Gestural communication of music structure during solo classical piano performance

Buck, Bryony (2016) Gestural communication of music structure during solo classical piano performance. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The production and perception of music is a multimodal activity involving auditory, visual and conceptual processing, integrating these with prior knowledge and environmental experience. Musicians utilise expressive physical nuances to highlight salient features of the score. The question arises within the literature as to whether performers’ non-technical, non-sound-producing movements may be communicatively meaningful and convey important structural information to audience members and co-performers. In the light of previous performance research (Vines et al., 2006, Wanderley, 2002, Davidson, 1993), and considering findings within co-speech gestural research and auditory and audio-visual neuroscience, this thesis examines the nature of those movements not directly necessary for the production of sound, and their particular influence on audience perception.
Within the current research 3D performance analysis is conducted using the Vicon 12- camera system and Nexus data-processing software. Performance gestures are identified as repeated patterns of motion relating to music structure, which not only express phrasing and structural hierarchy but are consistently and accurately interpreted as such by a perceiving audience. Gestural characteristics are analysed across performers and performance style using two Chopin preludes selected for their diverse yet comparable structures (Opus 28:7 and 6). Effects on perceptual judgements of presentation modes (visual-only, auditory-only, audiovisual, full- and point-light) and viewing conditions are explored.
This thesis argues that while performance style is highly idiosyncratic, piano performers reliably generate structural gestures through repeated patterns of upper-body movement. The shapes and locations of phrasing motions are identified particular to the sample of performers investigated. Findings demonstrate that despite the personalised nature of the gestures, performers use increased velocity of movements to emphasise musical structure and that observers accurately and consistently locate phrasing junctures where these patterns and variation in motion magnitude, shape and velocity occur. By viewing performance motions in polar (spherical) rather than cartesian coordinate space it is possible to get mathematically closer to the movement generated by each of the nine performers, revealing distinct patterns of motion relating to phrasing structures, regardless of intended performance style. These patterns are highly individualised both to each performer and performed piece. Instantaneous velocity analysis indicates a right-directed bias of performance motion variation at salient structural features within individual performances.

Perceptual analyses demonstrate that audience members are able to accurately and effectively detect phrasing structure from performance motion alone. This ability persists even for degraded point-light performances, where all extraneous environmental information has been removed. The relative contributions of audio, visual and audiovisual judgements demonstrate that the visual component of a performance does positively impact on the over- all accuracy of phrasing judgements, indicating that receivers are most effective in their recognition of structural segmentations when they can both see and hear a performance. Observers appear to make use of a rapid online judgement heuristics, adjusting response processes quickly to adapt and perform accurately across multiple modes of presentation and performance style. In line with existent theories within the literature, it is proposed that this processing ability may be related to cognitive and perceptual interpretation of syntax within gestural communication during social interaction and speech.
Findings of this research may have future impact on performance pedagogy, computational analysis and performance research, as well as potentially influencing future investigations of the cognitive aspects of musical and gestural understanding.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Music perception, music performance analysis, motion capture, point-light displays, polar coordinates, audio-visual integration, gestural communication.
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
M Music and Books on Music > M Music
Colleges/Schools: College of Science and Engineering > School of Engineering
Funder's Name: Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
Supervisor's Name: Bailey, Dr. Nicholas
Date of Award: 2016
Depositing User: Ms Bryony Buck
Unique ID: glathesis:2016-7452
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 24 Jun 2016 09:07
Last Modified: 27 Jun 2016 12:50

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