6.A. Modulation as Perceived by the Listener Modérateur : Ildar Khannanov

     The studies of modulation, since the 18th-century, have been focusing on techniques of part-writing, limited to written exercises and analyses of notation in the score. However, the obvious area of application of this knowledge—the actual performance and listening experience—is left, surprisingly, out of scope of many theories of modulation, old and new. The goal of this session is to start the discussion of these important aspects. In Bach’s binary form, analyzed in the first paper, the modulation from tonic to dominant takes an unexpectedly long and winding path, while the textbook suggests that it is the simplest of all modulatory techniques. In contrast with that, in the second paper the analysis of Schubert’s Unfinished symphony shows that the transition from one theme to another is shorter than expected. The psychological effect of both has to be measured against the set of cognitive constraints and specific features of short-, mid-, and long-term memory. There are two questions: how does the listener cope with the constantly changing path of modulation and how does the performer convey this information to the listener. An example of such activity is the performances of music of Medtner and Rachmaninoff written around 1917, reflected upon in the third paper. The author applies, besides psychological tools, some ideas of Eastern philosophy. This allows to provide an epistemological dimension to the discussion. The last paper adds yet another angle—that of psychoanalysis, thus enriching the discussion with the aspect, rarely applied to harmonic analysis.

Musées de la Ville de Strasbourg
Opéra National du Rhin
Conservatoire de Strasbourg