Observing entrainment in music performance: Video-based observational analysis of Indian musicians' tanpura playing and beat marking

  • Clayton M
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Entrainment has been suggested as an important phenomenon underlying aspects of musical behaviour, and is attracting increasing attention in music psychology (see e.g. Large and Jones, 1999; Large, 2000), and in ethnomusicology (Clayton, Sager and Will, 2005). Approaches to its study in ethnomusicology must address a sig- nificant methodological problem: how to study entrainment phenomena in an eco- logically valid manner, and to integrate this process into a programme of ethnographic research. Video recordings contain important data regarding the physical movements of participants in musical events (as well as their audible results), and through the application of observational analysis software these recordings can form the basis of studies of entrainment between different quasi- periodic musical processes as manifested in movement patterns. For the present study a short video clip of an Indian raga performance was selected (taken from a performance of Shree Rag by the singer Veena Sahasrabuddhe). Observational analysis was carried out using The Observer Video-Pro software, configured to record the plucking of tanpura strings and performers’ beat markers (hand or fin- ger taps). Time series data thus generated were analysed using calculations of phase relationships, revealing several instances of both self- and interpersonal entrainment (the stated intention of the performers is, on the contrary, that the tan- pura rhythms should each proceed independently). Entrainment between these behaviours points to a complex, but unintended form of emergent order. This unexpected result demonstrates the usefulness of this method in revealing other- wise unnoticed phenomena in musical performance, and raises important questions for future research.

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  • Martin R.L. Clayton

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