Exploring co-performer communication

Williamon, A. and Davidson, J. W. (2002) Exploring co-performer communication. Musicae Scientiae, 6 (1) pp. 53-72. ISSN 1029-8649 (print) 2045-4147 (online)


This paper examines the development and implementation of general social and specific non-verbal communication between two expert pianists who prepared and gave a recital of piano duo and duet music. All ensemble rehearsals and the final performance were video-taped. Following the performance, the musicians were interviewed in order to document their thoughts on the learning and performance processes. From the video-taped rehearsals and performance, data concerning musical coordination, social interaction, non-verbal gestures and looking behaviour were coded and counted. The results show that these excellent sight-readers used rehearsals to consolidate the timing, phrasing and sense of musical style. Moreover, an emergent set of coordinated, non-verbal gestures and eye-contact developed, with these actions increasing significantly over the rehearsal process at locations in the music identified by the pianists as “important for coordinating performance and communicating musical ideas”. Thus, the two performers acquired a deepening expressive and communicative assurance along with a familiarisation with the musical material. The findings are discussed in relation to their implications for musical performance by highlighting the elements of co-performer interaction that were negotiated and coordinated throughout the rehearsal process.

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