Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Choral performance expression: Meanings, modalities, processes, synergies
by Hoffmann, Shulamit, Ed.D.C.T., Teachers College, Columbia University, 2016, 371; 10124800
Abstract (Summary)

Expression is a prized aspect of performance, yet it goes largely un-conceptualized and sometimes partially pursued in amateur choral endeavor. This study seeks to understand what constitutes live choral performance expression, and how it materializes. The study adopted a qualitative, phenomenological research strategy to investigate the lived experience of performers. Data were collected in individual interviews with eight conductors, focus groups with 60 choristers, and rehearsal and performance observations of seven choirs.

The findings suggest that performance is meaningful to performers and audience for reasons that are not solely musical. Thus, expression is not conceptualized as solely musical. Performers regard choral music as having inherent expressive content, but for some, reification of a work is only part of performance expression. Aural beauty is cherished, but expression is not experienced exclusively auditorily.

By “contagion,” performers seek to communicate affectively with their audience. To this end, some employ visual presentation to embody the expressive character perceived in musical and textual features of a work. The conceptualization of performance expression as comprising aural and visual modalities aligns with the known integration of acoustic and optic percepts in human communication of emotions, and with the relative impact of gesture, tone, and word meaning on the perceiver.

Rehearsal processes for expression and the integration of vocal technique with expression are problematic, and the efficacy of performing from memory or with the score is ambiguous. Choristers consider conductor micro-corrections at the expense of macro-overview an impediment to expression, but constructivist self-learning with video feedback is found effective. Developing expression through movement, backstory, and imagery is helpful, but acting as authentic portrayal of feeling is ambivalent. Inter-ensemble musical and social synergies influence expression, especially its visual presentation.

The study concludes that choral performance expression is for performer and audience, entity and process; personal and communal; artifact-derived and performer-created; phenomenal and noumenal; physiologically perceived and emotionally construed. Amateur choirs achieve expressive performance when they engage musical, textual, and visual presentation as inter-linked modalities; engage inclusionary leadership and chorister-centered learning; and integrate musical-social synergies as components of expression.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Allsup, Randall E., Abeles, Harold
Commitee: Goffi-Fynn, Jeanne C., Jochum, Richard
School: Teachers College, Columbia University
Department: Arts and Humanities
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 77/10(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Music, Music education
Keywords: Amateur, Choral, Expression, Meanings and modalities, Performance, Processes and synergies
Publication Number: 10124800
ISBN: 978-1-339-82897-8
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