Volume 104, Issue 2, August 1998
Index of content:
- MUSIC AND MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS 
A microcosm of musical expression. I. Quantitative analysis of pianists’ timing in the initial measures of Chopin’s Etude in E major104(1998); http://dx.doi.org/10.1121/1.423325View Description Hide Description
Patterns of expressive timing were measured in bars 1–5 of 115 commercially recorded performances of Chopin’s Etude in E major, op. 10, No. 3. These patterns were subjected to principal components analysis, which suggested at least four independent “timing strategies”: (1) major ritards at the ends of melodic gestures; (2) acceleration within some of these gestures, without final ritards; (3) extreme lengthening of the initial downbeat; and (4) ritards between as well as within melodic gestures. Strategies 1 and 4 respond in different ways to the melodic-rhythmic grouping structure of the music, and strategy 3 merely represents a local emphasis. Strategy 2 is the one most difficult to rationalize; it does not seem to represent an alternative structural interpretation of the music but rather an alternative gestural shaping. Each individual pianist’s timing pattern could be described as a weighted combination of these four strategies plus idiosyncratic variation. A wide variety of combinations was represented, and no two individual patterns were exactly the same. In addition, there was a wide range of basic tempi and of degrees of tempo modulation. There were no strong relationships between any of these variables and sociocultural characteristics of the artists, although some weak trends were observed.