Norges musikkhøgskole Norwegian Academy of Music
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Gjertrud Pedersen: Play and reflection

A study of an interpretation process.

Field of study: Performance Practice


The dissertation involves a study on the process of a musical interpretation of Deowa (1983) for soprano and clarinet, written by the English composer Sir Harrison Birtwistle (b. 1934), a leading composer in Europe. Although Birtwistle's music is often performed in Europe as well as in the United States, it is rarely performed in Norway. Interestingly, Deowa, which is a vocalise and the only composition Birtwistle has composed for soprano and clarinet duo, is hardly ever given any attention, either by performers or musicologists. This particular work creates thus an interesting point of departure regarding an investigation of what the process of musical interpretation entails.

In this project, Deowa is studied in relation to seven other musical works for female voice and clarinet. This includes another work by Birtwistle and music by Anton Webern, Pascal Dusapin, Bjørn Kruse and Lene Grenager, all of which are composed between 1924 and 2004. My perspective as a performing clarinettist together with my collaboration with the soprano Astrid Kvalbein creates a starting point for the present project.

Consequently, the project has two dimensions. One is based on Pedersen's experience as a clarinet player and the other is based on her theoretical reflections. Attached to the text is an audio recording of the eight musical works. Whereas these are presented side by side on the recording, Deowa constitutes the core of the written dissertation. Here the musical interpretation is investigated both in relation to the actual musical works and to the interpretation process. This creates the basis for a theoretical discussion.

The understanding of aesthetic experience as sensuous knowledge creates a basis for the dissertation. This promotes an argument to understand musical interpretation as performing, reading, listening and/or imagining music, which in turn implies a manifold and process-orientated musical understanding. The theoretical perspective taken is hermeneutic and is to a considerable extent connected to writings by Hans-Georg Gadamer, Paul Ricoeur and Umberto Eco. Gadamer’s term 'play' is given particular attention.

The dissertation

Title (translated from Norwegian): Play and reflection: a study of a process of musical interpretation of Harrison Birtwistle’s Deowa in relation to 7 other musical works for female voice and clarinet

The dissertation comprises a monograph and a recording with eight compositions for soprano and clarinet. The dissertation is available in Norwegian from NMH's digital archive Brage.

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Published: Jan 10, 2017 — Last updated: Mar 16, 2023