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Saturday, December 1, 2012

Do Orchestras Really Need Conductors?

Read (and listen to) the whole thing at At NPR:

A new study aims to answer this question. Yiannis Aloimonos, of the University of Maryland, and several colleagues recruited the help of orchestral players from Ferrara, Italy.

They installed a tiny infrared light at the tip of an (unnamed) conductor's baton. They also placed similar lights on the bows of the violinists in the orchestra. The scientists then surrounded the orchestra with infrared cameras.

When the conductor waved the baton, and the violinists moved their bows, the moving lights created patterns in space, which the cameras captured. Computers analyzed the infrared patterns as signals: Using mathematical techniques originally designed by Nobel Prize-winning economist Clive Granger, Aloimonos and his colleagues analyzed whether the movements of the conductor were linked to those of the violinists.

The scientists hypothesized that if the movement of the conductor could predict the movements of the violinists, then the conductor was clearly leading the players. But if the conductor's movements could not predict the movement of the violinists, then it was really the players who were in charge.

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