Would like information about a music psychology experiment.
May 30, 2006 8:28 AM   Subscribe

When I was a music student, we had a visit from a music psychologist who worked in a conservatory in London... I think it was The Royal Academy. During her lecture, she described an experiment where performers were asked to play either with no physical movement, or with obviously physically expressive movements. The performers who had no physical movement were divided into 2 groups; one group was asked to play in an emotionally expressive way, and the other group was asked to play mechanically. The result of this experiment was that non-musicians could not tell apart the 2 groups of motionless performers, they could only tell a performer was being expressive if they could see them moving. In short, non-musicians cannot tell if a musician is playing expressively by listening alone. Musicians could of course tell the difference between all of them. I'm now a music photographer, so these findings are of huge interest to me, especially when it comes to persuading musicians just how important it is to communicate on a visual level as well as a musical one. Does anyone have any idea where I can reference this study, or anything remotely similar? Thanks!
posted by BobsterLobster to Media & Arts (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Argh! I thought all that was going to appear inside the post, I'm so sorry guys!
posted by BobsterLobster at 8:29 AM on May 30, 2006

While the below papers may not concern the exact study/results that you cite they might be helpful:I might also search, say, Google Scholar or similar engines with terms like "expressiveness music emotion performance perception" (which is how I found the above).
posted by yz at 9:16 AM on May 30, 2006

I could swear I participated in a study just like this while at FSU. You might have luck contacting the librarian of the music school and asking if any such study is on file, assuming it was part of a thesis.
posted by Sangre Azul at 9:23 AM on May 30, 2006

Interesting post, BL. Possibly off topic and yet I think not: I often include a demo in my lectures about how performer's comprehension effects perception by the audience. I take two paragraphs at random from a book and read one while paying attention only to the style of delivery, but not the meaning of the content. The other paragraph I read trying to get full comprehension as well as style (I did a lot of TV work a while back and so learned to be a "talking head").

While hardly scientific, it never failed that the audience would report that they only could recall the reading which included my comprehension. The other paragraph seemed to vanish quickly from their recall. While it might be argued that the comprehension altered the affect and expression in subtle ways, that is precisely the point. However it happened, the communication was substantially altered. (This says a lot about news readers. Perhaps the common addiction to news programs relies on how quickly the news "hit" subsides, necessitating a return to the program in order to feel informed. I suspect that channels like CNN understand this and exacerbate the distraction with visuals that have little to do with content and the crawls across the bottom of the screen.)

As to your music question, one might wonder whether comprehension of the music; structure, form, themes, etc. might have the same effect. Musicians would connect to such elements as they are comprehended by the performer, but non-musicians would not.
posted by RMALCOLM at 11:03 AM on May 30, 2006

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