On the Body Language of Conductors

2019-10-17_pacsymp_dag-6431.jpg

A recent article from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette highlights an interesting, but rarely discussed, part of the classical music performance: the body language of the conductor, and how they use it to control the sound of the orchestra.

Just as actors and dancers are experts in communicating with their anatomy, orchestra conductors also extensively train in nonverbal communication, as their primary role is to beat time and use their bodies to direct emotional intensity and nuance during a performance.

At the root level, some cues have obvious meanings. When Manfred Honeck, music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, sets his feet wide, furrows his brow and flings his arms out, this essentially boils down to “play louder.” But to a trumpet player, his meaning might be as nuanced as “play this as though you’re standing alone on a precipice yowling into an infinite void.” His smoother, smaller movements generally imply softer melodies and phrases but might suggest to a violinist playing with a sound no louder than the pattering of a mouse’s footsteps.

A body language and communication expert walks you through how the smallest, and largest, motions can change any interaction, especially when it comes to making music on stage with so many dozens of professional musicians. They even discuss the body language of Leonard Bernstein from a performance of Haydn’s Symphony No. 88 (4th movement). Check it out!

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.