Theorizing Pianistic Experience: Tradition, Instrument, Performer

Victoria Tzotzkova

Theorizing Pianistic Experience: Tradition, Instrument, Performer
Tzotzkova, Victoria
Thesis Advisor(s):
Lewis, George E.
Ph.D., Columbia University
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This dissertation theorizes expressive sound in piano performance. It views the act of obtaining a desired sound as an act of subtly adjusting to continually changing conditions of sound production. It takes a performer's perspective, focusing on the personal experience of sound, as it is being created in performance. The sound of a piano performance is continually evolving, contingent on the acoustic environment, the characteristics of an instrument, and other circumstantial factors with which a pianist works in performance. Although the focus is on real-time performing experience, in the act of any particular performance, a pianist relies on robust previous experience. This dissertation particularly considers the dynamic, interactive loop of the conception, the making, and the hearing of sound in piano performance. The continued re-enaction of this loop is considered as grounding a specifically pianistic cognitive ability which draws on both the haptic and auditory experience of sound at the piano. My approach to piano playing is rooted in work in critical ethnography as well as theories of cognitive function. These two seemingly disparate areas of enquiry share important common ground in their treatment of conceptualization and experience as mutually definitive. An underlying theme throughout this research is the dynamic interplay between theoretical understanding and lived experience. The focus, however, is consistently on piano playing, seen as the act of engendering artistically charged sound through the interaction with a complex and versatile musical instrument, the acoustics of sound and space, and the expressive possibilities of personal experience.
Performing arts
Cognitive psychology
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Suggested Citation:
Victoria Tzotzkova, , Theorizing Pianistic Experience: Tradition, Instrument, Performer, Columbia University Academic Commons, .

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