Hearing Through the Body: Expression and Movement in Music

Georgios Papageorgiou

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This thesis engages with complex issues of musical expression and movement, and their relation, on the one hand, to musical structure and, on the other hand, to embodied musical experience. It aims to fill a gap in music theory and analysis: most methods overemphasise abstract conceptualisation of structural relations at the expense of the more dynamic, intuitive aspect of musical experience. As a solution, it offers a specific analytical method that can be used to explore dynamic aspects of music as experienced through the whole body.

Drawing mainly on nineteenth-century piano music, I analyse aspects of structure in both composition and performance in terms of expressive and motional qualities, revealing the relationship between musical and physical movement. Expressivity in music derives its meaning, at least partly, from the embodied experience of music: performers shape expression through their whole body while listeners react to it in a comparable way, albeit less overtly. Two related systems of graphic notation are introduced, which provide a non-verbal means of representing expressive movement and at the same time encourage an immediate, visceral relationship to the music. The first notation captures the animated quality of expressive movement by analogy with the motion of a bouncing ball, while the second breaks down the expressive musical flow into discrete gestural patterns of specific motional character.

While the ultimate value of this method lies in the analytical process it instigates, it also provides a novel theoretical framework that sheds light on the interaction, as well as integration, between structures such as metre, rhythm, harmony and voice-leading, which are traditionally studied mostly independently. In addition, it provides a useful tool for the study and communication of performance interpretation, based on data extracted from recordings in the form of tempo and dynamic fluctuation graphs.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Cook, Nicholas, Supervisor, External person
Award date1 Jun 2012
Publication statusUnpublished - 2012


  • Music
  • musical expression
  • musical performance
  • body
  • Movement
  • motion
  • George
  • music analysis
  • music theory
  • music psychology
  • musical gesture
  • Papageorgiou
  • Anacrusis
  • Metacrusis
  • embodiment
  • performer
  • bouncing ball
  • rhythm
  • metre
  • tempo graph

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