A conductor's analysis of standard choral works applying the high challenge-skill balance dimension of flow theory
Walters, Christopher Matchette
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Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's psychological construct "flow"-a subjective state describing an individual's optimal experience and engagement during intrinsically-motivated activity-has remained influential with respect to widely divergent fields of inquiry. Review of recent literature in music psychology and music education concerned specifically with flow, or "flow theory," reveals certain aspects of musical experience, and of choral experience. However, the application of flow theory specifically to the context ofchoral music-making remains largely underdeveloped, particularly as it concerns the subjectively-perceived nature of the construct. The present document presents a conductor's analysis ofthree standard choral works in light of this subjectively-perceived nature of the high challenge-skill balance dimension of flow theory. Chapter One considers the origins of flow theory, and elaborates upon the so-called nine "dimensions" of the flow experience. Additionally, this chapter offers a review of the relevant research concerned with: flow in music learning, flow experience in group settings, and flow in choral ensembles. Chapter Two outlines the document's analytical framework, which puts forward the possibility of accounting for the subjectively-perceived nature of challenges and skills-as espoused by the most contemporary conceptions of flow theory-through the lens of identifying "salient potential challenges" in choral works. Chapter Three analyzes three standard choral works: Jean-Baptist Weckerlin's Mon coeur se recommande avous, Johannes Brahms' O schone Nacht (op. 92, no. 1), and Joseph Haydn's Te Deum (Hob. XXIIIc: 2). Salient potential challenges to be found in each piece are explored in terms of the following common analytical categories: vocal/technical challenges, tonal/rhythmic challenges, and structural awareness challenges. Chapter Four offers a concluding summary as well as suggestions for further research. Structural diagrams, and texts and translations, made available in the appendices to the document, supplement the analytical work.
Thesis (D.M.A.)--Boston University