chapter  9
23 Pages

Supporting Gestures: Breathing in Piano Performance

WithElaine King

Existing research provides valuable insight into the importance of breathing for music performers and its function in supporting instrumentalists. The study of pianists’ breathing is perhaps a less obvious choice of subject than breathing by singers or wind players, although it is arguably none the less intriguing. Jane Davidson’s empirical research on musicians’ body movements provides valuable information about the role of physical gestures in performance, especially the type of movements produced by pianists. In her pedagogical work on movement and performance, especially for pianists, Alexandra Pierce carefully describes how the body should move in order to express ‘inwardly imagined music’. During the study, the pianists performed on a Yahama Disklavier grand piano and a video camera was positioned in the place of an audience to capture their right-side profile. In general, the data indicate that for each pianist there was a consistent relationship between breathing rate and main tempo in successive performances of the same piece.