Performing Metrical Dissonances

Harald Krebs

in Fantasy Pieces

Published in print April 1999 | ISBN: 9780195116236
Published online May 2008 | e-ISBN: 9780199871308 | DOI:
Performing Metrical Dissonances

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This chapter offers a number of suggestions to performers of metrically dissonant music. It is important for performers to be aware of the location and scope of metrical dissonances in the works they perform. Exercises such as the isolation and independent practicing of individual layers, and the creation of hypothetical consonant versions of given passages, will help performers to become familiar with the structure of such passages, and to negotiate them successfully. It is not usually necessary to accentuate layers that are out of alignment with the notated meter (since they will stand out without such “bringing out”). It may, on the other hand, be wise to apply subtle stresses to the layers that form the notated meter (in passages where those layers receive little or no accentuation by register, density, dynamics, etc.). In subliminally dissonant passages (where the notated meter receives absolutely no confirmation, and the music is locally consonant), the performer could communicate the underlying dissonance with various physical gestures. Performers must communicate the meaning of metrically dissonant passages. They must feel the waves of tension and relaxation created by metrical dissonances and their resolutions, and convey them to the audience. Imagining a narrative might be helpful to the performer in achieving convincing communication of the emotional content of metrically dissonant passages.

Keywords: performance; exercises; practice; gesture; communication; narrative

Chapter.  4335 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Music Theory and Analysis

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