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The perception of expressive movement in music performance

Davidson, J.W. (1991). The perception of expressive movement in music performance. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City University London)


This thesis is an attempt to develop empirical methods which address the issue of body movements in music performance. The closest equivalent work is found in studies which adopt "ecological', methods, based on the theoretical approach of J. J. Gibson. Chapters 1 and 2 present this framework together with a review of related literature from a variety of perceptual studies. ,Chapter 3 presents four studies which use "point-light technique" to illuminate body joints so that pure kinematic information can be presented to observers. The results of these studies demonstrate that kinematics alone provide enough information to distinguish between different expressive manners (deadpan, projected, and exaggerated) and that the movement stimulus provides information equivalent to sound. Systematic reduction of the amount of point-light information shows certain body joints to be more significant than others in conveying performance intention. Chapter 4 presents five studies which explore quantitative and qualitative aspects of body movement in music performance in an attempt to identify those features of body movement which are expressive. A variety of techniques is used including tracking, the construction of a movement vocabulary and semantic differentials. These studies show that the perception of expressive movements is based on a complex mixture of quantitative and qualitative factors incorporating a flexible repertoire of specific movement types. Chapter 5 presents the final five studies which explore the constancy of this repertoire of movements over time and across musical styles, and investigate the organisation and origin of these movements. The techniques used in these studies range from semantic differentials to interviews with the performer. These studies show a degree of consistency in the organisation of the expressive movements across repeated performances and in different styles, and reveal that musical structure and the performer's emotional response to it are important determiners of these movements. The performer has partial knowledge of the movements he makes, and even in the context of imaginary performances, shows consistency in their locations and specific character. The final chapter presents a summary of all the empirical results and develops a framework within which they may be interpreted based on three main ideas: i) a 11centre of moment" for expressive movements; ii) a flexibly applied repertoire of movements; iii) an interaction between physical, biological and cultural factors in the establishment of this repertoire. The thesis concludes with a brief discussion of further possibilities for research in this area and the broader implications of such investigations.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > M Music
Departments: School of Communication & Creativity > Performing Arts > Music
School of Communication & Creativity > School of Communication & Creativity Doctoral Theses
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