Compositional technique and phenomenological categories of perception in the Passacaglia of Shostakovich's Symphony No. 8

Title: Compositional technique and phenomenological categories of perception in the Passacaglia of Shostakovich's Symphony No. 8
Source document: Musicologica Brunensia. 2017, vol. 52, iss. 2, pp. 95-108
  • ISSN
    1212-0391 (print)
    2336-436X (online)
Type: Article
License: Not specified license

Notice: These citations are automatically created and might not follow citation rules properly.

This article is an attempt to apply several fundamental phenomenological concepts regarding the perception of sound, and music in particular, to the analysis of a concrete musical composition, the Passacaglia of Dmitriy Shostakovich's Symphony No. 8. We aim at exploring the underlying compositional structures that determine how a musical composition presents itself to consciousness, and how it is perceived. An approach is used that combines the views of two of the most prominent researchers in the field of phenomenology of music, F. Joseph Smith and Don Ihde. Our main concern is the structure of primary perceptions and how the latter are intended as a unified phenomenon (akoumenon). A specifically descriptive method is used to analyze the way in which the music presents itself to us acoustically and how we perceive it as sounding in time. After that reference is made to techniques of composition used to mediate and achieve the described sounding. As a result our research has revealed a deliberately structured dialectical play of awakened retentions, of fulfilled and unfulfilled protentions, a play with intentionality, touching upon the most subtle mechanisms of perception. The current research has also shown that the categories of musical composition and dramaturgy reflect an underlying dramaturgy of phenomenological categories of perception related to the listener's intentionality. These categories include shifts in the focal-fringe ratio, as the focus of intentionality narrows or broadens in accordance with the auditory field of the music it is intending. They also include shifts between different focal cores as such that we have called regional shifts of focus. On a more fundamental level regional shifts of focus occur between various musical parameters, such as rhythm, tonalitymodality, orchestration, melody, timbre, playing technique. Also, the bidimensional character of sound makes it possible for the noetic act to shift its focus between the roundish and the directional dimensions of the auditory field-shape of the music intended. Finally, we have shown how musical time is thematized as a region of intentional focus by way of a desynchronization of various layers of the polyphonic textures within the framework of the fundamental repetitive structure of the Passacaglia. Shostakovich forms three processes of desynchronization within each of the work's three parts (exposition, development, and recapitulation), each of which starts with a synchronization of the musical material and its layers.
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