Studio 1, March 29 10:15 - 11:15

Example 1.


In example 1 I played the excerpt of A. Scriabin’s Sonata-Fantasie op. 19, first movement, andante, where after the development the theme returns very accentuated and expressive. In my opinion this section belongs to the accents and articulations category, as defined by Godoy. This example contains three video fragments where I explore natural, reduced and exaggerated ways of playing. In the text bellow I will briefly summarize my analysis of these fragments and point out the most relevant observations. . 


My observations of video 1 (Natural playing):

In video 1 I play in a natural way without a very clear focus and without any additional movements. In this fragment I noticed that I lift my wrist upwards, continually. This observation led me to ask, what is the purpose of lifting the wrist. Is it effective and does it add something to my performance expression? Lifting the wrist could mean that I search for some relaxation after playing the chords. Since, after playing the note, the movement does not add anything to the sound. However, relaxation is also possible without any movement at all. To investigate this aspect, I tried to reduce the movements to those that are truly necessary for playing this section in the next video.

A summary of the main features of performance expression and physical gestures:

Dynamics/Intensity: The dynamics aren’t extreme and very close to each other. 

Tempo/Timing: The timing of the climax where the theme returns could be more expressive. The tempo after the pause is a bit slow.

Articulation/Phrasing: The phrasing isn’t well shaped.

Hands: The hands are moving more or less the same during this session. This provides unclear characters.



My observations of video 2 (Reduced playing):

During this session where I reduced the movements as much as possible, I experienced a connection to every individual chord. I felt the depth of every chord and I felt very much in control. However, I felt also that the unity of the phrases was missing in this session. There wasn’t any feeling of continuity and flow. In my mind I was more focused on the individuality of the notes than the totality. The tempo was also slowing down which made the shaping of phrases even more difficult.

A summary of the main features of performance expression and physical gestures:

Dynamics/Intensity: The sound is very strong and intense.

Tempo/Timing: The tempo is quite stable. There is more time connected to every chord and every individual note.

Articulation/Phrasing: Very clearly articulated. There is no direction in the phrase and there is no feeling of unity.

Hands: The hands stay longer in the key. This provides a profound sound.


My observations of video 3 (Exaggerated playing):

During this session I felt a little out of control, especially during the jumps. On the other hand however, I did experience a certain freedom in expression by exaggerating the characters. Hearing the video after the experiment, I found the interpretation much clearer and the phrases more logical in timing. In the pause/transition there was suddenly time to express a different character. I also felt a feeling of flow and continuity in a natural way and the contrasts were stronger.

A summary of the main features of performance expression and physical gestures:

Dynamics/Intensity: The intensity is stronger because the two phrases before and after the pause are much more characterized. There is a larger contrast and therefore a clearer interpretation.

Tempo/Timing: Because the timing is created by the large movements there is a feeling of logical shaping and freedom in timing. There is also an underlying feeling of flow and continuity.

Articulation/Phrasing: There is a clearer unity in the phrases separately and the articulation is much more connected to the imagination of sound.

Hands: In the octave-jumps the hands are moving upwards. The movement towards the second octave has a lot of energy. It creates a good sound and a logical amount of time between the first element and the second element. 

Example 3.


In the following example I am playing the ending of the Sonata op. 110 by L. van Beethoven, where the theme of the fugue is combined with an arpeggio pattern in the right hand. In my opinion this fragment belongs to Pulses and Cyclical patterns, as defined by Godoy. The example contains two video fragments focusing just on the hands. The first fragment shows playing with reduced and the second, with exaggerated movements.


Observations video 1 (reduced playing)

During this session it was very difficult for me to reduce my movements. This section is very intense in character; all the elements of the sonata come together in a feeling of excitement. I tried to use as little movement as possible, but when I watched the video, I noticed I still used my head in expressing the accents. I also felt that by using less activity it was easier to keep an overview of the passage, especially in the beginning.

A summary of the main features of performance expression and physical gestures:

Dynamics/Intensity: There is a certain verticality of movement which creates unchanging dynamics. The supposed increasing intensity towards the end of the piece is not there. Every chord, every note is played in more or less the same intensity.

Tempo/Timing: The tempo is stable. The distant way of playing leaves some space for the timing of every chord, there is no feeling of haste. However, I do not perceive the excitement of the character.

Phrasing/Articulation: The verticality damages the phrasing in this session. The accents are clearly articulated. However, there is no increasing intensity, which makes the phrasing unclear. 

Hands: This video showed that the hands are moving effectively and are almost all of the time close to the keys. The arm is in the air less often and seems a bit stiff. The sound is also harsh instead of round. 


