Gesture and Conducting Performance

One of my first activities of the day is to read Stephen Downes’ OLDaily.

Today he has a great link to a New York Times video that discusses the art of conducting with Alan Gilbert, the music director of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.

The video is eight minutes long.

I was interested to learn about Alan’s role as a conductor and thought that his observation that:

There is no way to really put your finger on what makes conducting great, even what makes conducting work. Essentially what conducting is about is getting the players to play their best and to be able to use their energy and to access their point of view about the music. There is a connection between the gesture, the physical presence, the aura that a conductor can project, and what the musicians produce

was a great insight into teaching and coaching too.

The video has some fascinating animations created by New York University’s Movement Lab.

A Lab blog post about the making of the animation notes that:

The Movement Lab of New York University, in collaboration with the New York Times, installed multiple high-speed motion capture cameras in a studio of the Juilliard School at New York’s Lincoln Center in order to study the movement of Alan Gilbert, world renowned Conductor and Music Director of the New York Philharmonic. Reflective markers were placed strategically on the conductor’s body.  Since Gilbert did not conduct the day’s musical program with a baton, the crew devised a novel finger capture method to record his hands.  Using advanced computer software with new visualization techniques, the team transformed this motion data, tracing the intricacies of Gilbert’s gestures and the movement behind the music.

There is a three minute video about the making of the animation too.

I think the New York Times article is an excellent resource for teachers and coaches to access.

I like Alan’s suggestion that:

One of the ways to make your sound better is to make it really obvious that you’re really listening and that it really matters to you what it sounds like. That’s not actually conducting. It’s kind of embodying or representing a kind of aspiration, if you will, and it’s uncanny how that actually can make a difference. As soon as it’s apparent that your ears are open and that you’re interested and you’re following the contour of the sound, then that very contour is affected by that.

Leave a Reply