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Psychology of Music

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The body behind music: precedents and prospects


Mine Dogantan-Dack
Psychology of Music 2006; 34; 449
DOI: 10.1177/0305735606067155
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449

A RT I C L E

The body behind music:


precedents and prospects

Psychology of Music
Psychology of Music
Copyright
Society for Education, Music
and Psychology Research
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M I N E D O G A N TA N - DA C K
M I D D L E S E X U N I V E R S I T Y, L O N D O N , U K

A B S T R A C T The involvement of the body in musical experiences is a


phenomenon that has been noted since ancient times, and many authors have
cited the organic rhythms of the body as providing the experiential basis for
musical rhythm. The input of our bodily experiences to the comprehension of
music has recently been investigated by various researchers in music theory. A
similar interest in the bodily basis of music is also seen in studies of expressive
music performance. Systematic and experimental research on the bodily
dimension of musical experiences can be traced back to the 19th century. The
rise of scientific psychology from within the experimental physiology of the
period gave 19th century theories concerning the workings of the human mind a
decisively embodied character. Hence, recent research on expressive performance
is rooted in 19th century theories of music performance that employed bodily
phenomena as models. This article provides a survey of these early performance
studies in the light of 19th century psychology, and discusses rhythmic structure
as the basis of a theory of expressive performance.1
KEYWORDS:

Ehrenfels, expressive performance, Gestalt, kinesthesis, Mach,


respiration, timing

The contemporary scene


Music is an art form that is closely related to our bodily experiences and our
musical activities engage our bodies in various ways. The ancient Greek
origins of the term music, i.e. mousike, indeed imply a unity of melody and
dance. In fact, the conceptual distinction between music and organized bodymovement is at times obscured in indigenous cultures by the intimate
connection of the two (see Blacking, 1973: 27). The relationship between the
art of music and the human body is surely not restricted to external
movements structured as dance, or else appearing in the form of common

sempre :

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Psychology of Music 34(4)

behavioral responses such as tapping and swaying. There is ample historical


and contemporary evidence indicating that music also affects the body
internally, causing physiological changes ranging from mild to profound in
listeners. Changes in heart rate and in muscular tonus are among the most
common physicological responses to music.
In spite of the ubiquity of the body in our involvement with music,
contemporary music psychology and music theory have been primarily
concerned with the mind behind musical experiences. The objective of most
studies has been the elucidation of the cognitive dimension of our musical
activities, but little emphasis has been placed on the input of the body proper
to cognition. This situation is now beginning to change: recently, various
theorists have attempted to explain our experiences of rhythmic and tonal
structures in music by reference to our bodily experiences, or to so-called
bodily image-schemas (Saslaw, 1996; Larson, 1997; Zbikowski, 1997;
Brower, 2000; Cox, 2001). Their shared assumption is that we experience
and make sense of musical phenomena by metaphorically mapping the
concepts derived from our bodily experience of the physical world onto music.
Accordingly, listeners hear the unfolding musical events as shaped by the
action of certain musical forces that behave similarly to the forces behind our
movements in the physical world such as gravity and inertia.
The bodily dimension of our musical experiences also receives attention in
studies concerning affective responses to music. It has been shown, for
instance, that the physiological reactions that take place while people listen to
music that they evaluate as sad, happy, angry, etc. are similar to those that
occur when they experience these emotions in non-musical contexts
(Krumhansl, 1997). The most obvious involvement of the body in music,
however, concerns the activity of musical performance. Performance is
traditionally the means through which works of music reach audiences, and
it is performance that makes the physicality of the body behind music
immediately evident to listeners. In this regard, recent studies of expressive
performance constitute an important research area for exploring the bodily
aspects of musical phenomena.2
The term expression, as used in contemporary studies of music performance, refers to well-documented systematic deviations from mechanical
regularity and from the nominal values notated in the score. Variations in
tempo, intensity, timbre and articulation, as well as the variations in pitch
known as vibrato, constitute the most important expressive characteristics of
performed music. These systematically employed expressive devices are to a
large extent related to the structural features of the music or to be precise,
to the performers mental representation of the musical structures. In other
words, the rhythmic and tonal properties of a given piece of music imply a
certain expressive profile for instance, a profile of tempo and intensity
fluctuations, which is subject to individual variation by each performer.
However, the fact that it is not possible to impose in a musically meaningful

