The phenomenology of performance: exploring musicians' perceptions and experiences

Clark, T. and Williamon, A. and Lisboa, T. (2007) The phenomenology of performance: exploring musicians' perceptions and experiences. In: International Symposium on Performance Science 2007, 22-23 November 2007, Portugal.


The present study explored musicians’ perceptions and experiences in performance. Specifically, four areas were investigated: (1) the different types of preparation and pre-performance routines in which musicians engage, (2) musicians’ thoughts and perceptions of both themselves and their environment while performing, (3) the musical, psychological, and non-musical skills deemed essential for success, including the means by which such skills are acquired, and (4) the types of demands and stressors that musicians face, along with the strategies they employ to manage them. Thirteen student and professional musicians were interviewed. Content analysis was performed using Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis which elicited three general themes: motivation, preparation, and performance experiences. Differences emerged between experienced and less experienced musicians in terms of the breadth and scope of preparation activities for the more experienced musicians. Greater similarities between the participants were found when discussing factors surrounding successful and less successful performances. Successful performances were often connected with feelings of sufficient preparation, positive mindsets, and presented a high yet attainable level of challenge, while less successful performances appeared linked with inadequate preparation, negative mental outlooks, frustration, and lack of enjoyment during the performance itself.

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