Observations video 2 (exaggerated playing)

During this session I felt very much that my body was more connected to the character of the music. Watching back the video I noticed that at the end I was carried away by excitement and was moving forward. In my experience while playing, I took time at that passage.


A summary of the main features of performance expression and physical gestures:

Dynamics/Intensity: The intensity is growing towards the end. The dynamics are more varied, increasing and supported by the use of my back and my head (sound accompanying gestures).

Tempo/Timing: The tempo is slightly faster and increasing towards the end. The timing of the accents is well shaped within the context of the phrases. The freedom in the use of my arm made this possible.

Phrasing/Articulation: There is clearly one direction towards the end. The articulation is more direct.

Hands: In the exaggerated video the freedom of the arms makes it easier to accentuate the important chords with the hands. The left hand sometimes makes too large movements for every sixteenth note. This is not always necessary. On the other hand, the feeling of excitement is created by the activity of the body and hands.


Example 2.


In this example I play a piece by Percy Grainger, which is an arrangement of  R. Strauss’s  ‘Ramble on love’ from the opera ‘Rosenkavalier.’ The excerpt that I am playing exhibits Onsets and Modulations, as defined by Godoy. The phrase is slowing down to introduce the main theme. In my experiments with this fragment I explored and compared two ways of playing: reduced (with as little movement as possible) and exaggerated. The first video contains two fragments that illustrate these two versions. In order to define and observe the differences more clearly I also added two small video’s in slow motion.

Observations video 1 (Reduced playing)

During this session I experienced that I focused more on the sound. It was easy to concentrate on the sound. However, I felt I was concentrating on details instead of the musical meaning and larger shapes. The physical distance did not help me to make clear connections between the notes. I felt also very passive.

A summary of the main features of performance expression and physical gestures:

Dynamics/Intensity: The dynamics stay in the same frame during this session. The intensity stays very stable.

Tempo/Timing: The timing of the notes is every time almost exactly the same. There is no variety or the use of accelerando/ritardando. Only in the end, the tempo is slightly slowing down.

Articulation/Phrasing: The phrasing is very static and it is not clear where the phrases are leading to. The articulation has little variety.

Hands: The hands play every individual chord, but don’t make a connection to the next chord or note.


Observations video 2 (Exaggerated playing)

During this session I felt much more physical involvement, which felt very good. Hearing the video afterwards I could see much more activity in my body. The amount of sound-accompanying gestures was very obvious: In the preparation, before starting the piece, I shortly lifted my eyebrows in order to achieve a warm sound. The last bars before the main theme I opened my posture and looked up.

Also, I noticed that in the beginning there was a certain circularity where the posture of my body is going down during the arpeggio was going upwards. After the arpeggio in the higher register, my posture is going upwards and to the lower register to make a connection to the next chords. In the slow-motion video’s this is visible.

A summary of the main features of performance expression and physical gestures:

Dynamics/Intensity: The dynamics are much more varied. The intensity is clearly decreasing towards the main theme.

Tempo/Timing: The tempo is slightly faster compared to the video before (reduced playing). The circulation of the body makes the timing more logical and natural.

Phrasing/Articulation: The timing and dynamics influence the phrasing. There is more ‘breathing’ between the phrases. Relaxation and tension in the phrases are much clearer. The articulation is more varied and ‘prepared’ by the amount of sound-accompanying gestures.

Hands: The hands are physically shaping a unity, by moving towards the upcoming chords and notes.


Slow motion video’s:

The following videos contain fragments from both the reduced- and exaggerated-movement takes in order to illustrate the difference, particularly in the use of circular movements. In the second fragment, we can see that my upper body makes a circle, which is helpful for the feeling of unity and continuity.


Facial expression


Though I didn’t analyze and mention the facial expression before, this is an important aspect of musical gestures. The whole body is involved during a performance. Facial expression is also there to communicate to other musicians or the audience.It shows the expression of emotions and character of the music and it shows the involvement or distance of the performer. Sometimes the interpretation of the performer’s facial expressions by the listener can be very different from the performer’s personal emotions. A comparison with acting seems to be of relevance here. In an article “die Methode Schenck” the German pianist Georg Friedrich Schenck  explains  that an actor, who convincingly delivers a character that is very different from his personality, in a way develops a new reality. In that case, the “as if” becomes true. During performances it can be difficult to be emotionally already in the mood and emotion of the piece. In that case ‘acting’ can be useful to achieve this emotion. In my exaggerated experiments I noticed also that the character of the physical movements helped me to induce the character of the music. Looking sadly helped me to play sadly, even when it didn’t felt sincere from the beginning. In the following video, I have made a compilation of takes, which summarise my exploration of the use of facial actions. In this video I play three fragments:  a fragment of Percy Graingers “Ramble on love” after Strauss’ opera Die Rosenkavalier, E. Granados’s “El amor y la muerte” from Goyescas op. 11 and a fragment from the beginning of A. Scriabin’s Sonata-Fantasie op. 19. In the following overview I have indicated which facial actions are related to characters in the music. 



