Choristers’ Perceptions of Laban-based Conducting Gestures
Huntleigh, Amanda Grizzle
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This study evaluated the perceptual accuracy of choristers with no conducting training when identifying Laban Movement Analysis-based gestural qualities. The larger research imperative addressed identifying the qualities most salient to choristers. The participants rated Effort Elements in 96 conducting gestures covering 8 different configurations of Laban's Action Drive - Dab, Flick, Slash, Punch, Press, Wring, Glide, and Float, and I compared their scores with a group of Laban-trained conducting participants for analysis. Each configuration of Action Drive contains one Element of each conducting movement Factor: Time, Weight, and Space. Time is the perceptible speed of a gesture, unconnected to musical tempo, and it exists on a continuum between Quick and Sustained Effort Elements; Weight is the strength or force of a gesture, and it exists on a continuum between Light and Strong Effort Elements; Space is the honed or diffuse focus of a gesture, and it exists on a continuum between Direct and Indirect Effort Elements. The null hypotheses stated that 1) there would be no difference among ratings of the Laban Effort Factors of Time, Weight, or Space between these choristers (Novice, n = 21) and Laban-trained conductors (Laban, n = 24), and 2) that all participants would rate gestures more accurately than chance. Chi-square tests of independence revealed a significant difference based upon group membership for the Time ([χ2 (1, n = 1408) = 51.19, p < .017]) and Space ([χ2 (1, n = 1440) = 13.18, p < .017]) Factors, with no difference for the Weight Factor. Results also indicated that both Time and Weight were identified with reasonable accuracy by Novice (83% and 92%, respectively) and Laban groups (85% and 89%, respectively); Space was not accurately identified by either group (Novice, 50%; Laban, 59%). Results showed that while Laban-based conducting training improved Laban-based observation accuracy, participants without training correctly identified some components of expressive gesture. These findings could function as a basis for streamlining gestures in rehearsal when choristers are responding inconsistently, or to guide musical changes during a performance. The study left unanswered the role of the Space Factor, since the inconsistent perception across both participant groups implied that it is too complicated, multi-faceted, or personal, for consistent perception in silent video examples. Additionally, the results offered a framework for continued Laban-based conducting research.
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