What Does the Visual Information Contained in Music Performances Offer the Observer? Some Preliminary Thoughts

  • Jane W. Davidson


Most psychological investigations of music performances have focused on the musical sound, largely ignoring the role of body movements. Exception is found in the writings of Gabrielsson (1985), Jackendoff (1988), and Todd (in press). It is perhaps the work by Shaffer (1980, 1982, 1984), however, which has provided some of the most systematic study of the performer’s movements. Although the work takes a motor programming perspective and examines only the durations of key presses in piano performances, it demonstrates that at least part of the pianist’s body — in this case the fingers — physically shapes the expressive profile of a performance. The work reveals that this expression has two major components: (1) timing variations away from the metric pulse of the musical rhythm that are inevitable features of motor programming; (2) other timing profile variations which are flexible in note production. These flexible timing features are themselves integrated into the motor program, but are timing effects specifically intended to enhance the musical effect.


Classical Music Music Performance Emotional Quality Musical Sound Musical Expression 
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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1995

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  • Jane W. Davidson

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