Scientifically examining role of the conductor

Posted on: November 28, 2012

Tuesday (11/27) on the National Public Radio blog Deceptive Cadence, Shankar Vedantam writes, “Have you ever wondered whether music conductors actually influence their orchestras? … A new study aims to answer this question. Yiannis Aloimonos, of the University of Maryland, and several colleagues recruited the help of orchestral players from Ferrara, Italy. They installed a tiny infrared light at the tip of an (unnamed) conductor’s baton. They also placed similar lights on the bows of the violinists in the orchestra. The scientists then surrounded the orchestra with infrared cameras. … The scientists hypothesized that if the movement of the conductor could predict the movements of the violinists, then the conductor was clearly leading the players. … Aloimonos said the study found that conductors were leading the violinists—the movement of the conductors predicted the movement of the violinists, not the other way around. But the study found more: The scientists had two conductors lead the same orchestra. One was a veteran who exercised an iron grip over the violinists. The other was an amateur. … Music experts who listened to the performance of the orchestra under the control of the two conductors found the version produced by the authoritarian conductor superior.”

Posted November 28, 2012