Always standing in the middle of the stage while waving their hands, orchestra conductors seems to play a very important role during performances. Even though all musicians already have a copy of the notes or scores to be played, the orchestra in while cannot manage on its own.
A Study Conducted
A study conducted by a group of people from the University of Maryland aimed to emphasize the importance of orchestra conductors. They recruited musicians from Ferrara, Italy to participate in this study.
A tiny infrared light was installed at the tip of the conductor’s baton. Similar lights were placed on the bows of the violinists. The orchestra was then surrounded with infrared cameras. When the baton is waved, the violinists moved their bows. The lights create a pattern in space that the cameras captured. The patterns were analyzed using mathematical techniques to understand if the movement of the conductor is linked to those of the violinists.
The hypothesis was that if the conductor predicts the movement of its violinists, then it is sure that the conductor is leading its musicians. However, if the conductor can’t predict the movement of its violinists, then it is the players who are in charge.
A signal is originating from the conductor as he moves his hands and body. The musicians then receives the signal and create another signal by moving the bows of their violins. This is considered as a sensorimotor conversation.
The research was actually part of a bigger study that aims to understand if human movements have something in common with human language. Both maybe based on similar processes inside the brain.
The Results of the Study
The study found out that the conductors were indeed leading the violinists and the conductor’s movement predicted the violinists’ movement. Two conductors were used in the study: an amateur and a veteran. With this, the study also found out that he experience of the conductor drastically affects the performance of the musicians.