A study of the effectiveness of pre-planned versus spontaneous conducting gesture on performance
Prendergast, Curran Garrett
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The purpose of this study was to investigate the effectiveness of pre-planned versus spontaneous conducting gesture on performance. Using both approaches, four conductors lead a concert band through two pieces. There were three specific performance perspectives examined during this study. The first was from the perspective of the players. Thirteen Likert scale questions were used to research how each of the players experienced each conductor. The second perspective was from a panel of judges who answered two yes or no and four open-ended questions to research differences in expression and overall quality between the two approaches. The final perspective was from the conductors themselves through post-test interviews. The experiment was completed in one day in which four conductors, unknown to the ensemble, conducted an intact concert band through similar lyrical pieces. They were instructed to spend equal amounts of time preparing each score and prepare one with entirely pre-planned gesture and the other without moving at all, with gestures generated spontaneously while conducting. Two conductors were assigned to prepare one piece with spontaneous gestures while the other two conductors prepared the same one with pre-planned gestures. After each conductor finished both pieces, the ensemble answered a questionnaire about that particular conductor. Meanwhile, the panel of judges, blind to the conductor, were present in the room to rate the expressiveness and superiority of the performances. Interviews were conducted immediately after the conductors were finished. A two-way ANOVA and a post-hoc t-test indicated no overall preference by the ensemble or the panel of experts for either approach. However, for three of the four conductors, significant preference was found for one of the approaches. Two conductors’ pre-planned pieces were preferred (p = 0.001 and p < 0.001) and one for spontaneous (p < 0.001). Three themes emerged from the conductor interviews: (a) conductor comfort with either approach did not always match that which was most satisfying or effective, (b) movement during score study was an important component of score internalization, and (c) gestures used during the score study process, and ultimately in performance, fell somewhere on a spectrum of pre-planning versus spontaneity.