation of the cycle's meaning.

Jada Watson

 

Scriabin, Liadov, and the Genesis of Russian Symbolist Music

Russia's Silver Age (1890-1917) was characterized by the increased use of symbolism for artistic communication. Although symbolist poets and painters considered music to be the ultimate representation of symbolism's transcendental power, composers were struggling to balance the demands of more progressive artistic philosophies with Russia's new musical identity. Establishing a set of parameters for symbolist music remains problematic; many Silver Age composers, with the possible exception of Stravinsky and Rachmaninov, remain obscure outside of Russia.Aleksandr Nikolayevich Scriabin (1872-1915), the symbolist composer best known in the west, was by no means the only Russian to explore the possibilities of a symbolist compositional vocabulary. A member of the generation of composers only a few years removed from Rimsky-Korsakov's "Mighty Five" is Anatoly Liadov (1855-1914), a major musical figure during Scriabin's formative years. Liadov, originally commissioned to compose L'oiseau de feu, is one of several Silver Age composers who display a widely-varied, if conservative, application of symbolist compositional devices. Both Scriabin and Liadov composed a number of piano preludes, using the miniature genre as a testing ground for their advanced harmonic experiments. Liadov's preludes present an interesting case for his interest in symbolism in an otherwise conservative catalogue. In establishing a case for Liadov as an early "symbolist" composer, a comparison of his Preludes for Piano, Op. 46 (1899) and Op. 57 (1906) with those of Scriabin's Op. 48 (1905) and Op.56 (1908) provides compelling evidence that Scriabin's symbolist tendencies were not exceptional among his contemporaries in Russia at century's end.

This presentation is a product of research for my thesis, "Searching for Symbols: Symbolist Music of Russia's Silver Age," in which I examine the compositional elements of musical symbolism and what characterizes a "symbolist" work from this unique cultural mileu. In this presentation, I will compare and contrast aspects of tonality, rhythm, and tonal color in the works of Scriabin and Liadov in light of their different backgrounds from the conservatories of Moscow and St. Petersburg, and the mutual compositional priorities that earned them a place in Mitrofan Petrovich Belyayev's (1836-1903) circle of new Russian compositional talent.

Amanda Marsrow

 

Xenia's Lament and the Rise (? ) of the Russian Folk in Musorgsky's Boris Godunov (1872)

Although many scholars have closely studied Modest Musorgsky's revisions to his opera Boris Godunov, none have given attention to his significant reworking of Xenia's lament in the Act II Terem Scene. While the lament is present in both the 1869 and 1872 versions, the revised lament not only has a new melody, but also new stage directions. What is more, the surrounding characters also respond to Xenia differently in the later version. I argue that through these revisions Musorgsky creates a number that resembles Russian folk laments and enacts the ritual of performing them. In revising the lament and interpolating folksongs in later parts of the scene, Musorgsky marks the only scene taking place in the Kremlin as the most saturated with Russian folk references. Is the folk, then, a symbol for a unified Russia representing royalty in Act II and the mob later in the opera? Is Musorgsky perhaps hinting at the dubiousness of Boris's claim to the throne? Musorgsky's incorporation of folksong, ritual, and mythology, and his dramatic emphasis on the Russian folk as the opera's protagonist may suggest that the composer had intentions to elevate the Russian folk and take the side of the "people." But in the resulting work, the folk are simultaneously the victims of an unambiguously evil leader and a gullible crowd easily fooled; Musorgsky's political message is far from clear.

The emphasis on the folk also complicates the nationalistic implications of the revised Terem Scene, which combines two competing ideals of Russian operatic realism. The 1869 work upholds the ideals set forth by Aleksandr Dargomyzhsky and eagerly embraced by the "New Russian School" of Musorgsky's generation: Russian opera is to be characterized by its realism, achieved through music that follows the declamation of spoken Russian. The revised version incorporates another brand of realism, preached by Aleksandr Serov in which Russian folk music permeates operatic composition. The saturation of folk music betrays the indirect influence of German music via Serov, a Wagner supporter, while also giving the work a distinctly "Russian" character. It may be the conflicting political messages, rather than the obvious folk references, that constitute the most "Russian" quality of the 1872 work; as Richard Taruskin observes: "The art of no other country is so heavily fraught with subtexts. "

Cindy L. Kim

 

