Motion Analysis of Romantic Piano Performances



John Sullivan


In the process of learning and practicing a piece of music, musicians acquire a familiarity with the excerpt, and interiorize their personal interpretation of what the music tells them and how it guides their body movements. This process is also very important since it will be reflected in the perception and appreciation of audience members. This project seeks to understand how structural characteristics of technically demanding pieces of the Romantic repertoire impact a pianist’s QoM and force that is applied to the stool when he/she plays with varied musical intentions.

A 3D motion capture Qualisys system along with non-intrusive reflective markers allow us to track with great accuracy pianists’ fast and skilfull movements (i.e. fingers and upper body) in order to understand the relationships between their movements and the sound parameters. Other parameters are also captured simultaneously, such as weight distribution and force applied on the piano stool, sound parameters (MIDI and acoustic), and video. The system is used to analyze the body movements of performing pianists which offers an insight into how they rely on movements to convey expressive information, and create a motion database that can be further used to design new pedagogical tools. This software could be helpful in the context of instrumental lessons to help student-performers develop accurate awareness of their movements and make relationships between their gestures and the sound.

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