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Do Orchestras Really Need Conductors?

vHave you ever watched a symphony orchestra being led by a conductor and thought, “Hey, anyone could do that -he’s just waving his arms to the beat of the music!”? I recall thinking that when I was very young. But now a study conducted by Yiannis Aloimonos of the University of Maryland and other researchers has put the question to a scientific test, involving musicians in Italy.

They installed a tiny infrared light at the tip of an (unnamed) conductor’s baton. They also placed similar lights on the bows of the violinists in the orchestra. The scientists then surrounded the orchestra with infrared cameras.

When the conductor waved the baton, and the violinists moved their bows, the moving lights created patterns in space, which the cameras captured. Computers analyzed the infrared patterns as signals: Using mathematical techniques originally designed by Nobel Prize-winning economist Clive Granger, Aloimonos and his colleagues analyzed whether the movements of the conductor were linked to those of the violinists.

Not only did they analyze whether the conductor influenced the violinist’s movements, but they also compared a veteran conductor with an amateur. You’ll have to go to NPR to read what they found, but first, let’s hear your opinion. What do you think the results of the study were? And when you make your prediction, please let us know if you are a musician. Link -via the Presurfer

(Image credit: Flickr user University of Denver)

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November 29th, 2012

Stranger to the World


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