Facial expressions of pitch structure

William F. Thompson, Frank A. Russo

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference proceeding contribution

Abstract

In two experiments, we examined whether the facial expressions of singers affect judgements of musical structure. In Experiment 1, a performer was recorded singing each of three intervals. Participants were shown the visual recording (no sound) and judged the size of the interval the performer was (imagined to be) singing. Judgments were made under five conditions of occlusion: no occlusion, occlusion of the mouth; occlusion of the eyes and eyebrows; occlusion of the mouth, eyes, and eye-brows; and occlusion of the entire face (only head movements visible). The results indicated that participants could decode pitch relations from facial expressions alone. Examination of the occlusion conditions indicated that participants could differentiate intervals based on eye-brow movements alone, and even based on head movements. In Experiment 2, we recorded a musician singing thirteen versions of the last phrase of “Silent Night.” Versions differed in the pitch of the final tone, which was either the (expected) tonic of the song, or one of the other tones of the chromatic scale, including the tonic one octave above the expected note of the song. Participants were shown the visual recordings of the performances (no sound) and judged the “goodness of fit” of final note, as conveyed in the facial expressions of the singer. Mean ratings closely corresponded to the standard major tonal hierarchy, suggesting that the singer successfully communicated tonal structure through the use of facial expressions.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 9th International Conference on Music Perception and Cognition (ICMPC9)
EditorsM. Baroni, A. R. Addessi, R. Caterina, M. Costa
PublisherSociety for Music Perception & Cognition
Pages1141-1143
Number of pages3
ISBN (Print)8873951554
Publication statusPublished - 2006
Externally publishedYes
EventInternational Conference on Music Perception and Cognition (9th : 2006) - Bologna, Italy
Duration: 22 Aug 200626 Aug 2006

Conference

ConferenceInternational Conference on Music Perception and Cognition (9th : 2006)
CityBologna, Italy
Period22/08/0626/08/06

Keywords

  • music and media
  • visual cues
  • facial expression
  • pitch structure
  • tonality

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  • Cite this

    Thompson, W. F., & Russo, F. A. (2006). Facial expressions of pitch structure. In M. Baroni, A. R. Addessi, R. Caterina, & M. Costa (Eds.), Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on Music Perception and Cognition (ICMPC9) (pp. 1141-1143). Society for Music Perception & Cognition.