AUTHORS: Thaís Fernandes Santos; Cristina Capparelli Gerling

ABSTRACT: Music Performance involves a series of actions aiming at the expression of ideas to an audience and establishing a reliable system of communication with other musicians in ensemble playing.

The planning and the act of performing might include the adjustment of acoustical parameters between participants, which, in turn, might directly impact the communication of musical intentions. The body movements of musicians form an integral part of instrumental sound production, therefore ancillary gestures are part and parcel of a musical performance, considering that they are a source of communicative intentionality.

Previously, we´ve pointed out the relationship between ancillary movements and the “process of thinking” understood as the means to organize musical ideas and the projections of phrases and sections of a work.

During the planning stage, musicians tend to select segments, try them out and do multiple repeats until a musical passage/work is considered acceptable. Nevertheless, before reaching the desired result, musicians usually reject many trials identified as plainly mistaken or unsatisfactorily performed.

This experiment discusses the investigation of ancillary gestures, precisely the head movements of pianists during the learning process. We analyzed different sets of gestures, the ones accepted by the participants and the ones participants either interrupted playing before completing the task or rejected on account of intervening mistakes. We observed the head trajectory movements of the participants under these three conditions.

This experiment involved seven pianists, each playing four musical segments requiring varying levels of expertise. Sound and motions were captured in each trial. At the completion of each task, the pianist was asked for approval or rejection, thus making it possible to classify the approved takes as well as the rejected ones by reason of interruptions or mistakes. We obtained 90 takes in all.

Data was analyzed for sound and movement according to three differing conditions 1) The pianist approved the result; 2) The pianist perceived inadequacies and reject the result and 3) A mistake was considered a mistrial, and the task was interrupted. Ancillary gestures were then observed in two dimensions.

For this sample, results confirm our hypothesis concerning the relationship between musicians’ movements and their thinking processes. Gestures reflect the mental organization of musical ideas shown by the head movement profiles for both the satisfactory and unsatisfactory takes. Although results show similar trajectory profiles, the gestural amplitude is frequently affected. In comparison with satisfactory performances, unsatisfactory ones tend to exhibit trajectories with restricted amplitude.

Considering the relationship between the organization of musical phrases and ancillary gestures, we’ve hypothesized that while mistakes resulting from faulty technique do not seem to affect the trajectory profile, it did affect their amplitude. Considering gestural amplitude as a significant variable, we propose that embodied gestures function as sensorial gauges; that is, the temporal and spatial projection of the body in movement during a performance is used as a sensory gauge and a tool for communication of musical ideas.

PUBLICATION TYPE: Conference Paper – International Symposium on Performance Science, Montreal, 2021.

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