Dieter Kleinrath

Experiencing Performance, Analyzing Experience and Performing Analysis. On the Relationship between Musical Analysis, Musical Performance and Musical Listening, Exemplified by Pierre Boulez’ Structures Ia

When Nicholas Cook polemically stated that “performers [seem to] have a great deal to learn from [music] analysis” (Cook 1999), he criticized the authoritative prescriptiveness of influential music theories, including Fred Lerdahl’s and Ray Jackendoff’s GTTM, Schenker’s “Schichtenlehre” and the music-theoretical approach of Eugene Narmour. Most of the time music theory pursues unidirectional approaches of music analysis: Based on the analysis of musical structure, it makes assumptions about how music is (or should be) perceived, performed, and composed, often initiating aesthetic judgments.

This paper discusses the relationships between musical analysis, musical performance and musical listening from a reconsidered perspective. As part of the Graz research project CTPSO (, Pierre Boulez’s Structures Ia for two pianos (1952), a key-work of postwar serialism, was recorded on two midi pianos (Yamaha Disklavier). The midi data of these recordings are manipulated in various ways, based on a context-sensitive perception-informed analysis of the score and a comparative analysis of different performances of the piece. These manipulations include the emphasis/concealment of supposedly perceived musical structures (shapes, contours, streams), the change of rhythmic structure and tempo, and the addition or removal of individual tones. Both manipulated passages and original recordings are presented to listeners during a listening experiment. The aim of this experiment is to examine, which structures, as suggested by musical analysis, are actually perceived by listeners and how musical performance may influence such percepts. In this context I also examine whether musical prototypes (Deliège 2001) can be identified in Structures, which help to perceive or memorize the complex musical structures. In a last step the results of the listening experiment are again communicated to the performers, possibly influencing their interpretation of the piece. The paper thus intends to demonstrate that an informed communication between music analysis, performance and perception leads to a richer musical experience.