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Melodic intonation perceived and performed by concertmasters
Royal College of Music in Stockholm, Department of Music Education.
Royal College of Music in Stockholm, Department of Music Education.
Royal College of Music in Stockholm, Department of Folk Music.
2023 (English)In: e-Proceedings of The 17th International Conference on Music Perception and Cognition and The 7th Conference of the Asia-Pacific Society for the Cognitive Sciences of Music, Tokyo: The College of Art, Nihon Uniersity, Tokyo, Japan , 2023, p. 518-518Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Introduction During solo performances, classical soloists generally pay close attention to the produced sound, continuously assessing and adjusting it to enhance the musical experiences. Intonation, in terms of adjustments of interval sizes in musical performances, is generally considered a central expressive means (e.g., Sundberg, 2013). However, relationships between intonation in perception and performance of Western classical music have shown to be less straightforward than one might expect (see Ballard, 2011). It has been suggested that a useful approach within future research may be to study more advanced performers’ intonation practice (Morrison & Fyk, 2002). The present study aimed to address the relationships between accomplished violinists’ performance intonation and their intonation preferences as listeners. We focused merely on melodic intonation of leading tones in local melodic contexts, and asked to what extent violinists’ performance intonation might correspond to their listening preferences. Additionally, we were also curious about musicians’ reasonings regarding their choices of intonation.

Methods 6 professional violinists, holding permanent positions as concertmasters in professional orchestras in Sweden, participated in the study. We selected 8 violin excerpts with ascending semitone intervals leading up to the tonic or the dominant. Each violinist performed the excerpts, and participated in a listening study and a semi-structured interview. Previously recorded versions of the excerpts, manipulated in terms of intonation of semitones, were used in the listening study to obtain information about each participant’s accepted range of semitone intervals.

Results All violinists generally accepted an average semitone size between 80 and 90 cents both in their perceptual preferences and their performance practice. Their performed semitone sizes deviated only by 3 cents, on average, from the midpoints of their respective accepted ranges in the listening study. This indicates a relative consensus about what would be considered a “professional standard” of leading-tone intonation, which was also reflected in the participants’ reasonings in the interviews. However, the perceptual preferences and the performance intonation varied within and between individuals.

Discussion Apart from the “standard” of sharp leading tones, our qualitative findings suggest that violinists also had their personal ideals concerning intonation and its use for expressive purposes. Such individuality indicates a latitude for personal interpretations, expressed in terms of intonational deviations from “the standard.” The observed intonational variation within and between individuals supports the previous conclusion that violin intonation may not be approximated by any single fixed tuning system (e.g., Geringer, 2018).

Conclusion Our results suggest that these Swedish expert violinists, despite individual tendencies, perform in accordance with their listening preferences regarding intonation. We interpret such a consistency as an indication of high skill level. The present study raises questions about whether this might be true for professional violinists in other countries, or within other musical styles.  

References

Ballard, D. L. (2011). Relationships between college-level wind instrumentalists’ achievement in intonation perception and performance. Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education, 187, 19–32. https://doi.org/10.2307/41162321

Geringer, J. M. (2018). Eight artist-level violinists performing unaccompanied Bach: Are there consistent tuning patterns? String Research Journal, 8(1), 51–61. https://doi.org/10.1177/1948499218769657

Morrison, S. J., & Fyk, J. (2002). Intonation. In R. Parncutt, & G. E. McPherson (Eds.), The science and psychology of music performance: Creative strategies for teaching and learning (pp. 183–197). Oxford University Press.

Sundberg, J. (2013). Perception of singing. In D. Deutsch (Ed.), The psychology of music (3rd edition) (pp. 69–105). Academic Press.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Tokyo: The College of Art, Nihon Uniersity, Tokyo, Japan , 2023. p. 518-518
Keywords [en]
Leading tone, Melodic intonation, Performance, Perception, Violin
National Category
Music
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kmh:diva-5117OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kmh-5117DiVA, id: diva2:1809897
Conference
The 17th International Conference on Music Perception and Cognition and The 7th Conference of the Asia-Pacific Society for the Cognitive Sciences of Music
Available from: 2023-11-06 Created: 2023-11-06 Last updated: 2023-11-06Bibliographically approved

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