Quantifying the Use of Dynamics in Western Keyboard Music: Lessons and Problems

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Empirical Musicology Review

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Ladinig and Huron’s (2010) investigation of the relationship between mode (major-minor) and dynamics in Classical and Romantic piano music indicated higher levels of dynamics for compositions from the Classical period but only in major-mode pieces. This was contrary to the expectation that minor mode pieces from the Romantic era would be louder because romantic composers may have intended to convey seriousness, passion or even aggression, rather than sadness. Although the methodology was carefully crafted to enable necessary control for a quantitative study, it also contributed to the questionable relevance of the results. It is arguable whether the chosen repertoire is typical, whether initial markings in the score have a true bearing on the dynamic characteristics of a piece and whether notated dynamics are reliable data due to historical notation conventions and later editorial practices.



dynamics, minor mode, editing, music historiography, Romantic music


Empirical Musicology Review, v5 n3 (July 2010), pp 112-114