Elucidating Musical Structure through Empirical Measurement of Performance Parameters

The differences between a musical score and an instance of that music in a performance, communicates a performer’s view of the information contained in that score.
The main hypothesis in this thesis is that by measuring quantifiable parameters such as tempo, dynamics and motion from live performance, performer’s interpretation of musical structure can be detected. This will be tested for pieces
for which the structure is explicit and obvious, and then used to discover musical structure from looking at patterns of aural and visual performance parameters in performances of more ambiguously structured pieces. This thesis is in two strands. The first part covers the acquisition of multimodal parameters in piano performance. This will explore current technologies in acquiring MIDI information such as accurate onset timings and key velocities as well as motion tracking systems for measuring general body movements. A new cheap, portable and accurate system for tracking the intricacies of pianists’ finger movement is described as well as methods and tools available for analysis and visualisation of musical data. The second strand of this thesis will explore uses of these capture systems in empirically measuring performance parameters to elucidate musical structure. Two experiments follow which test the hypothesis of detecting musical structure from parameters such as tempo, dynamics and movement, before using these patterns as a basis for discovering structure in performances of the finale of Chopin’s B flat minor sonata.
Body movement is discovered as an indicator of phrasing boundaries, which when combined with the measured aural parameters provides interpretations of the performed music. Phrasing boundaries are identified correctly for the control
piece (Chopin’s Prelude in A major Op.28, No.7) and consequently for the first test piece (Chopin’s Prelude in B minor Op.28 No.6). The proceeding experiment identifies performers’ style of phrase endings through performances of the control
piece and tests them against patterns found in the second test piece (Chopin’s B Flat minor Sonata Finale). Five out of the six performers confirm the musicological hypothesis that bar 5 is not the entry of a new theme but the continuation of the
the theme beginning in bar 1.