Dr Helen Prior: Lecture Details and Video
Helen Prior, King's College, London
Wednesday 26 March 2012
Shaping music in performance: exploring the experiences of violinists and harpsichordists
The notion of shaping music in performance is pervasive in musical practice and its surrounding discourse, but has been little studied. A questionnaire study of professional musicians (Prior, 2011) revealed that musicians use it when practising, in rehearsals, and when teaching; and when playing music from a wide range of genres. The term was used in relation to several different ideas, from musical structure to musical expression, emotion, and tension; and in relation to specific musical features such as phrasing, the melodic line, and dynamics. Overall, shape was found to be highly versatile and multi-faceted. This questionnaire study was valuable in gaining an insight into a large number of musicians’ experiences; however many details of the experience of shaping music in performance remain to be explored.
Some of these details are being explored through interview studies. This paper will present data from two interview studies of different instrumentalists: five violinists; and five harpsichordists. An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis of the interview data will be used to explore some of the ways in which these different musicians, with the different technical limitations imposed by their instruments, use the idea of musical shape. Preliminary results from the two studies, and their potential implications, will be discussed.