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Dogantan-Dack: The body behind music

way the expressive profile of a given piece onto another one in performance
indicates that the basic features of expressive performance cannot be
explained without reference to the structural properties of the performed
music.
The recent theoretical studies on the relationship between the listeners
experiences of musical structures and bodily image-schemas have not yet
been extended so as to explore the role of the body in music performance.
However, in studies of expressive performance there is an increasing interest
in modelling the various features of musical performance in terms of physical
movement, and in this connection researchers frequently evoke body-based
conceptions of musical phenomena. One such model concerns the timing of
musical phrases in performance. The gradual slowing of the tempo towards
phrase endings in performances of tonal music is a well-documented fact. It
has been suggested that the temporal shape of such a ritardando at the end of
a tonal phrase is similar to the shape observed when other rhythmic motor
activities, such as locomotion, come to a smooth halt. Kronman and Sundberg,
for instance, allude to the motion of a runner slowing down with constant
deceleration in order to explain the universal tendency of performers to slow
down at phrase endings. They write that:
the sequences of impulses we perceive when we walk or run are similar to the
regular sequences of tones in moto-rhythmic music. If the music reminds the
listener of physical motion, it would be natural to insert a final ritard, as the
listener knows from experience that locomotion is usually slowed down before it
is arrested. (Kronman and Sundberg, 1987: 58)

The similarities between motor activities and performance of musical phrases


do not only concern the temporal shape they assume prior to rest or closure.
The delivery of a tonal musical phrase involves a normative intensity-timing
profile comprising two phases, i.e. accelerandocrescendo at the beginning
and ritardandodecrescendo at the end, and Neil Todd has argued that
this dynamic profile also has its origin in motor actions (Todd, 1992).
Accordingly, the normative tempo and intensity variations employed in the
shaping of a musical phrase result from the mobilization of motor schemata
that are based on our internal sense of motion, which in turn is derived from
our experience of locomotion.
Neil Todds work is particularly significant in that he bases his exploration
of the relationship between structure and expression in performance on a
well-defined theory of musical structure, i.e. the generative theory of tonal
music by Lerdahl and Jackendoff (Todd, 1985). This allows him to investigate
whether the structures defined by the theory for instance, the grouping
structure receive similar expressive treatment at all hierarchical levels in
performance. Indeed, it turns out that a perfomer elucidates the rhythmic
structure of a tonal composition by slowing at structural endings, and
reflects rhythmic hierarchy by the degree of slowing. Whether there are

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Psychology of Music 34(4)

systematic relationships other than structural slowing between the local and
global expressive variations remains an important issue that is yet to be
rigorously investigated. Further research is also required to explore whether
the local and global expressive variations in a music performance can be
modelled on the same bodily phenomena. At the present state of research in
expressive performance the consensus of the researchers is that:
the extramusical origin of constraints on performance timing is still a matter of
speculation, but it is likely to lie in aspects of physical movement that have
invaded musical performance and ultimately account for the frequent allusion
to musical motion in the musicological literature. (Repp, 1992: 240)

Virtually all the contemporary studies mentioned so far locate the historical
roots of research on expressive performance in the work of psychologist Carl
Seashore (18661949) and his team who were active at Iowa University
during the 1920s and 1930s. Seashore is certainly one of the most
important pioneers in empirical studies of expressive performance. However,
the theoretical foundations of these studies as well as the first establishment
of the connections between bodily phenomena and expressive music
performance go back to the 19th century. The historical background for the
recently proposed body-based models of expressive performance was shaped
in the light of several important developments that took place during this
period. These are:
1.
2.
3.

the advances made in experimental physiology;


conceptualization of mental phenomena in bodily terms;
the convergence of theories of musical rhythm and performance
methodology.

