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Journal Article

Gesture–vocal coupling in Karnatak music performance: A neuro–bodily distributed aesthetic entanglement


Pearson,  Lara       
Department of Music, Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, Max Planck Society;

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Pearson, L., & Pouw, W. (2022). Gesture–vocal coupling in Karnatak music performance: A neuro–bodily distributed aesthetic entanglement. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1515(1), 219-236. doi:10.1111/nyas.14806.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-000B-A755-9
In many musical styles, vocalists manually gesture while they sing. Coupling between gesture kinematics and vocalization has been examined in speech contexts, but it is an open question how these couple in music making. We examine this in a corpus of South Indian, Karnatak vocal music that includes motion-capture data. Through peak magnitude analysis (linear mixed regression) and continuous time-series analyses (generalized additive modeling), we assessed whether vocal trajectories around peaks in vertical velocity, speed, or acceleration were coupling with changes in vocal acoustics (namely, F0 and amplitude). Kinematic coupling was stronger for F0 change versus amplitude, pointing to F0's musical significance. Acceleration was the most predictive for F0 change and had the most reliable magnitude coupling, showing a one-third power relation. That acceleration, rather than other kinematics, is maximally predictive for vocalization is interesting because acceleration entails force transfers onto the body. As a theoretical contribution, we argue that gesturing in musical contexts should be understood in relation to the physical connections between gesturing and vocal production that are brought into harmony with the vocalists’ (enculturated) performance goals. Gesture–vocal coupling should, therefore, be viewed as a neuro–bodily distributed aesthetic entanglement.