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Practical Implications of Dynamic Markings in the Score: Is Piano Always Piano?

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Loudness is a little understood concept within music ontology. This paper takes some first steps towards understanding the meaning and practical manifestations of expressive markings in the music score, specifically those that correspond to loudness levels - such as "p" (piano), "mf" (mezzo forte), and "ff" (fortissimo). We present results showing how the absolute meanings of dynamic markings change, depending on the intended (score defined) and projected (actual) dynamic levels of the surrounding context. The analysis of recorded performances demonstrates different manifestations of the same dynamic markings throughout a piece of music. Reasons for this phenomenon include the score location of the markings in relation to the previous consecutive ones or in relation to their position in the score, such as the ending of a piece. Also text descriptions - such as "poco" and "piu" - contribute to the diversity. Next, we propose a method for abstracting the shaping of the dynamics in score time within the performances, presenting the results as dynamic landscapes. The observations show that each performance, although unique in its own way, follows a limited number of patterns in its use of dynamics. Future applications include synthesizing more natural sounding music from MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) and transcribing expressive score markings from audio input.

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