Experimental physiology of the 19th century


The discipline of psychology owes it scientific status to its incorporation
within experimental physiology during the 19th century. Indeed, the first
properly scientific studies in psychology were carried out by the leading
physiologists of the period, and were about bodily sensations rather than
mental phenomena per se. Most prominent were the studies concerning the
sense of touch and kinesthesis, a term derived from the Greek words kinesis for
motion and aisthesis for perception, and referring to psychological
sensations generated by the movements of the body itself. The very first
quantitative law in the history of psychology known as the law of just
noticeable difference was formulated as a result of the discoveries about
kinesthesis made by the German physiologist Ernst Heinrich Weber
(17951878).3 The origins of modern psychology were thus truly embodied,
and these developments regarding the physiological bases of psychological
phenomena soon found resonances in the newly rising science of music

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Dogantan-Dack: The body behind music

psychology. The last decades of the 19th- and the first decade of the 20thcentury abound in studies that scrutinize kinesthesis as it relates to rhythm,
and motor theories of musical rhythm are typical of this period.4
One specific discovery made in 19th century physiology by the German
scientist Hermann von Helmholtz (182194) had particularly important
implications for music psychology. In 1850, Helmholtz measured for the first
time the speed of transmission of nerve impulses. The finding that the
transmission was much slower than had been assumed invalidated the
assumption held in earlier Cartesian physiology that the passage from
sensation to bodily movement was instantaneous. Following this discovery,
the relationship between mental sensations and bodily response could now be
studied as a temporal sequence of events with various phases. The most important implication of this finding for music psychology has been a new
conceptualization of the musical experience as comprising various temporal
stages. Indeed, research in psychology of music during the latter half of the
19th- and early decades of the 20th-century is represented by works that
specifically focus on one or the other of these stages. Hence, we find tonepsychologists like Helmholtz and Carl Stumpf (18481936) exploring the
initial stage of the musical experience by investigating the relations between
acoustical stimuli and aural sensations, and music psychologists such as Hugo
Riemann (18491919) and Ernst Kurth (18861946) scrutinizing the
second stage consisting of the interpretation of the incoming sensations by
the musical faculty.
This interest in the different stages of a unified experience also characterizes the late 19th century theories of musical rhythm, within which the
musical phrase came to be defined as a unit composed of differentiated
temporal phases for instance, a phase of action combined with a phase of
repose. To be sure, the idea that a rhythmic unit consists of differentiated
phases of movement is very old, as is evident in the ancient terminology of
arsis and thesis, from the Greek words for raising and lowering respectively.
However, the nature of these phases was empirically studied in detail for the
first time during the 19th century. Thus, one of the important hypotheses of
recent research concerning the similarity between the temporal shape of a
musical phrase in performance and that of a motor activity has its root in
19th century theories of rhythm, which in turn were largely shaped by the
physiological discoveries of the period.

Body-based conceptions of mental phenomena in 19th century


psychology
As a consequence of the close connection between experimental physiology
and scientific psychology, body-based conceptions of mental phenomena
were typical of the second half of the 19th century, and particularly

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Psychology of Music 34(4)

prominent were motor theories of the perception of space and time. In this
connection, two names stand out: German physicist Ernst Mach (1838
1916), and Austrian philosopher and psychologist Christian von Ehrenfels
(18591932).
In a paper published in 1865, and called Bemerkungen zur Lehre vom
rumlichen Sehen (Observations on the experience of three-dimensional
vision), Mach discussed how we perceive and categorize spatial and temporal
figures. His argument was that we recognize various spatial and temporal
shapes as the same or as alike due to the involvement of what he called
Muskelempfindungen Muscular sensations: whenever we see, for instance, a
circle, our perception is accompanied, according to Mach, by a particular
nervous sensation resulting from the muscular activity of the eyes, which is
repeated every time we perceive a similar shape. Accordingly, each visual or
aural shape is associated with its characteristic muscular sensation; in fact, a
body-feeling stamps every sensation. This theory put forward by Mach is the
first theory of perception based on the input of the body proper.5
As for Ehrenfels, his best-known work today is the article titled ber
Gestalqualitten (On Gestalt qualities), and published in 1890. The central
idea of this work, i.e. that our perceptions contain form qualities or Gestalten,
which are not contained in isolated sensations, is often quoted. What is not so
well known about Ehrenfels famous article is that he further developed
Machs ideas on the perception of spatial and temporal forms.6 Ehrenfels
argued that each experience we have of a Gestalt or form in any sensory
modality is cognized as structurally analogous to the experience of a spatial
shape. In other words, spatial Gestalten serve in his view as references for our
comprehension of forms in other modalities. An immediate implication of
this idea is that concepts related to the perception of spatial shapes can be
applied to shapes extended in time for instance, melodies. Indeed, the idea
that there are similarities of form between different fields of experience is one
of the most important conclusions of Ehrenfels article. During the 20thcentury, various authors including Susanne Langer (1942) and Daniel Stern
(1985) have argued along similar lines for the existence in our minds of
abstract amodal forms that we utilize in making sense of the world through
different modalities of perception.
The theories put forward by Mach and Ehrenfels provided several important hypotheses for studies of expressive performance during the latter half of
the 19th century. These can be summarized as follows:
1.
2.
3.

