Remembrances of Ritornellos Past: Listening, Memory, Meaning

by Breuer, Benjamin

Abstract (Summary)
Recent approaches to ritornello structure in J. S. Bach's Brandenburg Concertos have stressed the importance of the Baroque compositional technique of Fortspinnung. Yet, the examination of what a listener remembers of the music shows that the Fortspinnung sections seemingly do not play a role in how the music is remembered. This discrepancy suggests a closer look at how precisely musical data are dealt with by memory and how their interaction with other fields of musical activity, for example, the use of terminology (the term "ritornello" and the concepts of "ritornello structure" and "ritornello process"), influences memorization and remembrance of music. In this inquiry, I have chosen not to take the metaphorical stance towards memory often adapted by musicologists; rather, I borrow information about the workings of memory from the more mechanistic accounts of experimental neuropsychology, specifically research into the remembrance of word lists. Since neuropsychology and musicology are not immediately compatible, I use semiotics as a "bridge discipline" between the two. After advocating research into music listening habits in general and defining listening as the conceptualization of heard sounds through memory, I demonstrate the divergence of predictions in ritornello theory and the actual mnemonic practice of listeners. I introduce paradigmatic analysis as a means of graphic representation and Peirce's trichotomy of icon, index, and symbol as philosophical corollaries of observable effects in word list memory. At various stages of the study, references to the structure and process in BWV 1046/1 are provided as examples for the application of the gained insights.
Bibliographical Information:

Advisor:Don O. Franklin; David Brodbeck; Mary S. Lewis; Mathew Rosenblum

School:University of Pittsburgh

School Location:USA - Pennsylvania

Source Type:Master's Thesis



Date of Publication:06/29/2004

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