P. Grainger

E. Granados

A. Scriabin

Facial actions:

Eyebrows are moving upwards. The face is going down and going up again.

The face is looking neutral and starts to frown towards the climax. The eyebrows are going down, the head is knocking. The amount of facial actions is high.

The face is slowly going down and starts to frown. After the break the eyebrows ‘prepare’ the beginning of the phrase by shortly going up and down. Before the second theme the head is completely going upwards.

Character of the music:

Sparkling, introducing

Passionate, explosive

Sustained, evoking


Functions of facial actions


In this overview you can observe that the amount of facial actions increases by the growing intensity of the music. The amount of facial actions is higher during passionate and explosive passages, compared to sparkling passages. Music perception and cognition research finds that there is a clear connection between the sound quality and emotions. Movements evoked by emotions lead to the right sound quality. In the next chapter this aspect will be explained.


Example 4.


The following example contains the middle part of P. Grainger’s arrangement of “Ramble on Love” from R. Strauss’ opera Die Rosenkavalier. The huge amount of scales, patterns and different dynamics led me to the selection of the features Dynamic contours, Accents and articulations, Ornaments and Tessitura contours, as defined by Godoy. This piece is quite complex: it is important to separate the main phrases from the transitional ones. I have just began practising this piece and wanted to observe if it is possible to experiment in an early stage of learning the piece. In the example file you can hear fragments of all three approaches mentioned in the chapter “aims and methods”. In video 1 I play in a natural way without a very clear focus and without additional movements. In video 2 I play with only the most necessary movements. In video 3, I play with as many diverse movements related to the character of the music.


Observations video 1 (Natural playing)

During this session I was not focusing on my movements but more on the music. I just started with practising this piece recently and therefore the appearance of the video camera made it a little difficult to relax completely.

A summary of the main features of performance expression and physical gestures:

Dynamics/Intensity: The balance of sound in the left and right hand at the beginning of the phrase is not good. The left hand is dominating by the arpeggio’s. The crescendo and diminuendo in the scales and patterns can be clearer.

Tempo/Timing: The tempo and timing are quite stable. Sometimes the tempo is slightly slowing down. Especially in technical challenging passages.

Phrasing/Articulation: The phrasing can be clearer.


Observations video 2 (Reduced playing)

During this session I felt extremely unpleasant. In the patterns, I did not feel in control and I felt that the crescendi and decrescendi didn’t came out as I hoped they would. The distant approach of my body towards the music did not help in overcoming technical challenges. Instead, in my mind I was more aware of technical difficulties.

 A summary of the main features of performance expression and physical gestures:

Dynamics/Intensity: The left and the right hand are in balance. There is not a hand that is dominating in sound, as in the previous video. 

Tempo/Timing: The tempo is a little bit slower, compared to the previous video. In scales towards the curving point, the slower tempo makes it more difficult to play. The timing of the main phrase is static.

Phrasing/Articulation: There is no connection in the main phrase from one chord to another.

Hands: The hand movements are smaller and more vertical to the instrument. In the fast patterns it is visible that this approach is not effective. The arms do not lead, but rather follow the hands, which makes the development of the phrases difficult.


Observations video 3 (exaggerated playing)

In this session I had the feeling of connection towards the piano. The exaggeration of my physical movements helped me to concentrate on the music and its expressive qualities. The feeling of freedom in my bodily gestures helped me to produce different characters of the music. In difficult passages this “embodiment” helped me stay with the music.

A summary of the main features of performance expression and physical gestures:

Dynamics/Intensity: The dynamics are slightly increasing, compared to the two earlier videos. Especially in the last phrase there is a clear increasing intensity in the structure of the phrase.  

Tempo/Timing: The tempo is moving forward and is not to slow.

Phrasing/Articulation: Although this piece has still some technical challenges, concerning the balance, the phrasing of the main voice was much clearer in this video. However, the endings of phrases could be played clearer.

Hands: In this experimental take the hands are moving upwards more often. The hands are spread on the piano to connect the main melody. The hand is moving upwards to connect large distances in the phrases. I find that this ‘horizontal’ approach, where the arm leads the hand, is more effective.