Form, Temporality, And Embodied Metaphors In Jennifer Higdon’s Sonata For Viola And Piano (1990): A Narrative Analysis



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Dream-like motives, stuttering rhythms, disjointed gestures, surprising tonal areas, and anisochronies all add to the contrasting atmospheres created by Jennifer Higdon in her Sonata for Viola and Piano (1990). These features encourage the listener, performer, and analyst to ask questions and seek out a story. In this essay I look at the first movement of the Sonata for Viola and Piano through multiple lenses: form, temporality, embodiment, and narrative. The first three stands provide the theoretical backbone of the narrative analysis. Byron Almén's seminal treatise, A Theory of Musical Narrative, serves as the foundation of the narrative theory. My approach to form theory relies primarily on the recent contributions by James Hepokoski and Warren Darcy. Their findings offer an extensive taxonomy of compositional choices as a means of understanding and interpreting the architecture of sonata forms. Concepts of temporality are drawn from the contributions of music theorists Jonathan Kramer (d. 2004) and Andrew Davis. Human element appears prevalently in Higdon’s sonata, IMAGE SCHEMAS are identified based on the research of Johnson and Lakoff. The three analytical strands—form, temporality, and embodiment—all carry the potential to recount human activity. In listening to and performing Higdon's sonata, I sense a drama told through the structures she creates. Narrative analysis is an effective approach to such a reading because it is well suited to weave together a variety of musical threads.



Viola sonata