Musical rhythm and the musical phrase can be represented in spatial


terms, particularly as trajectories in space.
The performance of a musical phrase can be represented in terms of
movement in space traversing a particular trajectory.
The Gestalt belonging to the intensity-timing profile of the performance
of a musical phrase can be regarded as structurally analogous to the

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Dogantan-Dack: The body behind music

4.

Gestalt belonging to the intensity-timing profile of a unit of action or


gesture carried out in physical space.
If experiences in different modalities can be represented in spatial terms
and categories, then our comprehension of the structural properties of
expressive music performance should utilize to a certain extent our
knowledge of the performance of physical movements in physical space.

All four hypotheses reappear in recent research, which has been briefly
reviewed in the first section of this article. As we shall see in the following
section, they were already incorporated into theories of rhythm and performance by 19th century authors.

Convergence of theories of rhythm and performance


methodology
During the 18th and early 19th centuries, theories of rhythm were
formulated as parts of theories of composition. The musical phrase interested
theorists mainly as a structural unit essential for creating large-scale forms.
With the second half of the 19th century came a shift of focus such that
theorists became preoccupied with the internal structure of the individual
musical phrase itself. As the performance methodologies of the period made
the issue of phrasing central to effective music performance, systematic
investigations into the internal organization of the individual phrase in
connection with performance practice resulted in the first theories of
expressive performance that explicitly related the features of performance to
musical structures.7 This development has been of central importance for the
emergence of the modern conceptualization of expression in performance as a
phenomenon that is amenable to systematic investigation and rational
understanding. Until the second half of the 19th century, the prevailing
view presented expression as originating in the inspired soul of the performing artist through a mysterious force, and hence as being largely
inexplicable.
The significance of the last decades of the 19th century in terms of the
history of musical thought is not only that music psychology and studies of
expressive performance closely followed the developments in the physiology
and psychology of the period. More importantly, this is the first time that
experimental research in music, particularly about the nature of rhyhm, found
resonances in the theories of rhythm proposed by music theorists, which in
turn formed the grounds for theories of expressive performance. In this
connection, the kinesthetic theory of perception proposed earlier by Mach
provided the basis for experimental research, and the main focus of
investigation was the perception of rhythmic grouping. The conclusions
reached by various researchers during this period assert the defining role of
kinesthetic sensations in the experience of rhythm. James Miner, for instance,

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Psychology of Music 34(4)

stated that the unity and identity of a rhythmic group is established through
the bodily involvement of the listener in the act of perception (Miner, 1903).
Another researcher argued similarly that:
rhythm is never a fact of perception alone, but essentially involves an active
attitude on the part of the apperceiving subject. Rhythm is always produced
[my emphasis] . . . The successive stimulations must start a series of motor
impulses somewhere before its rhythm is felt. Apart from such a pulse of bodily
change the perception of a rhythmical series of sounds would be the bare
abstract apprehension of their varying intensities and intervals. (MacDougall,
1902: 464)

A detailed investigation of the nature of kinesthetic sensations accompanying the perception of rhythmic groups was provided by psychologist
Raymond Herbert Stetson (18721950), whose work on the rhythmic
movements of the hand regularly beating time is particularly significant in
terms of its connections with the expressive performance studies during this
period. According to Stetson:
every rhythm is dynamic. It consists of actual movements. It is not necessary
that joints be involved, but changes in muscular conditions which stand in
consciousness as movements are essential to any rhythm, whether perceived or
produced. (Stetson, 1905: 257)

