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Michael Schutz and Fiona Manning (2012)

Looking beyond the score: The musical role of percussionists’ ancillary gestures

Music Theory Online, 18(1).

Performing musicians frequently use physical gestures that are more elaborate than required for sound production alone. Such movements are not prescribed in traditional musical scores, nor are they evident in audio recordings, and consequently they are rarely regarded as integral to a formal musical analysis. However, there is growing evidence that these movements do in fact alter an audience’s listening experience—i.e., the way a performance “sounds.” Therefore, we believe that analyses of these movements can inform more traditional analyses of notes and rhythms by lending insight into the way in which these musical elements are perceived. Here, we review research on the role of gestures in shaping the musical experience, focusing in particular on gestures used by percussionists to control perceived note duration. This paper embraces the multi-media affordances of Music Theory Online by integrating stimuli from key experiments—the first publication of these materials. Our aim is not only to summarize a growing body of work on the musical role of extra-acoustic factors such as ancillary gestures, but also to present new avenues of musical research that complement existing approaches.

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