Emotion in Musical Performance Essay

Emotion in Musical Performance Essay

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Introduction

An outstanding piano performance is one in which there is an emotional connection between the performer and the listener. When a pianist imbues his performance with emotional intensity, the audience will likewise feel the same. The result is an electrifying, energetic performance. There is scientific basis for this sharing of emotions. Scientific research over the last two decades has led to the discovery of mirror neurons. Mirror neurons enable us to empathize with others, feeling the emotions of another’s as if they were our own. Consequently, when we watch a skilled actor perform an intensely emotional scene, we are moved so strongly. A skilled pianist should be able to move his audience in a similar manner, projecting his intense emotions onto his listeners. The purpose of this paper is to provide insight into how piano teachers can help their intermediate and advanced piano students to develop and perform with emotional intensity. It will show how emotional intensity can be applied to a performance, using excerpts from piano literature.

Mirror neurons

Mirror neurons are a set of neurons in the premotor cortex, the part of the brain responsible for movement. These neurons fire both when we perform an action and when we see or hear someone else performing the same action. Mirror neurons were first discovered in the mid-1990s when a group of researchers were studying the brains of macaque monkeys. Whenever the monkey reached for and grabbed an object, a set of neurons would fire. When a researcher reached for and grabbed the same object, the same neurons began to fire inside the monkey’s brain. The monkey had not performed any motion, but merely watching someone else perform that motion elicited the same re...


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... Music Research, 35:3, 197-210.
Chapin, H., Jantzen, K., Scott Kelso, J.A., Steinberg, F., & Large, E. (2010). Dynamic emotional and neural responses to music depend on performance expression and listener experience. Public Library of Science, 5:12, 1-14.
Kaplan, J.T. & Iacoboni, M. (2006). Getting a grip on other minds: Mirror neurons, intention understanding, and cognitive empathy. Social Neuroscience, 1:3-4, 175-183.
Levant, R.O. The Anatomy of Musicality. (2006). Dallas, TX: Rozalie O. Levant.
Molnar-Szacas, I. & Overy, K. (2006). Music and mirror neurons: From motion to “e”motion. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 1, 235-241.
Rizzolatti, G. & Craighero, L. (2004). The mirror-neuron system. Annual Review of Neuroscience, 27, 169-92.
Orzechowicz, D. (2008). Privileged emotion managers: The case of actors. Social Psychology Quarterly, 71:2, 143-156.

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