A Theory of Cross-Modal Perception and Music Performance

Samuel Gardner, Oberlin College and Conservatory

The performance of popular music can often be thought of as an afterthought to music analysis. This is odd when one considers the power of cross-modal cognition (Shutz and Lipscomb 2007) which shows the power of the visual modality can have on music, and further when one considers the importance recent studies have placed on movement, gesture specifically (see De Souza 2016; Zbikowski 2017). Since the role of gesture in conceptualizing thought is supported by scholars whose focus lie outside of music (McNeill 1992; Goldin-Meadow 2003), incorporating these concepts of non-musical gestures into music theory proves to be useful for the perception of performance.

This paper foregrounds the role of non-musical gesture and their possible impact on the perception of those in the audience. I argue that by linking visual perception with the gestures made in live music performance, the performer can significantly shape an individual's perception of a piece.