The Relationship between Ancillary Gestures and Musical Phrase Organization: Application to Flute Performance



John Sullivan

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Thais Fernandes Santos

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D.Mus Thesis, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais


The process through which musical communication occurs varies broadly. Empirical researchers have shown evidence that performers consciously manipulate different acoustical parameters,with the goal of expressing their ideas to the audience and other musicians. The physical gestures produced by players during their performance are other aspects that have been observed by a broad group of researchers. Although body movements are essential to the sound production of the instrument, gestures, in many cases, are closely related to the musicians artistic intentions. The term ancillary gestures designates those gestures that are part of performance but are not intended to produce sound. Ancillary movements appear along with musical performance and, consequently, assume the intentionality of communication. In this study, we observe musical phrase boundaries through the analysis of physical gestures. Considering that motion is associated with musical communication, our hypothesis is that gestures can express the way which performers understand musical structure and convey the direction of a musical phrase. For this reason, we designed an experiment involving four professional utists who were asked to play in three experimental conditions, four times each: (1) playing solo, (2) playing following a previous recording of the clarinet, (3) performing in duet with a recording of the bassoon. The motion and audio of utists performances were analyzed to evaluate the relationship between physical gestures and musical phrase organization. The results point to a complex interrelationship between musicians gestures and the manipulation of acoustical parameters through which performers express their interpretative intentions. This work also demonstrates that ancillary movements are not random, given that they are recurrent and stable in all experimental conditions. The methodology presented in this study can be used in future works assuming ancillary gestures as a result of the process of musical thinking.

Publication Details:

Ph.D. Dissertation
Belo Horizonte, Brazil