Instructions in Orchestra Rehearsals – Negotiating the Sound of Music

My esteemed colleague, John BATEMAN, has a habit of distinguishing between simple/basic types of multimodality (e.g., text and image in ads or magazines) and demanding/complex types (e.g., film or theatre). I have long gone for the simple one, preferring the safety of manageable analysis and description. It was Monika MESSNER’s interesting PhD on instructions in orchestra rehearsals and her rich and fascinating data (video recordings of orchestra rehearsals) that tempted me to eventually tackle more intricate and dynamic forms of multimodal interaction. I am glad our co-authored paper ‚Tam pam pam pam and mi – fa – sol: Constituting Musical Instructions through Multimodal Interaction in Orchestra Rehearsals‘ is soon to appear in Multimodal Communication. Here is what the abstract says:

Using multimodal (inter)action/conversation analysis, the present contribution inventories the repertoire of higher-level actions that constitute musical instruction in orchestra rehearsals. The study describes the modal complexity of the instructional actions as built from a varied combination of speech, gesture, gaze, vocalizing and body posture/movement. A high modal intensity of speech and vocalizing is explained with recourse to their contextually useful modal reaches. While some modes, like vocalizing and body posture appear to be action-specific, others turn out to be pervasive default modes. Besides modal intensity, the study also attends to the transitioning between higher-level actions through gaze and the role of the score as frozen action. The analyses help demystify orchestra rehearsals as a special type of professional communicative interaction, which builds on a rich multimodal texture motivated by recurring instructional functions. The methodological rationale demonstrated will be suited to exploring the social variation of instructional interaction in orchestra rehearsals.

STÖCKL/MESSNER 2021, Abstract

Image Copyright: Kazuo Ota for UNSPLASH

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