Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Chopin’s four Ballades — perennial favorites of audiences and performers— have proven to be problematic for analysts. At the forefront of the numerous discussions regarding their organization is an ongoing debate about their relationship to the eighteenth-century sonata, particularly if they can be understood as variants of that form or as something altogether new. It is my view that these works have tended toward the enigmatic because no one has discovered an appropriate theoretical apparatus through which to process them. In this dissertation, I view Chopin’s Ballades through a multi-tiered analytical system that draws upon three sources: the Sonata Theory of Hepokoski/Darcy, the notion of TR (transition) dysfunction, and Candace Brower’s embodied schemas for musical plot. Hepokoski/Darcy’s Sonata Theory posits the sonata process as being a goal-directed, highly-sophisticated metaphor for human action that involves musical modules with specific rhetorical purposes and prescribed generic goals. Importantly, they posit a major articulative device, the medial caesura (MC), as being an organizational focal point. Like the sonata, Chopin’s Ballades are goal-directed structures, filled with rhetorically precise modules, and hinge upon caesura activity. Additionally, they exhibit symptoms of a condition that I have termed “TR Dysfunction.” Dysfunctional TRs have difficulty achieving their goals which are to gain energy and to drive toward the MC. The Ballades also play out several of Brower’s embodied plot schemas, such as the escape-from-container schema and following- alternate pathway schema. In this dissertation, I probe the ways in which Chopin’s Ballade practice and his sonata practice intersect. I begin by examining the literature on these exciting works. I continue with a thorough examination of Chopin’s first movement sonata forms, emphasizing their modular rhetoric and TR-spaces. Finally, I analyze all four Ballades using my multivalent approach. By examining Chopin’s works in this way, new insights will be gained that shall contribute to the scholarship on his compositional strategies as well as the general understanding of other large romantic forms.
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Mitchell, Jonathan Edward, "Dialogues, dysfunctional transitions, and embodied plot schemas: (Re) considering form in Chopin's sonatas and ballades" (2012). LSU Doctoral Dissertations. 2364.