Transfer of meaning from the educator to the student in piano interpretation within the framework of the constructionist perspective

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Rast Müzikoloji Dergisi, vol.11, no.2, pp.197-212, 2023 (Scopus) identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 11 Issue: 2
  • Publication Date: 2023
  • Doi Number: 10.12975/rastmd.20231122
  • Journal Name: Rast Müzikoloji Dergisi
  • Journal Indexes: Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.197-212
  • Keywords: Beethoven, Chopin, constructionist perspective, meaning, piano interpretation, Rachmaninoff
  • Anadolu University Affiliated: Yes


This research analyzes the concept of meaning from a constructionist perspective. From this perspective, while trying to determine how meaning is constructed and conveyed in piano interpretation, the study determined three different categories of meaning as a framework. One can list these categories as aesthetic meaning, symbolic meaning, and pragmatic meaning. In the aesthetic meaning category, music is essentially analyzed in terms of its formal qualities, that is, its immutable characteristics as indicated on the note. Researchers who analyze music based on this category often argue that music carries its meaning. The second category, symbolic meaning, refers to the symbolic meanings attributed to music in relation to the cultural context to which it belongs. Within the framework of this category of meaning, people also consider music in terms of its aesthetic qualities, but the focus is the meanings attributed to music by individuals or societies. The third and final category, pragmatic meaning, is directly related to how one uses music. Within the framework of pragmatic meaning, people base music analysis on the functional uses of music, and they analyze the other two categories accordingly. Here, in line with the brief definitions of the categories of meaning, this study examines the construction and transfer of meaning in piano interpretation with examples from selected works by Ludwig van Beethoven, Frederic Chopin, and Sergei Rachmaninoff. Beethoven’s No. 23 Piano Sonata “Appassionata” is characterized by the concept of contrast based on the fate motif; Chopin’s Op. 31, No. 2 Scherzo is characterized by serenity and calmness; and Rachmaninoff’s Op. 33 Etude No. 8 is characterized based on fairytale-like storytelling. These examples, interpreted according to the requirements of notation and edition, do not vary fundamentally because there is no information on the notes that contribute to the interpretation and explain the subject of the piece. However, the information we have about the composers’ works has shown us that more meaning can be attributed to the work beyond the interpretation suggestions on the notation. These attributed meanings act as a suggestion for the interpreter. However, since interpretation is directly related to the individual’s qualities, these examples of suggestive meaning do not have a given and fixed structure; they vary from person to person.