Coloratura and Character in the Figaro Substitute Arias

In the comedic operas of Mozart's mature career, the composer adhered, for the most part, to the model set forth by playwright and opera buffa librettist Carlo Goldoni, who clearly codified roles into three different levels, ranging from serious to comic. In Goldonian libretti, these three character levels specify the degree or amount of comedy portrayed, the social standing of the character, and the vocal style and aria type performed. In Vienna in the 1770s and 80s, the vocal technique most discernible between the three different levels is the use of coloratura: the serious roles performed the most bravura arias, the mezzi caratteri performed arias with a moderate degree of embellishment, while the comic roles performed the most simple, syllabically-declaimed arias. This paper, "Coloratura and Character in the Figaro Substitute Arias," considers the problem created by coloratura arias that Mozart substituted into later productions of his operas, when no coloratura had existed in the original conception of a role.


The role of Susanna in Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro is a noteworthy case for studying the dynamic of coloratura and character level: in the original production of the opera (1786), the character would have been considered a buffa role, the lowest character level according to Goldonian dictates, thereby containing no coloratura. In the revival of the opera (1789), however, the role was changed substantially when Adriana Ferrarese, the new singer performing in the opera, demanded substitute arias­-works that bore little resemblance to the mood and musical language of the original pieces. Coloratura abounds in the newly-composed substitute arias, changing not only Susanna's vocal profile, but also her character level and status within the opera. One of the substitute arias, "Al desio di chi t'adora," is a grand opera seria piece, replete with coloratura--a work fundamentally different from "Deh vieni non tardar," the simple, lyrical aria it replaced. Through the addition of coloratura, particularly on certain words of text, the role of Susanna is considerably altered, elevating her from a conventional buffa level character to a mezze carattere within the opera buffa genre. While "Al desio" may seem inappropriate to the character of Susanna, and a compromise of dramatic consistency and vocal characterization to the whims of the singer, one wonders if Mozart and Da Ponte, the librettist of Figaro, had desired a new interpretation of the scene, and were not merely pandering to the wishes of the diva.

Kristina Baron-Woods

 

"Tonality's Gravitational Pull": Intonation as an Empirical Measure of Melodic Attraction

In his 2001 book, Tonal Pitch Space, Fred Lerdahl posits that the "attractional asymmetries" derived from his tonal tension and attraction model "shed light on intonational practices for instruments capable of continuous tuning" (2001: 170) and cites Janyna Fyk's idea that intonation tendencies can be ascribed to "tonality's gravitational pull" (1995). Picking up on this brief remark, this paper examines the relationship between horizontal intonation tendencies in solo vocal music and the theories of melodic attraction put forth by both Lerdahl and Steve Larson (2004). This endeavor is useful not only for empirically testing these theories but also for developing a model of melodic intonation practices in vocal music.

Both Lerdahl's and Larson's theories have been subject to empirical perceptual tests, which produced results that generally support the main elements of the theories. Empirical studies of singers' intonation practices in recorded performances are a valuable complement to these perceptual studies. Not only does this type of "experiment" provide new data with which to test the proposed equations, it also provides data acquired from a situation that is more familiar to the participant, i.e. , the recording studio.

Attraction models provide a means of exploring intonation tendencies in linear pitch sequences by providing representations of how pitches exist in relation to one another, not just within their immediate harmonic context but also beyond it. Although these models do not provide tuning predictions, they do serve as a more appropriate reference than equal temperament for examining intonation tendencies related to tonal context. Thus, attraction models are a better starting point for quantizing musical intuitions when modeling intonation practices.

To illustrate the application of this approach in a musical work, this paper uses an analysis of an a cappella solo soprano performance of Schubert's "Ave Maria". In order to calculate the frequencies of the sung notes, signal processing techniques were applied to determine the precise instantaneous frequency in the neighborhood of the fundamentals anticipated from the score. Following from previous acoustical and perceptual studies done in this area, the perceived pitch was assumed to be the mean of the recorded fundamental frequency over the duration of the note. The estimated fundamental frequencies were then related to both a "pitch space" analysis of the score and an analysis based on a modified version of Larson's theory.

