Strategies for the exploration of ornament performance

Abstract

Performing music is a creative process, even if notated music is performed. It is creative in the sense that performers have to establish and refine an interpretation of the music, given the under-specification of western notation and the aesthetic demands to provide an individual, but coherent, interpretation. Part of the practice is to explore interpretations and refine a chosen interpretation. Focusing in on this process, we asked student pianists to explore different ways of performing a musical ornament in order to improve their ability to imitate example performances of the ornaments, which was tested before and after the exploration training. Within the exploration training, participants showed a variety of strategies to explore ornament performance, varying the time-steal characteristics, the accenting pattern or the time inserted to add an ornament. Principle-component-analysis was used to define these strategies and loadings on the factors of exploration were used to define trajectories of exploration. This procedure highlighted strong differences between the tendencies of participants to explore the performance space defined by a factor. While some participants explored the entire factor, the performances of other participants remained within a specific area of interpretation. Wide exploration and jumps in interpretation were generally associated. Nevertheless, some participants combined small inter-trial changes with wide exploration, suggesting exploration through refinements. The results of the study are limited to the interpretation of a specific musical element. Nevertheless, parallel strategies seem to exist in music performance in general, opening educational possibilities for training these skills as well as providing direction for wider investigation of creative strategies in performance.


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