The Perception of Movement through Musical Sound: Towards a Dynamical Systems Theory of Music Performance
Date of Completion
Kerry L. Marsh
Field of Study
Doctor of Philosophy
Performers’ ancillary body movements, which are generally thought to support sound-production, appear to be related to musical structure and musical expression. Uncovering systematic relationships has, however, been difficult. Researchers have used the framework of embodied gestures, adapted from language research, to categorize and analyze performer’s movements. I have taken a different approach, conceptualizing ancillary movements as continuous actions in space-time within a dynamical systems framework. The framework predicts that the movements of the performer will be complexly, but systematically, related to the musical movement and that listeners will be able to hear both the metaphorical motion implied by the musical structure and the real movements of the performer. In three experiments, I adapted a set of statistical, time-series, and dynamical systems tools to music performance research to examine these predictions. In Experiment 1, I used force plate measurements to examine the postural sway of two trombonists playing two solo pieces with different musical structures in different expressive styles (normal, expressive, non-expressive). In Experiment 2, I recorded the postural sway of listeners as they listened to the performances recorded in Experiment 1 while “conducting” them. In Experiment 3, I asked the same two performers to mirror the expression of their own and the other musician’s performances while their postural sway was recorded. Experiment 1 showed that performers changed their patterns of movement to reflect musical boundaries (places of change in musical structure), but did so differently depending the larger musical context, showing a complex, but systematic relationship between the musical structure, expression, and movement. Further, Experiment 1 showed that ancillary movements are not ancillary, but an intimate part of the creative process which produces musical performance. Experiment 2 and 3 showed that listeners and performers, when asked to mirror the expression of the recorded performance, mirrored both the real movements of performers as well as the metaphorical motion implied by the musical structure. This dissertation provides a new framework for the study of musical performance that treats the body as an important factor in the both the creation and experience of listening to music.
Demos, Alexander P., "The Perception of Movement through Musical Sound: Towards a Dynamical Systems Theory of Music Performance" (2013). Doctoral Dissertations. 155.