Performance Gestures of Musicians: What Structural and Emotional Information do they Convey?



John Sullivan

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Brad Vines, Marcelo M. Wanderley, Carol Krumhansl, Regina Nuzzo, Daniel Levitin

Publication or Conference Title:

Gesture-Based Communication in Human-Computer Interaction. GW 2003. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol 2915


A. Camurri, G. Volpe


This paper investigates how expressive gestures of a professional clarinetist contribute to the perception of structure and affect in musical performance. The thirty musically trained subjects saw, heard, or both saw and heard the performance. All subjects made the same judgments including a real-time judgment of phrasing, which targeted the experience of structure, and a real-time judgment of tension, which targeted emotional experience.
In addition to standard statistical methods, techniques in the field of Functional Data Analysis were used to interpret the data. These new techniques model data drawn from continuous processes and explore the hidden structures of the data as they change over time.
Three main findings add to our knowledge of gesture and movement in music: 1) The visual component carries much of the same structural information as the audio. 2) Gestures elongate the sense of phrasing during a pause in the sound and certain gestures cue the beginning of a new phrase. 3) The importance of visual information to the experience of tension changes with certain structural features in the sound. When loudness, pitch height, and note density are relatively low, the effect of removing the visual component is to decrease the experience of tension.

Publication Details:

Conference Paper
Springer Verlag