Previous research has found that listener evaluations of ensemble performances vary depending on the expressivity of the conductor's gestures, even when performances are otherwise identical. It was the purpose of the present study to test whether this effect of visual information was evident in the evaluation of specific aspects of ensemble performance: articulation and dynamics. We constructed a set of 32 music performances that combined auditory and visual information and were designed to feature a high degree of contrast along one of two target characteristics: articulation and dynamics. We paired each of four music excerpts recorded by a chamber ensemble in both a high- and low-contrast condition with video of four conductors demonstrating high- and low-contrast gesture specifically appropriate to either articulation or dynamics. Using one of two equivalent test forms, college music majors and non-majors (N = 285) viewed sixteen 30 s performances and evaluated the quality of the ensemble's articulation, dynamics, technique, and tempo along with overall expressivity. Results showed significantly higher evaluations for performances featuring high rather than low conducting expressivity regardless of the ensemble's performance quality. Evaluations for both articulation and dynamics were strongly and positively correlated with evaluations of overall ensemble expressivity.
Morrison, S. J., Price, H. E., Smedley, E. M., & Meals, C. D. (2014). Conductor gestures influence evaluations of ensemble performance. Frontiers in psychology, 5. http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00806