Skilled ensemble musicians coordinate with high precision, even when improvising or interpreting loosely defined notation. Successful coordination is supported primarily through shared attention to the musical output; however, musicians also interact visually, particularly when the musical timing is irregular. This study investigated the performance conditions that encourage visual signaling and interaction between ensemble members. Piano and clarinet duos rehearsed a new piece as their body motion was recorded. Analyses of head movement showed that performers communicated gesturally following held notes. Gesture patterns became more consistent as duos rehearsed, though consistency dropped again during a final performance given under no-visual-contact conditions. Movements were smoother and interperformer coordination was stronger during irregularly timed passages than elsewhere in the piece, suggesting heightened visual interaction. Performers moved more after rehearsing than before, and more when they could see each other than when visual contact was occluded. Periods of temporal instability and increased familiarity with the music and co-performer seem to encourage visual interaction, while specific communicative gestures are integrated into performance routines through rehearsal. We propose that visual interaction may support successful ensemble performance by affirming coordination throughout periods of temporal instability and serving as a social motivator to promote creative risk-taking.
Moving to Communicate, Moving to Interact: Patterns of Body Motion in Musical Duo Performance
This research was supported by Austrian Science Fund (FWF) grant P29427, and European Research Council (ERC) grant 670035 (project “Con Espressione”), under the EU's Horizon 2020 Framework Programme. We are grateful to Manuel Gangl for his help with arranging the duet for clarinets, to Ayrin Moradi, Anna Pudziow, and Martin Bonev for their assistance with participant recruitment and data collection, and to our musician participants for their time and effort.
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Laura Bishop, Carlos Cancino-Chacón, Werner Goebl; Moving to Communicate, Moving to Interact: Patterns of Body Motion in Musical Duo Performance. Music Perception 1 September 2019; 37 (1): 1–25. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/mp.2019.37.1.1
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