Expression and Interpretation

Andreas C. Lehmann, John A. Sloboda and Robert H. Woody

in Psychology for Musicians

Published in print March 2007 | ISBN: 9780195146103
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199851164 | DOI:
Expression and Interpretation

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This chapter applies science to unravel the seemingly indefinable elements of nuance, expression, and interpretation in music. Nuance is first defined as a subset of expression and is the manipulation of sound parameters to create music that sounds alive rather than flat and mechanical. Scientific research reveals that the majority of expressive behavior is governed by simple rules that convey both structural and emotional information. The unique power of musical expression is then found to be rooted in instinctive brain mechanisms and is able to engage experiences of anticipation and surprise among listeners. Interpretations—though capable of being reliably reproduced through learning and preparation—are also subject to improvement and improvisation and are dependent on the musician's own unique history and personality. The last section presents the impact of technology—through computers and powerful software like the MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface—in analyzing musical performance.

Keywords: nuance; expression; interpretation; music; MIDI; computers; sound parameters

Chapter.  8968 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Music Theory and Analysis

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