Johanna Devaney

 

Relations Between Implicit Knowledge of Western Harmonic Tonality and Linguistic Abilities in Pre-school Children


Possible links between music and language have been of interest to many scientists who try to understand the nature of these communication systems, their evolution and the neural representations and processes thereof. In general, music and language are considered as distinct auditory systems that clearly serve different communicative uses. However, from the perspective of infants inexperienced with their native musical and linguistic systems, these differences are less apparent and general learning mechanisms may be applied to both domains (e.g. , Trehub & Hannon, 2006). In the context of this developmental approach, I examined the relationship between linguistic and musical (syntactic) competence in pre-schoolers.

Patel (2003, 2007) proposed a sharing of neural resources in the processing of linguistic and musical syntax. According to his "shared syntactic integration resource hypothesis" music and language involve domain specific representations but share neural resources in similar cognitive operations. Empirical evidence for resource sharing has been provided by studies investigating online syntactic processing (e.g. , Fedorenko et al. , 2007) and cognitive development (e.g. , Anvari et al. , 2000).


A musical grammar incorporates hierarchically organised, implicitly learned principles that determine music-structural expectancies and may be investigated by priming paradigms (Justus & Bharucha, 2001; Bigand et al. , 2001). Recent behavioural (Schellenberg et al. , 2005) and electrophysiological (Koelsch et al. , 2003) studies suggest that 5- and 6-year-old Western children have implicit knowledge of Western harmony.

Grammatical knowledge of L1 develops in the first months after birth (e.g. , Kuhl, 2000) and children younger than two possess some abstract syntactic knowledge (Gertner et al. , 2006). At two years, children produce two-word combinations; at three, sentences (Kuhl, 2004). At four, there is a developmental shift towards abstract representations (Nelson, 1996; Karmiloff-Smith, 1992). 75 German-speaking pre-schoolers in three age groups (3 yrs. 5 months--4 yrs. 4 months; 4 yrs. 5 months to 5 yrs. 4 months; 5 yrs. 5 months to 5 yrs. 11 months) heard a tonal chord progression followed by a target chord and were asked whether the target was played by trumpet or piano. Results suggest that response times were longer for tonally unstable (subdominant) than stable (tonic) targets, reflecting implicit tonal knowledge in 4-year-olds. Children with early musical training exhibited shorter response times. Children's linguistic competence (SETK 3-5; Grimm, 2001) was found to be correlated with the number of correct answers in the musical priming task.

Manuela Marin

 

Messiaen as Painter: Nature Depictions in the Catalogue d'oiseaux

2008 will mark 100 years since the birth of the French composer Olivier Messiaen. Much of this composer's fascinating output is considered standard repertoire today, and his contribution to piano literature in particular is widely acknowledged. However, the monumental solo piano opus Catalogue d'oiseaux (Catalogue of the Birds, 1956-58) is still seldom programmed in North America despite being one of Messiaen's most important piano cycles.

This major example of Messiaen's virtuoso birdsong style places unusually heavy demands on the performer. Lasting two and a half hours in performance, the cycle features the habitats of each of the thirteen protagonists in addition to the birds themselves, placing equal importance on the musical depictions of both. Messiaen's harmonic language in these pieces is a complex mosaic of opposing elements and various technical devices. In addition to birdsong transcription, modes of limited transpositions, self-devised chords and twelve-tone elements, nature and landscape "painting" techniques are prevalent.

Landscape descriptions appear in several guises in the Catalogue, making use of a number of technical devices at the composer's disposal. These musical representations can evoke contours and shapes of cliffs and mountains, mimic "white-noise" sounds such as rushing water, or characterize the changing hours of the day or night and complex colour displays. The composer was known to have a rare case of synaesthesia that induced him to have strong associations between sounds and colours, and made use of this condition to find inspiration for the harmonic material. In illustrating natural phenomena, Messiaen freely juxtaposed these elements with tonality, modal constructions, and atonal or twelve-tone material. It is the blend of these seemingly contrasting aspects of the composer's palette in the same context that gives the Catalogue d'oiseaux such an extraordinary power of expression.

This lecture-recital will examine Messiaen's techniques of landscape "painting" and highlight the importance of Nature as inspiration for the Catalogue d'oiseaux. Conclusions will be made showing how analysis and awareness of the composer's inspiration can impact the performer's interpretative decisions and help audiences approach these complex pieces. The discussion will be supplemented by performances of two major movements from the Catalogue d'oiseaux: Le Traquet stapazin (the Black-eared Wheatear) from book two, and Le Courlis cendre (the Curlew) from book seven.

Xenia Pestov