Dissertation Index

Author: Hastings, Charise Y.

Title: The Performer's Role: Storytelling in Ballades of Chopin and Brahms

Institution: University of Michigan--Ann Arbor

Begun: August 1998

Completed: April 2006


This dissertation concerns performed music and the performer's role, particularly the social, physical and mental aspects of learning and playing. Analysis incorporating the performer's role is aided by the use of literary narrative terminology.

The first two chapters of the dissertation are theoretical, the last three, analytical. Chapter 1 proposes that performance is an oral culture, akin to storytelling or folksinging, based on three criteria: performance is an event that unfolds in a particular place and time; it presents different versions of a single work; and it is largely defined by the performer’s interpretation and the listener’s reception. Performers may be compared to storytellers, as both shape their works for particular aesthetic and emotional effects. Chapter 2 explores the performer’s role in relation to an intersubjective cultural context that includes standard performance practices as well as individual conceptions of “good” and “bad” playing. This context helps determine what kind of playing is considered legitimate, and gives performers and listeners a common basis by which to judge a performance. Chapters 3 and 4 are two case studies of piano Ballades by Frederic Chopin and Johannes Brahms (Op. 23 and Op. 10, No. 1, respectively). I analyze the performer’s role as a storyteller using narrative techniques observed in stories associated with the Ballades, the “Edward” poem in the case of the Brahms, and a tale of my own devising with the Chopin. Chapter 5 considers several recordings of these Ballades from a listener’s standpoint, examining the relationship between pianistic technique and musical affect.

This project contributes to studies of performance and analysis. I propose an analytical model using narrative concepts like chronological ordering and the storyteller's role. The dissertation also pertains to music and narrative studies, which employs narrative approaches for analysts and listeners' perspectives, but rarely performers'. My work addresses piano pedagogy as well: teaching methods and techniques have an enormous impact on a student's interpretation of music.

Keywords: Chopin, Brahms, Ballades, performance, performer, narrative


Chapter 1: Music: An Oral Culture
Survey of Literature
The Work as a Variable Concept
The Oral Nature of Performance
Stories and Storytellers

Chapter 2: Performance Traditions Performance Traditions as Intuition
Performance Traditions as the Composer's Intentions
Performance Traditions as Patterns
Performance Traditions as Technique

Chapter 3: The Orality of Chopin’s G Minor Ballade, Op. 23
Plural Identity of the Ballade
Process of the Ballade
Performer's Perspective

Chapter 4: A Poetic Perspective on Brahms' “Edward” Ballade, Op. 10, No. 1
Ballads and Balladeers
Order of Events
The Story of the Ballade
The Discourse of the Ballade
Epilogue: A Programmatic Interpretation

Chapter 5: Hearing Storytellers
Work and Performance
Perception, Effect and Technique



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