Eastern Oregon University > Academics > Examining creative expression among pianists

Examining creative expression among pianists

Examining creative expression among pianists

Nov. 29, 2021 LA GRANDE, Ore. –  Colloquium, Eastern Oregon University’s academic presentation venue, continues its series of speakers with the next presentation set for 4 p.m. on Dec. 9 via Zoom. 

Professor of Health and Human Performance Daren Dutto will present his findings from a collaborative study examining the effect and patterns of expressivity and hand motions during music performance. The research team examined and compared the performances of ten professional modern pianists and several non-professional pianists as they played various Bach compositions.

“We’re comparing the variability of performance in great pianists versus not-quite-as-great pianists, with the idea of looking at their expressivity,” Dutto said. 

In previous studies and presentations, Dutto and his colleagues examined the performance and gestures of pianists via in-person studies, though they have since shifted to examining recorded performances to look for patterns of expressiveness among professional performers.

“My research colleagues and I are interested in the effect of gesture on performance of music and we are looking at something called expressivity,” Dutto said. 

He’s previously studied actual hand movement, but COVID-19 has led him to collect data from recordings instead. 

According to Dutto, they found that most performers ended up falling into just two distinct subcategories of expressivity. They were surprised and expected much more variation. They also found that nonprofessional performers often fit into these subcategories, especially when performing pieces by Bach.

Dutto also expressed the team’s interest in how audience interpretation of performance is affected by expressivity and gesturing.  

“If somebody watches a performer, does that affect your enjoyment of the piece? So if I’m listening to a performance versus watching somebody do the performance, does that change our interpretation of the piece?” Dutto said. 

The team plans to eventually compile its research into a learning modality that can be adopted by music students to learn and understand the various patterns of expressivity in their own music. 

“It’s just more in line with our overall research goal to look at how to better educate potential musicians in communicating their performance. So this is all about helping folks figure out how to best express their interpretation of music,” Dutto said.

Dutto also noted that this will not just be for pianists, but for all music students.

“We have a lot of musicians in the community, not just pianists…How do we look at music in a way that allows us to quantify what we consider the expressivity of it?” he said. 

Dutto’s talk takes place from 4 to 5 p.m. over Zoom. This event is free and open to the public.