The aim of this study was to show that the quality of an expressive interpretation depends on expressive context. The main hypothesis was that expression is evaluated in relation to preceding expressive variations. Two experiments and a model tested this hypothesis. In the first experiment, 39 listeners rated the quality of the performance of the continuation (second half of the musical stimulus) given the performance of the initiation (first half of the musical stimulus). The results showed a significant effect of continuation on the quality judgments and a significant interaction between continuation and initiation. This interaction was seen as the first confirmation of the hypothesis. In the second experiment, 20 participants rated the quality of six performances of the initiation and of the continuation separately. The results of this experiment did not explain the quality judgments found in Experiment 1. The low agreement between the judgments was taken as a second confirmation that contextual considerations can overrule general aesthetic preference. A regression model was proposed that predicts the quality rating of Experiment 1 from the similarity in rubato extent, key-velocity pattern, average articulation, grace-note duration, and average asynchrony between the two segments. This model was better able to explain the quality judgments of the continuation, providing final confirmation that the quality of the second half was a function of its agreement with the first half.
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