Expert ensemble musicians’ synchronization with expert conductors’ gestures

Geoff P.B. Luck & Petri Toiviainen

University of Jyväskylä, Finland

Previous work suggests that the perception of a visual beat in conductors’ gestures is related to certain physical characteristics of the movements they produce, most notably to periods of acceleration. These findings are based on studies which have presented participants with somewhat simple gestures, and in which participants have been required to simply tap in time with the beat. Thus, it is not clear how generalizable these findings are to real-world conducting situations, in which a conductor uses considerably more complex gestures to direct an ensemble of musicians playing actual instruments. The aim of the present study was to develop previous work by recording the gestures of conductors directing an ensemble, and the performance of the ensemble musicians, and subsequently examine the features of the gestures with which the musicians synchronized their performance.

An optical motion capture system was used to record the gestures of 4 expert conductors directing an ensemble of expert musicians. The conductors were members of the conducting class at the Sibelius Academy, Finland, and all were in the early stages of their professional careers. The ensemble they directed was comprised of Sibelius Academy instrumentalists and singers. In addition to the conductors’ gestures, the auditory performance of the ensemble was recorded, and synchronized with the motion capture data.

A total of 117 spectro-temporal and movement-related features were then extracted computationally from the audio and motion-capture data. These features measured a broad range of instantaneous, windowed, and global characteristics of the two types of data. Relationships between the spectro-temporal features of the ensemble’s performance and the physical characteristics of the conductors’ gestures were subsequently examined.

Initial results indicate that there were relationships between the spectro-temporal features of the ensemble’s performance and physical characteristics of the conductors’ gestures. More details of these findings will be presented at the conference.