Katarina Nummi-Kuisma 2010. The attunement of a pianist in performance. Intersubjective, systems and psychoanalytical view on playing a virtuoso etude. Sibelius Academy, DocMus Unit. Doctoral dissertation.

This dissertation is a material based case study about a professional pianist’s practicing process of the Etude in D# Minor opus 8 by Alexander Scriabin. It is a study on musicianship, virtuosity and creativity. The research is essentially about mapping out a pianist’s mental images about playing and performing, verbalizing them and bringing them into intersubjectivity.

The objective is to look at the pianist’s experience of playing as a bodily, multisensory event, one aim being to seek ways to make previously implicit knowledge reflective-verbal. This is done applying a sensory interview method that has been developed by the researcher in the context of mental training for artists. The focal point of the analysis is the psycho physiological attunement that is present in situations where the etude is played through without interruptions and that is essentially different from the psycho physiological state of fragmentary practicing. The research asks what this attunement is like and how it can be understood in the light of the ever crystallizing mental images and verbal accounts created in the interview situations by the pianist. The research brings essential information to the field of studying performance from an experiential standpoint.

Both the playing and the interview situations are approached and analyzed as intersubjective systems. Thus the attunement elaborates a way to function in creative processes in a systems intelligent manner. The sonorous work is seen as an aesthetic process, emerging in the situation of playing. The data is analyzed applying Daniel N. Sterns concepts of intersubjectivity, vitality forms and the present moment, as well as Julia Kristeva’s notion of the artist’s subjectivity being constantly in process. Intersubjectivity is seen as an innate capacity, continuing to exist through life as means of deep communication and understanding. Implicit ways of experiencing are seen to be ever present in an adult’s life and manifest especially in abstract, artistic processes and when verbal reflection is too slow.


Keywords: Pianist, attunement, intersubjectivity, vitality forms, systems intelligence, psychoanalysis