How Do You Get to Carnegie Hall? Look Good.

New research confirms that in the world of classical music, looks do matter.(Photo: chrisgrayphotos (Flickr))
New research confirms that in the world of classical music, looks do matter.(Photo: chrisgrayphotos (Flickr))

We’ve seen it coming since at least the advent of the “Live in HD” age several years ago, but now it’s official. How a performing classical musician looks seems to be even more important than how he or she sounds, according to the Harvard Gazette.

Chia-Jung Tsay, a former graduate student at Harvard University and a professionally trained classical pianist, conducted a study in which she gave volunteer “judges” audio clips, video clips with sound or video clips without sound of classical musicians performing in international competitions. She asked the “judges” to identify the winners of the competitions. Tsay described the results as “very counter intuitive.”

What I found was that people had a lower chance of identifying the eventual winner if they only listened to the sound. People who just had the video — even without the sound — had surprisingly high rates of selecting the actual winner. Even with professional musicians, who are trained to use sound, and who have both expertise and experience, it appeared that the visual information was overriding the sound.

Read more: The Look of Music (Harvard Gazette)

Comments
  • Heather

    Well that’s rather disturbing. I couldn’t care less what someone looks like as long as they can play well. Sitting back in the rear balcony, I can barely see performers anyway and the money I spend on tickets is for the music, not for a nice view.

  • John

    I think it’s not simply appearance, it’s stage presence and the ability to behave the way we expect concert artists to behave. Having been to numerous piano competitions, I’ve given up trying to pick winners — I just enjoy the music. But all the winners have learned how to sell the music by acting out the emotional sections, sitting properly, holding their hands properly, and so on. NO ONE wins who just slouches up on stage and starts to play.