Quantifying Karajan: Timing, Dynamics and Harmonic Tension

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Music performance is ephemeral, its experience passing. Trying to capture this transitory phenomenon, to hold it still for reasoning and analysis—to decipher the code of music at its source, at the point where ideas morph to sounds—has been the holy grail of music understanding for many decades. Advances in technology has meant that hitherto hidden details of performance can now be readily quantified for systematic scrutiny. Here, my goal is to probe what these numeric representations can reveal about the nature of the decisions that enter into performance, beyond the rise and fall of these quantities or their simple statistics. What can these numbers tell us about the performer’s choices? And what might be some guiding principles when using the numbers to decode performance? How can we go from the facts to deeper understanding of what it is the performer knows that has informed their particular decisions? To investigate these questions, I shall use as examples Herbert von Karajan’s recordings of Grieg’s Solveig’s Song with the Berlin Philharmonic and the Vienna Philharmonic, and those of others.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication"Seine ganze Musikdeutung geht ja vom Klang aus". Musikalische Interpretation bei Herbert von Karajan
EditorsKlaus Aringer, Peter Revers, Thomas Wozonig
Place of PublicationHildesheim
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-487-42374-6
ISBN (Print)978-3-487-16063-4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2023


  • performance science
  • musical prosody
  • knowledge representation
  • data science


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