Visualising Musical Structure through Performance Gesture

A musical performance is seen as the performer’s interpretation of a musical score, illuminating the interaction between the musical structure and implied emotive character. It has been demonstrated that performers’ physical gestures correlate with structural and emotional aspects of the piece they are performing and that this information can be decoded by an audience when presented with a visual-only performance.

This paper investigates the relationship between direction of physical movement and underlying musical structures. The Vicon motion capture system is used to record 3D movements made by nine university-level pianists performing Chopin preludes op.28 Nos 6 and 7. The examination of several pianists provides insight into the similarity and differences in gestures between performers and how these relate to structure.

Principal Component Analysis (PCA) of these performances and consequent analysis of variance reveals a relationship between extrema of the first six significant components and timing of phrasing structure in Prelude 7 where motion troughs consistently lag behind the occurence of phrase boundaries in the audio. This relationship is then examined for Prelude 6 which encompasses longer, expanded phrases and changes in rhythm. These expanded phrases are associated with elongated or split gestures, and variations of the motif with changes in movement.