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Embodied Meanings in Beethoven's Last Three Piano Sonatas

Opp. 109, 110, and 111



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Embodied Meanings in Beethoven's Last Three Piano Sonatas by Teng Morton Wan
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This dissertation, "Embodied Meanings in Beethoven's Last Three Piano Sonatas: Opp. 109, 110, and 111" by Teng, Morton, Wan, 万騰, was obtained from The University of Hong Kong (Pokfulam, Hong Kong) and is being sold pursuant to Creative Commons: Attribution 3.0 Hong Kong License. The content of this dissertation has not been altered in any way. We have altered the formatting in order to facilitate the ease of printing and reading of the dissertation. All rights not granted by the above license are retained by the author. Abstract: The experience of transcendence associated with Beethoven's late piano sonatas continually elicits intellectual responses that endeavor to articulate the ineffable experience so often ascribed to the music. Such endeavors have largely engaged our Platonizing intellect and focused on the irregularities in their formal construction. There are, however, other vital qualities in these works that are as intriguing and important as Beethoven's acknowledged innovations in musical style and form that remain unaccounted for by the existing paradigms of musical analysis. A significant gamut of those qualities are subverbal and sub-intellectual, stemming from a first-person, psychosomatic experience of playing and listening to the music. Though concealed under formal analyses, they give the late Beethoven a distinct profile both to the ears and in the body, which becomes doubly significant considering the composer's auditory impairment. To grapple with the sonatas from the body, therefore, promises to report on some of the previously unvarnished truths about the creative process and aesthetic renewal in Beethoven's late style. By scrutinizing the embodied experience the sonatas elicit-or analyzing from the body-this study aims to explore the interplays between speculative metaphysics and descriptive phenomenology, meaning and meaningful-ness, and the symbolic and the real in order to appropriate these challenging works of art in compliance with their invariably psychosomatic nature. With a methodology that balances history, theory, analysis, and criticism, the study begins in Chapter 1 by displacing the outmoded yet prevalent mind-centered ontology of music by invoking Henri Bergson and Maurice Merleau-Ponty's theories of embodied cognition. Chapter 2 re-historicizes the expansive concept of "embodied sound" within Beethoven reception relative to his deafness and his perceived image as a keyboardist, in an attempt to shift the analytic paradigm away from the prevailing concept of "tone image" and probe into the dynamic circuit between the analytical and the sensorial. In light of this body-centered paradigm, the last three piano sonatas are analyzed in Chapters 3 through 5. The analyses throw into relief our embodied consciousness in the perception of musical form at different levels, opening up a new horizon on issues such as closure, texture, poesis, narrativity, and temporality. Ultimately, within this largely phenomenological framework, this study interrogates the acknowledged philosophical potential in Beethoven's late sonatas in association with a personal, sensorial, and embodied ontology, intimating a synthesis between interpretation and identification and vindicating the notion of "music as philosophy experienced" espoused by Theodor Adorno in his study of Beethoven's late style.
Release date NZ
January 26th, 2017
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Country of Publication
United States
colour illustrations
Open Dissertation Press
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