What Role Does Perception Play in Classical Music?

How does what we see affect our enjoyment of a performance?  What about the appearance of the musicians…the way they dress, or how they carry themselves onstage?

Recent research indicates that what we see greatly affects what we hear.  Blind auditions for musicians were begun to allow judges to focus on the performance, rather than appearance.  If you have ever watched any of the talent competitions on TV such as America’s Got Talent, or Britain’s Got Talent, viewers, audience members, and judges have often decided what to expect before the contestant ever sings a note.

In a recent article, Priceonomics  told this story about Chia-Jung Tsay, who was “an extremely talented young pianist. She performed at Carnegie Hall at age 16, attended prestigious conservatories, and competed in music competitions. But her success seemed inconsistent. During auditions, she noticed that she did better when she performed live or provided a video than when she submitted an audio recording.”

Chia-Jung Tsay is now a psychologist and an Assistant Professor in Management Science and Innovation at University College London.  She decided to examine the role of the visual in evaluating musical performances.  At the risk of stating the obvious, there is a reason that pop acts travel with semis full of gear.

Read The Science of Snobbery (Priceonomics)

Read Sight Over Sound in the Judgement of Music Performance by Dr. Chia-Jung Tsay (PNAS.ORG)

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