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Facing the music

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journal contribution
posted on 2021-05-21, 17:00 authored by William F Thompson, Frank A Russo
From the phonograph of the 19th century to the iPod today, music technologies have typically isolated the auditory dimension of music, filtering out nonacoustic information and transmitting what most people assume is the essence of music. Yet many esteemed performers over the past century, such as Judy Garland and B.B. King, are renowned for their dramatic use of facial expressions (Thompson, Graham, & Russo, 2005). Are such expressions merely show business, or are they integral to experiencing music?

In the investigation reported here, we considered whether the facial expressions and head movements of singers communicate melodic information that can be “read” by viewers. Three trained vocalists were recorded singing ascending melodic intervals. Subjects saw the visual recordings (without sound) and rated the size of the intervals they imagined the performers were singing




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