Questions of Gesture and Sound: Temporal Interactions in Conducted Ensembles a Multiple Study Dissertation
Meals, Cory DeWitt
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Introduction: The purpose of this dissertation is to contribute to the body of research that has investigated conducting in musical contexts, especially instrumental ensembles. This dissertation contains three papers on the topic of conducting, including one literature review and two quantitative studies. While the central focus of this dissertation is instrumental ensemble conducting, the manifestations of entrainment and the performer’s interactions with aural and visual stimuli emerge as consistent themes throughout. A brief summary of each paper in the dissertation is provided below. Paper One: This review contextualizes empirical literature and existing conducting pedagogy, focusing on the role of the conductor in ensemble coordination and expressive communication. The paper organizes its findings thematically, highlighting the conductor’s twin roles of coordination and expressivity through gesture. Through synthesis of research and pedagogical literature, I highlight that both conductor and ensemble are responsible for ensemble coordination and cohesion through the interlinked processes of visual and aural entrainment. The paper also provides implications for conducting pedagogues, practitioners, and future music researchers. Paper Two: The purpose of this study is to investigate the nature of ensemble response to conductor gesture from a temporal perspective. I examine the general tendencies of sonic offset from conductor gesture, as well as differences between ensemble type (orchestra, wind band), ensemble experience level (beginner, intermediate, advanced), and development over time. Findings reveal a general tendency for ensembles to lag behind the conductor’s gesture, but I identify that this lag is dynamic and demonstrates change between ensembles, between experience levels, and over the course of a selected excerpt. Additionally, I identify performance tempo and phrase structure as contributing factors in the variance observed. PaperThree: Thedissertationauthoristheprimaryauthorofthispaper,joinedbyco-authors Steven J. Morrison and Deborah H. Confredo. The purpose of this study is to investigate the role of action-sound congruence on perceptions of conductor efficacy. Through a quasi-experimental design, musicians (N = 110) evaluated ten videos of conductors during concert performance. Some of these videos were manipulated to offset audio and video by percentage of the ensemble's tempo (no offset, ±15%, ±30%) that would not register as unsynchronized with viewers. The videos appeared in one of five fully-crossed stimuli orders for evaluation. Participants evaluated offset of any kind as negative when compared with unaltered performance and identified greater offset values as more negative overall. Within this study conductor evaluations were generally more negative than ensemble evaluations.
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