Kinematic, Kinetic and Perceptual Analyses of Piano Performances



John Sullivan

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Catherine Massie-Laberge

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Ph.D. Thesis, McGill University


Expression is a central aspect in music performance. In order to fully understand its impact on the appreciation of the performance, it should be studied from the perspectives of the performer’s body movements and audience’ perception. Unfortunately, established pedagogical methods in classical piano rarely discuss strategies to integrate the movements
from the whole body into structural and expressive parameters of music.

This dissertation examines the interactions between the instrument, the pianist’ body movements and musical expression to help further the design of enhanced science-based pedagogical approaches to be used in piano lessons. The research proposes a systematic approach to study and analyze pianists’ body movements when performing different pieces
from the Romantic era, based on the analysis of the expressive and biomechanical aspects of the performance, as well as on the audience’ perspective. We seek to understand better: 1) the relationships between pianists’ body movements, timing strategies and structural features of contrasting Romantic excerpts in terms of technical level and character; 2) the cross-modal interaction between movements and acoustic parameters in the perception of piano performances; and finally 3) the biomechanics of upper-body movements in relation to musical expression and structural characteristics.

Publication Details:

Ph.D. Dissertation
Montreal, Canada

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