This study focuses on the relationships between music analysis, performance, and tension perception. Part 1 examines harpsichordists’ analyses and performances of an unmeasured prelude—a semi-improvisatory genre open to interpretive freedom. Twelve harpsichordists performed the Prélude non mesuré No. 7 by Louis Couperin on a harpsichord equipped with a MIDI console and submitted a formal analysis. Using a curve-fitting approach, we investigated the correspondence between analyzed segmentations and group-final lengthening. We found that harpsichordists also employed “group-final anticipation,” involving deceleration before, and acceleration through, analyzed boundaries. In Part 2, three listener groups (harpsichordists, musicians, and nonmusicians) continuously rated tension for 12 performances. In contrast to measured music, local tension peaks, rather than troughs, occurred at boundaries featuring group-final lengthening. Associations were found between global tempo and tension ratings, with significant differences among the three listener groups. Performers expressed the large-scale structure through the amount of tempo variability, which was also reflected in tension rating variability.

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