Orchestral conducting since 1950: a comparative analysis of conducting manuals, practitoners' testimonies and two orchestral performances

Baltuch, David S. (2014) Orchestral conducting since 1950: a comparative analysis of conducting manuals, practitoners' testimonies and two orchestral performances. Doctoral thesis, Birmingham City University.


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This dissertation studies the phenomenon of orchestral conducting as it unfolds since 1950 in what may be seen as the international arena of this profession, and does so by comparing three types of texts: respected conducting manuals, leading conductors' testimonies and expert orchestra players' accounts. Two models, empirically inferred from these texts — the Visible Action Continuum and the Thematic String Matrix — are instrumental in subdividing the phenomenon into categories in order to discuss the practitioners' opinions. Scholarly studies then contextualise these discussions. A Video analysis Of Bernstein and Boulez conducting Mahler's Second Symphony complements this text-based approach, aiming to find points of contact between what the practitioners say about orchestral conducting and what the conductors actually do. This video analysis applies the Continuum and the Matrix as well as theories of movement analysis and nonverbal communication. By cross-examining the above- mentioned sources, this study aims to thoroughly discuss the phenomenon Of orchestral conducting. It does not intend to provide direct guidance, theoretical or practical, on how to conduct an orchestra, nor does it propose a standalone score analysis of Mahler's Second Symphony.

This study draws the following conclusions:

1. A significant part of the phenomenon of orchestral conducting is not apparent to the observer and exceeds musical boundaries. However both aspects may be accessed through the practitioners' testimonies.

2. The alleged invisibility of some aspects of the phenomenon is better addressed in terms of the observer's unconscious perception.

3. Differences of opinion between practitioners often stem from situational factors: pedagogues, conductors and players see conducting differently. Sometimes sources conflict, but more often they complement each other.

4. The common vocabulary seems unsatisfactory to adequately describe musical praxis and may breed misunderstandings, as much regarding alleged agreements as alleged disagreements between practitioners.

5. As a possible consequence of this insufficiency, only few elements discussed in text-based part of this study are traceable in the conductors' actual performance, and vice versa.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
October 2014Completed
Subjects: CAH25 - design, and creative and performing arts > CAH25-02 - performing arts > CAH25-02-02 - music
Divisions: Faculty of Arts, Design and Media > Royal Birmingham Conservatoire
Doctoral Research College > Doctoral Theses Collection
Depositing User: Richard Birley
Date Deposited: 18 Jul 2017 08:44
Last Modified: 12 Jan 2022 16:54
URI: https://www.open-access.bcu.ac.uk/id/eprint/4871

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