The importance of appearance in musical performance

To all musicians, take heed: if you look more involved and passionate while playing, you will be judged to sound better also!

Classical music competitions pit performers against each other. Obviously, the most important criterion for judges is sound. But that assumption needs a new…hearing. Because a player’s passion may be the best predictor of victory.

In a new study, nearly 200 novices had to choose the winners of 10 classical music competitions. Some heard a music clip of the top three performances. Others saw a video with sound. Still others watched a silent video. And the participants were more likely to choose the winner if they watched the silent video, in all 10 of the competitions.

Then professional musicians gave it a try. These judges also only reliably selected the winners from the silent video. Musicians selected the winner more frequently even when all they saw was an outline of the motion of the performers.

The researchers say the findings show that novices and experts make quick judgments about musical performances based on visual cues conveying involvement and passion. The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. [Chia-Jung Tsay, Sight over sound in the judgment of music]

So what does this have to do with the Alexander Technique? If you are tensed and pulled down while playing an instrument, you look tensed and pulled down, which is a far cry from looking involved and passionate. As anyone who has attended a group class in Alexander Technique will have noticed, people look better and more expressive, more involved and more passionate, when they free their necks and lengthen upwards.

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