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Musical Gesture

Instructor: Robert S. Hatten

Course Description

Gesture is movement that may be interpreted as significant. Musical gesture presents more challenging problems, since it must often be inferred from notation and an understanding of performance practice and style. These lectures will assume much of the historical argument and concentrate instead on semiotic and speculative theoretical approaches to interpretation grounded in the insights of gesture as applied to analysis and performance.

The theoretical and practical contributions of David Lidov (York University, Downsview, Ontario) and Alexandra Pierce (Redlands University, Redlands, California) will be featured in the earlier lectures; gestural premises and their working out through the course of multi-movement works will be the focus of the central lectures; and the issues of troping, agency, and continuity will be explored in the final lectures.

Special Note:
Given my own performance commitment to the piano, and the interesting issues raised by gestural realization in the context of a digital sound source, many of the musical examples discussed will be from the piano literature. Inexpensive scores may be purchased from Dover publications for much of this repertoire. I will often refer to music examples by measure number. Music examples from the readings will also be referenced.


Course Outline

  1. Toward a characterization of gesture in music: An introduction to the issues.

  2. Embodying sound: The role of semiotics.
    Readings:

    Barthes, Roland. 1985 [1982]. "Music's Body," Part II of The Responsibility of Forms: Critical Essays on Music, Art, and Representation, trans. Richard Howard (Berkeley: University of California Press), 243-312.
    Lidov, David. 1987. "Mind and Body in Music," Semiotica 66:1/3, 69-97.

  3. Embodying sound: The role of movement in performance and interpretation.
    Readings:

    Pierce, Alexandra. 1994. "Developing Schenkerian Hearing andPerforming," Intégral 8, 51-123.

  4. Gesture and motive: Developing variation I.
    Listening and score study:

    Schubert, Piano Sonata in A major, D. 959, complete.
    Beethoven, Piano Sonata in E minor, Op. 90, first movement.
    Reading:
    Hatten, Robert S. 1993. "Schubert the Progressive: The Role of Resonance and Gesture in the Piano Sonata in A, D. 959," IntZŁgral 7, 38-81.

  5. Gesture and motive: Developing variation II.
    Listening and score study:

    Beethoven, Piano Sonata in A major, Op. 101, complete.

  6. Gestural troping.
    Listening and score study:

    Beethoven, Sonata for Piano and Cello in C major, Op. 102, no. 1, complete.
    Readings:
    Hatten, Robert S. 1994. Musical Meaning in Beethoven: Markedness, Correlation, and Interpretation (Bloomington: Indiana University Press), 161-202.

  7. Gesture and agency.
    Listening and score study:

    Bach, Prelude in Eb minor, W.T.C. I.
    Beethoven, Piano Sonata in C major (the "Waldstein"), op. 53, first movement.
    Beethoven, Piano Trio in D major (the "Ghost"), Op. 70, no. 1, first movement.
    Debussy, Des pas sur la neige, Préludes, Book I, no. 6.

  8. Gesture and the problem of continuity.
    Listening and score study:

    Mozart, Piano Sonata in A minor, K. 310, first and third movements.
    Beethoven, Piano Sonata in F minor, Op. 57 (the "Appassionata"), third movement.
    Schubert, Piano Sonata in A minor, D. 784 (Op. 143)
    Schubert, Piano Sonata in A minor, D. 845, fourth movement.
    Schubert, Piano Sonata in G major, D. 894, first movement.
    Bruckner, Fifth Symphony, first movement.

The current lectures are drawn in part from work-in-progress toward a book on musical gesture.


Send comments or questions to Robert S Hatten: rohatten@indiana.edu
By mail:
Prof. Robert S. Hatten
School of Music
Penn State University
University Park, PA 16802

copyright 2001, Robert S Hatten.
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