Not every movement is rhythmic, however. For there to be an experience of


rhythm, the movement must display differentiated temporal phases. Stetson
thus writes:
If one moves the hand or the arm in a circle, there will be no feeling of rhythm
so long as the hand moves uniformly in a circle. In order to become rhythmic in
the psychological sense, the following change in the movement is necessary: the
path of the hand must be elongated to an ellipse, and the velocity of the movement in a part of the orbit must be much faster than in the rest of the orbit; just
as the hand comes to the end of the arc through which it passes with increased
velocity, there is a feeling of tension, of muscular strain; at this point the
movement is retarded, almost stopped; then the hand goes on more slowly until
it reaches the arc of increased velocity. The rapid movement through the arc of
velocity and the sudden feeling of strain and retarding at the end of this rapid
movement constitute the beat [the accent]. In consciousness they represent one
event, and a series of such events connected in such a movement-cycle may be
said to constitute a rhythm. There is, then, a radical difference between the two
phases of a rhythmic movement. (Stetson, 1905: 258, emphases added)

In accordance with his observation concerning the nature of hand


movements, Stetson proposes that the essence of rhythm can be represented
as upbeataccentafterbeat, which provides a basic model for analyzing any
rhythmic unit. In all forms of activity where a rhythm is required, he writes,
the stroke, the blow, the impact [the accent], is the thing: all the rest is but

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Dogantan-Dack: The body behind music

connection and preparation (Stetson, 1905: 257). When applied to the


expressive performance of a musical rhythmic unit, Stetsons argument
would indicate that the two phases of the rhythm would involve different
dynamics: the movement would accelerate during the tensing phase and
decelerate during the relaxing phase. Indeed, this is precisely the prototypical
timing structure of a tonal musical phrase in performance that is proposed in
recent studies of expressive performance.
During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the most ardent proponent
of the idea that we experience rhythm essentially as a movement towards and
away from a central accent has been the music theorist Hugo Riemann. In his
theory of expressive performance, presented in Musikalische Dynamik und
Agogik of 1884 as a theory of dynamic shading, Riemann stated that the
delivery of a rhythmic unit requires a crescendo-accelerando up to the accent
followed by a diminuendo-ritardando. Later in his System der musikalischen
Rhythmik und Metrik of 1903, he universalized the model of upbeataccent
afterbeat as the essence of all rhythmic structures in music, which as a theory
accorded well with the experimental research carried out around the same
period.
The first theory to explain the features of expressive performance in
explicitly motor terms, however, was proposed by the Swiss music pedagogue
and theorist Mathis Lussy (18281910). His theory is the first to ground
expressive performance in a body-based conception of musical rhythm, and
also the first to relate the deviations from mechanical regularity observed in a
musical performance to the structural properties of music. Lussy explained
tempo variations in performance by invariably invoking locomotion, and
likened our experience of the dynamics of musical rhythm to our experience
of bodily motion. According to his theory, the sustaining of a musical phrase
from its beginning to its end in performance is similar to the sustaining of the
body as it moves in physical space. The psychophysical principles behind the
spatio-temporal properties characterizing locomotion can thus explain in
the spirit of Ehrenfels the temporal features of musical performance.
Tempo variations related to melodic contour, for instance, can be accounted
for in terms of locomotion. Lussy argued that the performance of a rising
melodic contour generated the same kind of experience we have when
physically climbing up in physical space. He wrote that:
to climb is to strive; it is to ascend to a higher level, against all the tendencies of
our being. The steeper the slope, littered with obstacles, with bumps, the more
force one must deploy. The more force one deploys, the faster the pulse gets: the
animation becomes greater. Once the summit is reached, however, one
experiences a certain well-being [and] breathes comfortably. This comparison
provides us with a simple and rational explanation of the tendency, experienced
by musicians, to accelerate at the beginning of a phrase with ascending
contour. At the same time, it explains the disposition to stop, to drag [the
tempo] on peak notes. (Lussy, 1874: 117)8

