Timmers, R. & Honing, H. (2002) On music performance, theories, measurement and diversity. In M.A. Belardinelli (ed.). Cognitive Processing (International Quarterly of Cognitive Sciences), 1-2, 1-19.


Measurement of musical performances is of interest to studies in musicology, music psychology and music performance practice, but in general it has not been considered the main issue: when analyzing Western classical music, these disciplines usually focus on the score rather than the performance. This status seems to be at odds with the central position of music performance in musical behavior. In this paper, we therefore argue for an increased focus on performance data in music research disciplines. What kind of science do we get, and what methods and techniques do we need, when we make it the central object of music research? What are the issues and what are the problems and solutions? The first issue that will be addressed is the definition and measurement of expressive timing. Defining expression in different ways highlights certain aspects of a performance and obscures others. The second issue is the interpretation of expressive patterns: what knowledge and decisions play a role in constructing a performance? This interpretation is complicated by the many perspectives that performers have towards music. Both lead to the issue of a multitude of equally acceptable performances of a single piece and the differences between them. From a comparison of the methods used to approach these issues, the contours of an empirical musicology of performance may arise.

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