Experimental study of the musician / instrument interaction in the case of the concert harp



John Sullivan

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Delphine Chadefaux, Jean-Loïc Le Carrou, Benoît Fabre, Marcelo M. Wanderley, Laurent Daudet

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Acoustique et Techniques – Trimestriel d'information des professionnels de l'acoustique


Over the years, a trained musician develops the ability to produce a sound as desired: the player’s gestures are precisely executed in order to control each note. In the case of the concert harp, a previous study had underlined the characteristics of string plucking, both highly reproducible and player-specific. However, the whole harpist’s body is obviously also involved in a musical performance. Therefore, the present paper investigates the player/harp interaction, by characterizing the musical gestures in relation to the musical interpretation. We have captured the motion of three skilled harpists playing an excerpt of Debussy’s Danse Profane, using a motion tracking system
based on infrared cameras with acoustical measured synchronously. A set of kinematic and dynamic descriptors has been extracted from the collected data. They provide features of instrumental gestures (directly related to the sound production) and ancillary gestures (not directly involved in the sound production). Results indicate that the
posture strategy is of great importance for harpists, and a correlation is made between the harpist gestural behavior and harp teachers recommendations. It is also shown that harpists perform remarkably reproducible gestures related to her/his musical strategy.

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