Music Perception
Tracking Performance Correlates of Changes in Perceived Intensity of Emotion During Different Interpretations of a Chopin Piano Prelude
John A. Sloboda, Andreas C. Lehmann


This study demonstrates a comprehensive method for linking expert musicians' interpretive choices and associated performances to listeners' perceptions of emotionality. In Phase 1 of the study, 10 expert pianists recorded their prepared interpretations of a highly emotional piece of music (F. Chopin's Prelude op. 28, no. 4). They were also interviewed about their deliberate interpretive choices. In Phase 2, 28 musicians listened to the interpretations and provided postperformance ratings of expressivity and other performance aspects. During listening, subjects moved a mouse pointer on a continuous response computer interface, rating the moment-to-moment (concurrent) level of perceived emotionality. The correlation between postperformance ratings of expressivity and mean concurrent ratings was moderate (.50). In general, musical structure and the trajectory (trace) of concurrent emotionality ratings corresponded strongly. Statistically reliable trace divergences between individual performances and the grand mean performance demonstrated systematic relationships between emotionality ratings and performance data (loudness, timing). Increases in emotionality appear to be caused by specific local deviations from the performance characteristics of an average performance. Interpretive choices clustered at musical phrase boundaries. Many of the analyzed divergences were reflected in performers' interpretive intentions as revealed in interview data.

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