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In discussing the expressive aspects of musical performance, Lussy did not


only refer to external body movements; he also frequently invoked the breath
and respiration, which were among the favourite bodily functions mentioned
in theories of rhythm during the 19th century. Lussy referred to the
phenomenon of respiration particularly to explain the directed nature of
rhythmic movement, which he conceptualized in agreement with the other
theorists of the period as a unit made of differentiated phases. He argued
that periodicity, which we observe in various bodily functions, is not sufficient
to establish the basis of an experience of rhythm. There must also be a
qualitative difference between the successive phases that form a rhythmic
unit, as well as a directed motion from one phase to the other such that we
have the experience of a beginning and an end in relation to the unfolding
rhythm. According to Lussy, the two processes that define one complete cycle
of respiration, i.e. inhalation/action and exhalation/relaxation, provide the
physiological origin of rhythmic experience: we experience inhalation as a
time span during which we take air into our lungs and move towards
exhalation. Similarly, when we exhale we have the experience not only of
relaxation but also of an arrival following activity and the ending of a cycle of
respiration.
Taking the phenomenon of respiration as the basis for our experiences of
rhythm, Lussy hence proposed reposeactionrepose as the essence of
rhythmic movement. This model, more so than the model of upbeat
accentafterbeat, allows for the conceptualization of a musical phrase in
spatial terms such that one can easily imagine a trajectory along which the
phrase unfolds. Indeed, Lussy thought of a tonal musical phrase as extending
between two points of tonal stability; it naturally followed from this
conception that the delivery of such a phrase in performance would, as
discussed above, comply with the dynamic features of a bodily movement in
physical space.
Towards the end of the 19th century, the spatial conception of musical
rhythm and respiration as its bodily basis came together most explicitly in the
work of the French scholar of plainchant Dom Andr Mocquereau
(18491930). Mocquereau was part of the movement started by Benedictine
monks at the abbey of Solemnes during the second half of the 19th century
for the revival of Gregorian chant, and he is today known primarily as the
originator of Palographie musicale, a compilation including reproductions of
chant manuscripts together with explanatory comments (Monks of Solesmes,
1889). The main aim of the Solemnes project was to restore the smooth,
flowing quality of plainchant performance that was lost through arbitrary
grouping and accentuation over the centuries.
Mocquereau presented his theory of musical rhythm and performance in
his Le nombre musical grgorien published in 1908. The bodily activity that he
invoked in this work as a model for the dynamics of a tonal musical phrase is
the throwing, or to be precise, hitting of a ball that is at first stationary. The

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Dogantan-Dack: The body behind music

behaviour of the ball, which is graphically illustrated in Le nombre, provides


the model for the dynamics of a well-defined musical phrase: reposeaction
repose. Mocquereau wrote:
In the first movement of the ball, three instants, three phases, or if you like,
three spans must be distinguished: a) point of departure, or lan, b) trajectory
depicted by the ball, c) the point of arrival or the fall of the ball. (Mocquereau,
1908: 108)9

Accordingly, the expressive performance of a tonal musical phrase displays


the dynamics that are observed in the movement of the ball. The most
significant and the most interesting point about this theory, however, is
that the image of the ball depicting a spatial trajectory is in fact meant by
Mocquereau to represent another model, one that has been regarded as the
ultimate model for expressive performance at least since the Baroque period:
that is, the singing voice. Performances approaching the expressiveness of the
singing voice have constituted the aesthetic ideal for music performance for
ages. The behaviour of the ball moving in the air in Mocquereaus theory is
intended to capture the essence of the breathing mechanism behind the
delivery of a musical phrase by the voice. It is common knowledge that
phrasing in singing depends on breathing: the normal phrase is made by the
slow continuous breathing movement. This slow respiratory movement is
regarded as the basic element in phrasing. Indeed, the phrase itself can be
thought of as a slowly changing chest-abdominal posture, a slow movement
of expiration (Large, 1980: 32). Particularly since the period of Italian bel
canto, the essence of the ideal singing style has been regarded as a good legato,
creating a smooth, flowing, uninterrupted effect. Contrary to common opinion,
the most important feature of the legato style is not that there is no gap
between the articulation of successive notes. Experimental work shows that:
legato does not, even in the most favorable conditions, involve a really
continuous vocalization during the phrase; it is not the mere continuity of the
tone that is responsible for the smooth, uninterrupted effect. Instead, the
outstanding trait of legato singing is the unbroken level of the force of the tone
indicated by the air-pressure just outside the mouth: it is dynamically uniform,
and steady. No matter how interrupted the tones may be, like a dotted line, the
actual level is maintained throughout. (Large, 1980: 32, emphasis added)

