Dissertation Index

Author: Ohriner, Mitchell S.


Institution: Indiana University

Begun: July 2010

Completed: July 2011


Because music originates in expressive behavior, music’s metric, tonal, and formal structures—and listeners’ experiences of those structures—retain the traces of bodies in motion. In this study, I explore how varied interpretive renditions affect listeners’ experiences and construals of music with a focus on durational contours, the constant undulations of tempo in human-generated performance. In particular, I am interested in listeners’ experiences of renditions of Chopin’s music that diverge significantly from general tendencies or conventions of performance. After offering a historical snapshot and analytical extension of previous approaches to durational contours in Chapters 1 and 2, I argue in Chapter 3 that durational contours are the traces of bodily gestures that listeners access through the covert movements of enacted cognition, and thus divergent renditions can afford new experiential knowledge.

In four subsequent analytical chapters I turn from listeners’ enactions of performative gestures to their background feelings of being, the particular ways performers act out “being in” a meter, key, or formal section. Drawing on a corpus of more than six hundred renditions of two dozen of Chopin’s pieces, I argue that listeners’ experiences of “being” in metric, tonal, and formal phenomena is dependent on features of performance to an extent not often recognized: through unique durational decisions, performers can promote or inhibit metric entrainment (Chapter 4), recast tonal relationships by affording or denying the acquisition of a pitch as a tonal center (Chapters 5 and 6), and reshape perceived formal relationships at moments of closure or evaded closure (Chapter 7). A concluding chapter synthesizes these considerations of experience through a more complete analysis of a single piece. Throughout the study, I aim to contribute to the growing shift towards construing performance and analysis as coequal pathways to musical meaning.

Keywords: expressive timing, empirical musicology, enacted cognition, embodiment, Chopin


1 Performance and Disciplinarity: The Reception of Manfred Clynes’s “Composer’s Pulse”
2 Durational Contours as Structural Communication
3 Listening as Enacted Cognition
4 Duration and Entrainment
5 Durational Contours and Tonal Possession
6 Tonal Oscillation and Form in the Ballade No. 4 in F minor, Op. 52
7 Durational Contours and Formal Function
8 Conclusion: Multiplicities of Experience in the Nocturne in G minor,
Op. 15, no. 3
Appendix 1: An Annotated Bibliography of the Composer’s Pulse Appendix 2: A Brief Tutorial on Collecting and Processing Timing Data Appendix 3: Description of Datasets
Glossary of Terms
Recordings Cited
Works Cited


Mitchell Ohriner
Shenandoah Conservatory
1460 University Dr.
Winchester, VA 22601

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