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The impact of an audience on performance

The impact of an audience on performance

Name:Emily Wood

School/Affiliation:McMaster University

Co-Authors:Rory Kirk, Konrad Swierczek, Dobromir Dotov, Hany Tawfik, Dan Bosynak & Laurel Trainor

Virtual or In-person:In-person


Live concerts are unique experiences for both musicians and audiences, as the interaction between the two can greatly influence the performance. Here we examine how the presence of an audience affects a professional pianist’s timing and dynamics by comparing performance of the same set of music from a rehearsal to a real-life concert. A high-level professional pianist from the Canadian Chopin Society performed a 40-minute set of six pieces in two conditions: a sold-out concert in the LIVELab and an identical rehearsal (in terms of venue, lighting, and acoustics) without an audience. We collected audio and MIDI data using our Yahama Disklavier. From the audio, we derived a measure of timing by manually annotating the interbeat-interval of each beat of each song. From the MIDI, we derived a measure of dynamics by extracting keystroke velocities for each song. There were no significant difference in either of these measures between rehearsal and concert, indicating that the pianist gave comparable performances in terms of sound between these conditions. This may be indicative of their experience performing the same songs consistently. Overall, understanding how the presence of an audience affects performance can help us explain how social settings influence musical experiences.

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