The spatial trajectory depicted by the moving ball in the model proposed by
Mocquereau is supposed to capture just these continuous, smooth internal
dynamics of the legato performance of a musical phrase by the singing voice.
In accordance with the premises of Ehrenfels, such a spatial representation
can also capture the temporal phases of a typical tonal phrase, which almost
always starts in relative repose, builds up tension, and relaxes into a cadence.
Closer scrutiny, however, reveals that the behaviour of a ball thrown in the
air does not precisely represent the performance of a musical phrase by the

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Psychology of Music 34(4)

singing voice. While in normal passive breathing, the act of inspiration is


active and exhalation is passive, in singing there is controlled exhalation of
air from the lungs. The balls trajectory, on the other hand, is subject to the
force of gravity such that once the ball is set in motion, the person initiating
the movement has no control over the way it unfolds; this certainly is not the
case in singing. It has been demonstrated that without the controlled phase of
relaxation in singing, accentuation within a legato performance would not be
possible. As proper accentuation is crucial for projecting the local level
grouping structure of a piece of music, the relaxing phase in the delivery of a
musical phrase thus plays a defining role in the comprehensibility of a
musical performance.
The proposals made and the conclusions reached in early studies of
expressive performance during the 19th century involve all the essential
hypotheses put forward in recent research. These can be summarized as
follows:
1.

2.

3.

A musical rhythmic unit, including a musical phrase, consists of


qualitatively differentiated temporal phases and therefore the expressive
performance of rhythmic units systematically involves the projection of
these qualitative differences, most frequently as tempo and intensity
variations.
There is a prototypical timing-intensity profile for the expressive
performance of a rhythmic unit, the origins of which reside in our
experiences of bodily movements (including the kinesthetic experiences
involved in respiration).
An aesthetically satisfying expressive performance creates a sense of
continuity, directedness and unity.

Concluding remarks
As expression is related in its basic features to the performers conception of
the structural, i.e. tonalrhythmic properties of music, then a model of
expressive performance should indeed be based on a model of musical
structure. In this connection, researchers have essentially two models to
work with, both of which were already employed in 19th century theories of
rhythm and performance. These are:

the model of upbeataccentafterbeat;


the model of reposeactionrepose.

Bodily phenomena invoked as providing the experiential bases for these


models have been various bodily movements and respiration, the latter
proposed only in the context of the second model. These two models can be
utilized to investigate the relationships and possible interdependency between

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Dogantan-Dack: The body behind music

local and global expressive variations. It should be noted in this connection


that the first model is applicable to only small rhythmic groups, while the
second one applies to groups of any size: accent is a property of a time-point
and as the size of the group expands, accent in the upbeataccentafterbeat
model begins to refer to time-spans and no longer means accent proper. In
this sense, it is conceivable that the model of upbeataccentafterbeat can
account for the local expressive fluctuations in performance, while the model
of reposeactionrepose can explain the global expressive profile.
Recently, some researchers have also alluded to the behaviour of objects
moving in a gravitational field, arguing that performances that sound
natural behave similarly to objects in the real world. Behind such a conception of expressive performance are the various metaphors used by music
theorists such as gravity, attractions, inertia (Larson, 1997; Lerdahl, 2001).
Yet, however much the human body may resemble physical objects in terms
of its obedience to the laws of physics, the driving force behind expressive
performance is the fully embodied human mind. The fascinating breath
control of great singers and the exquisite phrasings that follow are not simply
feasts of the body as physical objects, but more so of the body as the theater of
the mind (Damasio, 1999: 513). In fact, one can argue that it is not the
exquisite phrasing that follows the breath, but the breath that follows the
singers (embodied) mental conception of the musical phrase. It is, therefore,
not physical objects but rather the behaviour of the human body and of the
voice as shaped by the human mind that provides the ideal source in our
search for the essence of expressive musical performance.

