Abstract

Visual information can contribute significantly to the opinion one makes, the meaning one ascribes, and the interpretation one derives from musical information. An ongoing series of studies has examined whether a conductor’s use of gesture in a manner considered either “expressive” or “inexpressive” affects listeners’ evaluations of an ensemble performance. Prior results have indicated that among university music students instrumental performances led by conductors deemed to be expressive were evaluated more positively than those led by inexpressive conductors even when the performances were actually identical. The purpose of the present study was to determine whether a similar response pattern would be observed (a) among younger and less experienced music students and (b) for choral performance examples, as well as (c) to compare responses against evaluations of performances presented in an audio-only condition. Students (N = 429) enrolled in secondary level music classes rated the expressivity of two pairs of two identical choral performance excerpts (four excerpts in all) using a 10-point Likerttype scale. One group (n = 274) watched a video performance of the four excerpts featuring conductors who demonstrated either high-expressivity (HE) or low-expressivity (LE) conducting techniques. There was a significant effect of conducting condition on both the conductor and choral performance evaluations. When compared with the evaluations of a second group of participants (n = 155) who heard the same excerpts presented in an audio-only format, LE performance ratings were significantly lower; there was no difference between HE and audio-only ratings.

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