Pattern and meaning in Francois Couperin's Pieces de Clavecin

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Title: Pattern and meaning in Francois Couperin's Pieces de Clavecin
Author: Snyder, Caitlin E., 1971-
Abstract: The synthetic, historically sensitive, analytic method of this dissertation illuminates relationships between pattern and meaning in François Couperin's Pièces de Clavecin --character pieces firmly rooted in traditions of literary portraiture. The method combines aspects of Schenkerian analysis, Gjerdingen's style-sensitive schema, Larson's theory of musical forces, and Lakoff and Johnson's cognitive metaphor theory. It suggests that manipulation of recognizable musical patterns--the manner with which patterns are realized or even withheld--and their narrative contexts may give rise to responses heard as metaphorically reflecting Couperin's evocative titles. Two questions motivate this investigation: Why the virtual absence of François Couperin from modern theoretical discourse? How does musical meaning arise with Couperin's musical portraits? After describing my analytic method, I illustrate its application with several short examples. I then offer two in-depth case studies of different formal structures: an extended theme and variations and an independent binary piece. My findings relate pattern to musical "vocabularies", to context and expressive meaning, and to the theory and practice of music analysis. The focus on pattern illuminates the interaction of vocabularies in Couperin's music--including those of the seventeenth-century French keyboard tradition, the emerging Italian galant style, and the increasingly tonal "high styles" of eighteenth-century church, chamber, and court music. It illustrates how patterns contribute to expression and affect--as well as how they interact with ideas, concepts, or images associated with Couperin's evocative titles. Pattern-based analyses demonstrate that different contexts can give the same pattern different meanings--supporting (rather than contradicting, as others have suggested) the argument that music can have meaning; instead of a single meaning, we encounter a plurality of possibilities. The synthetic analytic approach of this dissertation is ideal for Couperin's music in particular but also for the galant style in general. Moreover, the combination of methods itself illuminates the power and meaning of each individual contributing element. and exemplifies the advantages of (and flexibility inherent to) an analytic method consonant with Lakoff and Johnson's cognitive metaphor theory, suggesting the analytic potential of a synthetic approach for an even broader set of styles.
Description: xviii, 293 p. : ill., music. A print copy of this thesis is available through the UO Libraries. Search the library catalog for the location and call number.
Date: 2010-06

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