NOTES

1.
2.

3.

An earlier version of this article was presented at the Music and Gesture
conference, University of East Anglia, 2831 August 2003, Norwich, UK.
Scholarly interest in expressive musical performance is indeed very old. Already
during the 11th century, authors (Guido of Arezzo in Micrologus c.1030, John
Cotton in De Musica c.1100) started to discuss the proper performance of chant
and described a gradual slowing of the tempo for phrases that end on certain
structural tones, or a lengthening of the last two notes. For certain modes,
acceleration towards the cadence was preferred. More systematic studies of the
expressive aspects of musical performance started with the proliferation of
pedagogically oriented treatises during the 17th and 18th centuries. Best known
among these treatises are: Franois Couperin, Lart du toucher le clavecin, 1716;
Johann Joachim Quantz, Versuch einer Anweisung die Flte travesiere zu spielen,
1752; Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, Versuch ber die wahre Art das Clavier zu spielen,
1753; Leopold Mozart, Versuch einer grndlichen Violinschule, 1756; Daniel
Gottlob Trk, Klavierschule, 1789.
Weber observed that in order to bring about a noticeable difference in sensory
experience, there is a minimum magnitude by which the intensity of the stimulus
must be changed, and that the threshold for the difference is lawfully related to
the magnitude of the stimulus.

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Psychology of Music 34(4)


4.

5.

6.
7.

8.
9.

The following is a selection of works on the relation of kinesthesis to rhythm


published between 18941913: Bolton,1894; Fr 1902; MacDougall, 1902;
MacDougall, 1903; Miner, 1903; Stetson, 1905; Ruckmich, 1913.
Before the 19th century, one can find occasional references to the sensations
from the muscles as playing a role in perception and cognition. The best-known
instance is in Berkeleys An Essay Towards a New Theory of Vision (1709),
where he mentions the experience of straining in the muscles of the eye as a
criterion for judgment of spatial distance.
Another less well-known fact about Ehrenfels is that he was seriously involved
with music and studied composition with Bruckner.
Nineteenth-century Belgian music theorist Jrme-Joseph de Momigny (1762
1842) is the first to employ the concept of phrasing (phras) in performance as
distinct from punctuation, which was a standard term for grouping by
accentuation in 18th-century performance manuals. Momigny argued that
phrasing involved not only proper accentuation but also subordination of the
phrases and periods to one another in accordance with their place in the
grouping hierarchy.
English translation from the French original in Dogantan (2002: 128).
English translation from the French original in Dogantan (2002: 154). The image
of a spatial trajectory was also used by the British theorist John B. McEwen in
explaining the proper performance of a musical phrase. McEwen wrote in 1914
that as in throwing a stone to strike some object we aim at the object, and do not
fix our gaze on the stone in our hand, so, in the performance of the musical idea,
the mind is aware of the trajectory of the progression, and controls this trajectory
by aiming at the accented point, just as we control the trajectory of the missile by
directing our attention to the object we wish to strike (McEwen, 1914: 12). Later
during the century, Edward T. Cone referred to the behaviour of a moving ball in
explaining the internal dynamics of the musical phrase and its correct
performance (Cone, 1968: 26).

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M I N E D O G A N TA N - DA C K

holds a BA in Philosophy (Bogazici University, Istanbul), and


a BM and MM in piano performance (The Juilliard School, New York). She received her
PhD in Music Theory from Columbia University and has published articles on
expressive performance, history of music theory, and affective responses to music. She
is the author of the book titled Mathis Lussy: A Pioneer in Studies of Expressive
Performance (2002, Peter Lang). She performs as a chamber musician and soloist, and
has recorded for the Turkish Radio and TV, and WNCN in New York. Currently, she is
the head of research at Middlesex University, London.
Address: Music Department, Middlesex University, Trent Park Campus, Bramley Road,
London, N14 4YZ, UK. [email: dogantanm@yahoo.com]

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