Conducting research with the camera on

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


This paper reflects on two years of practice-led research into interpretation and conducting which utilized novel methods of data retrieval from video footage and extensive autoethnographical writing. There are a large number of studies that have investigated aspects of leadership, communication and gesture of orchestral conductors (see Luck and Sloboda, 2008, for a review), though few if any have been done by an artist-researcher in naturally occurring settings. The original study on which this paper reflects investigated the multiple interpretability of the musical score by conducted ensembles, establishing the ways in which the conductor’s gestural and verbal communication in rehearsal and performance engendered flexible and spontaneous performance. Over 30 hours of video footage was collected, of which 18 hours was thematically analyzed with more than 12,000 codes applied and collated. This aspect of the methodology revealed interesting shifts and patterns in the practice; indeed the way in which this process of constant review and analysis influenced the music-making process is itself a fertile area for investigation: as Michael Schwab has recently asked ‘how documentation may affect a performance is a question that deserves more detailed attention’ (Schwab, 2014). This paper moves towards answering Schwab’s question.

The original study on which this paper reflects is informed by the wider context of an era in which, as never before, conductors have been able to use video technology to reflect upon the gestural vocabulary they use. Seaman has commented that film and television from the 1950s onwards created an expectation for conductors to have a stage presence that was pleasing to the eye as well as the ear. Seaman has also asserted that using video footage for assessing conducting emphasizes ‘slickness, visual show, and cuteness – qualities you’d look for in judging a circus act.’ This paper concludes that in some cases using video documentation to research conducting enables new artistic insights, though it can also have the effect of choreographing the performance with detrimental musical results.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 25 Apr 2016
EventPerforming Knowledge Conference - University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom
Duration: 25 Apr 201627 Apr 2016


ConferencePerforming Knowledge Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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