Building on the approaches outlined in the previous chapter, this chapter develops a corpus-based method for the analysis of phrase arching in the performance of Chopin’s mazurkas, showing how interpretive style can be linked to broad cultural issues. Computational methods help to avoid the pitfalls of traditional, selective approaches to performance analysis, and in so doing they raise fundamental issues of historiography. Widely seen as a basic characteristic of “musical” performance, phrase arching as theorized by psychologists and empirical musicologists turns out to be in essence a post-war phenomenon. Through relating it to contemporaneous developments in material culture, the chapter develops an interpretation of phrase arching as a core modernist practice: expression, formerly attributed to the performer, was now redefined as a property of the music itself, and in that sense objective.
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