Dr Patricia Holmes: Seminar Details

Dr Patricia Holmes, Trinity Laban

7 December 2011

Expressive use of timbre as a means of communication in music: the performer's perspective

This seminar is based on a research study undertaken about two years ago. The idea came from many years’ experience of working with elite level concert performers. Dr Holmes has been intrigued to observe at close quarters the importance they attach to the particular nature of their sound (timbre) and its function in performance. This study itself explored the sound world of the performer, building on increasing evidence that timbre is the most salient variable performance parameter and can also be the primary source of inspiration and structure in composition. Psychological, psychoacoustic, musicological and aesthetic literature, was reviewed in order to establish the connection between existing (listener focused) research and potential performer motivation and affect. An interview study with one elite performer/composer (classical guitar) was designed to investigate timbre in live performance, specifically as part of the communication process. Results showed that timbre salience varies according to style: in Baroque music it mainly enhances other performance parameters and in ‘contemporary’ music it is integral to composition and interpretation. Most particularly, they also demonstrated that emotional affect in the performer appears to be related to inner drive towards optimal representation of musical understanding. This in turn generates the evolution of extended instrumental techniques, allowing ever more imaginative use of timbre. In an attempt to cast light on some of the more intangible elements of performance, parallels with aesthetic and philosophical theory were explored.

Patricia Holmes is a Senior Lecturer at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, where she runs postgraduate courses in Applied Psychology of Performance and Instrumental and Vocal Pedagogy. Research interests reflect her wide experience as a concert performer and centre on cross-disciplinary study of various aspects of elite concert performance. These include use of imagery (specifically in relation to the integration of emotion and technique), investigation of personal characteristics that contribute to the development of expertise in performance and the significance of timbre as a means of musical communication. Her most recent work centres on the qualitative/quantitative methodological dichotomy facing researchers in music performance. Patricia is also part of an interdisciplinary team developing a health-screening programme for music students.


Last modified: Friday, 8 June 2012, 3:59 PM