Shaping Musical Performance Through Conversation
It is common to learn to play an orchestral musical instrument through regular one-to-one lessons with an experienced musician as a tutor. Intuition suggests that the principal activity during these meetings would be playing, however conversation is important, not just as a way to analyse musical contributions, but to organise them within the lesson flow. Activities are managed conversationally, discussion interleaved with performance, demonstration and musical experimentation, resulting in a rich multi-modal social interaction. This thesis presents a detailed ethnographic study of five one-to-one clarinet lessons. Conversation transcription notation was developed specifically to capture the musical sounds produced alongside dialogue. Analysis of the shape and timing of the musical contributions shows that many aspects of music produced in this context are shaped by the way that playing can function as a conversational turn. For example, during student performance the volume, duration and timing of the tutor's utterances, in relation to the student's musical phrasing, determines whether they are interpreted as encouraging backchannels, or a bid for the floor to provide immediate feedback. Non-verbal behaviours such as gaze and changes in posture are used to encourage a student to self-repair and continue with their performance, despite mutual acknowledgement that a problem has occurred. Fine-grained analysis of a video-mediated remote lesson reveals what happens when this organisation is disturbed. The change in medium reduces the availability of non-verbal cues, and the disruption caused by latency has divergent effects on the sequence and placement of turns, as they are experienced at each location. For example, students find it more difficult to anticipate tutor interruption of their performance or correctly identify backchannels, leading to miscommunication. Our understanding of the importance of these phenomena to lesson flow leads to recommendations for tools to better support student-tutor interaction during the remote lesson experience.
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