Theses Doctoral

Moving with Music: Approaches to the Analysis of Movement-Music Interactions

Sterbenz, Maeve Ann

In this study I investigate the variegated and complex ways in which music and movement can interact in works that involve both media, such as ballets, modern dance works, music videos, and dance films. My dissertation centers around analyses of pieces in diverse styles and genres; each analysis focuses on different aspects of human movement or movement analysis tools. Some of these concepts – Effort, Space, Body, and Shape – are sourced from Laban Movement Analysis, while others – synchronization, body language, kinesthetic empathy, and form – do not belong to a cohesive system. Taking an intersubjective approach, my analyses highlight instances in which watching co-occurring movement affects my musical perceptions, or vice versa. I also examine conscious interventions on perception, where deliberate changes in perspective, theoretical frameworks, or prioritization of my embodied responses affect the way I hear and see the works. I aim not only to account for structural complexities in movement-music interactions, but also to examine ways in which those interactions participate in articulating identities and politics or in suggesting narrative interpretations. I aim to provide a versatile toolkit that would facilitate the analysis of many different kinds of music-movement interactions. Each chapter outlines two analytical tools and then demonstrates how the tools can be used in an analytical example.
In the first chapter, I investigate the role of body language and movement-music synchronization in a hip hop music video by the rapper Tyler, The Creator. I argue that Tyler’s movements fail to synchronize to the music in straightforward ways and fail to convey the cool confidence that his lyrics purport to. As a result, the movement-music relationship helps to articulate a version of masculinity that can be read as non-normative and politically charged.
In the second chapter, I examine the role of kinesthetic empathy in the perception of choreographic and musical form in the “Rose Adagio” from Tchaikovsky’s and Petipa’s The Sleeping Beauty. While both character and performer inhabit a single onstage body, the observer’s empathetic embodied responses to the dancer may diverge depending on whether she is read as character or performer. This perceptual contrast depends in part on the ballet’s narrative world. The two possible empathetic alignments yield, in turn, divergent analytical observations about the relationship between music and movement.
In the third chapter, I offer an analysis of “Duet” from Lar Lubovitch’s Concerto 622,which is set to the Adagio movement of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in A Major K.622. Examining Lubovitch’s choreography helps me to arrive at a more sensitive hearing of the music than I initially expected. Also, in comparing two phrases whose music is nearly identical but which feature different choreography, I find an especially compelling case in support of the proposition that dance affects musical perceptions.
In the final chapter, I consider the role of Body and Shape in Nijinsky’s and Debussy’s Jeux. Movement-music analysis provides support for an interpretation of the ballet that acknowledges a pervasive, yet ultimately unfulfilled sexual desire. Movement-music analysis also sheds light on the ever-changing and moment-focused nature of Debussy’s musical form. Motives are not developed nor organized by a large-scale formal design, but instead give rise to ever new musical ideas, unprepared and unresolved. The ballet’s choreography often helps these rapid and abrupt transitions to cohere.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Dubiel, Joseph
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 20, 2017