Moving to Music While Performing

Exp Brain Res 2013 Feb 8
Temporal guidance of musicians’ performance movement is an acquired skill

Rodger MW, O’Modhrain S, Craig CM
School of Psychology, Queen’s University Belfast, David Keir Building, 18-30 Malone Road, Belfast, BT9 5BN, UK.

The ancillary (non-sounding) body movements made by expert musicians during performance have been shown to indicate expressive, emotional, and structural features of the music to observers, even if the sound of the performance is absent. If such ancillary body movements are a component of skilled musical performance, then it should follow that acquiring the temporal control of such movements is a feature of musical skill acquisition. This proposition is tested using measures derived from a theory of temporal guidance of movement, “General Tau Theory” (Lee in Ecol Psychol 10:221-250, 1998; Lee et al. in Exp Brain Res 139:151-159, 2001), to compare movements made during performances of intermediate-level clarinetists before and after learning a new piece of music. Results indicate that the temporal control of ancillary body movements made by participants was stronger in performances after the music had been learned and was closer to the measures of temporal control found for an expert musician’s movements. These findings provide evidence that the temporal control of musicians’ ancillary body movements develops with musical learning. These results have implications for other skillful behaviors and nonverbal communication.