The study strives to establish a new understanding of the creative dimension of musical performance and can be seen as part of the recent move towards a more performance-based approach to musicology. Focusing principally on 78rpm flute recordings made between 1900 and 1950, and, more specifically, on the unique features of the French School of flute playing, the research takes a historical perspective and examines how the strategies used by performers to generate expressivity have changed over time. To this end, it considers cognitive and perceptual issues concerning the particular qualities which render a performance expressively meaningful. By using software for sound analysis and considering both scholars and practitioners alike as potential beneficiaries of the research, the thesis develops strategies for discussing three major factors to be taken into account in the study of performance, namely tone colour, vibrato and timing.
New methods are developed and existing methods applied for discussing the data collected and for evaluating the expressive qualities of performances. These methods include an examination of the metaphorical image of gestures as a key towards understanding emotional communication in performance; the application of principles derived from the study of expressivity in emotional speech as a framework for understanding the mechanisms which generate musical expressivity; and the development of analytic strategies for assessing the elusive concepts of motion and directionality in performance.
Finally, the thesis examines the extent to which written evidence can be usefully applied in the study of performance by reviewing methods and treatises originating in the period studied and cross-referencing written and recorded sources.