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Abstract

Nineteenth-century pianist-composers like Franz Liszt and Clara Schumann were able to practice for improvisation (and for composition) by using exemplar-based practice methods, which are described in this dissertation. Pedagogues like Friedrich Wieck and Carl Czerny published short exemplars that represented not only harmonic patterns but also common accompanimental strategies and technical flourishes. These exemplars were meant to be varied and practiced in all keys. Practice methods like these contributed to fluency in improvisation, but also in composition and sight reading. This dissertation uses tools from linguistic anthropology, literary theory, and the cognitive study of skill to describe exemplar-based practice methods of the mid-nineteenth century. The phenomena discussed in this dissertation include the unfigured thoroughbass exercise, the idiomatic "little pieces" of postclassical pianism, the piano prelude, and the excerpt collection. In describing these phenomena, it is necessary to adopt a new, practice-oriented vocabulary, widening the traditionally works-based vocabulary of music analysis. This new vocabulary makes it possible to reexamine "improvisation," which has historically been a marker of difference, conceptualized in opposition to a canonic repertory of works.

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