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Haptic Analysis: An Alternative to Score-based Analyses of Chopin’s Piano Sonatas Op. 35 and Op. 58

Lim, X (2019). Haptic Analysis: An Alternative to Score-based Analyses of Chopin’s Piano Sonatas Op. 35 and Op. 58. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


Using Chopin’s piano sonatas as case-studies, this dissertation takes Chopin’s letters and his unfinished Projet de Méthode as a starting point to propose an alternative perspective to score-based analysis: haptic analysis. The word haptic comes originally from the Greek word haptesthai which literally means to touch. Primary sources - including Chopin’s own letters, along with accounts by George Sand and Chopin’s pupils and friends - point to his reliance on the piano as the initial impetus to his compositional process. Because of this close relationship Chopin shares with the piano during his compositional process, analyses of his compositions need to take into account some sort of physicality to render a fuller insight into his compositional process.

Nevertheless, Chopin’s notated scores have typically been regarded as the encoding of an intellectual construction amenable only in part to well-developed analytical tools suitable for approaching the music of, say, Beethoven, with its performative aspects considered as an entirely separate entity. Drawing on previous studies by David Code and Eugene Montague, my haptic analysis of Chopin’s sonatas prioritizes the physical ‘feel’ of these compositions. It uncovers traces of compositional process by looking specifically at how the figurations that he develops are built incrementally and are driven by ergonomics of the hands before being shaped into something that has a thematic, harmonic and textural logic of its own. With my tools as a pianist, I reverse engineer some of Chopin’s thematic and transition materials to construct an alternative model of analysis that outlines the extent to which a physical process can lead to compositional decisions. As a practice-based research, this study will use filmed examples to further illustrate some of the haptic procedures at work.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > M Music
Departments: Doctoral Theses
[thumbnail of Haptic Analysis Xiaoyun Lim 2021.pdf] Text - Accepted Version
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