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The Body in (Early) Music

  • Peter Spissky
Publishing year: 2016
Language: English
Publication/Series: Arts and Humanities in Higher Education
Volume: 15
Issue: 3/4
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: SAGE Publications Inc.

Abstract english

This essay reflects on my experimental projects in historical performance practice that explore possible ways of embodied reading of a musical score. Through the assimilation of gestural patterns derived from dancing, acting and speech-delivery into the body of a violinist, I attempt to develop an embodied approach to historically informed performance, where the focus shifts from the sound producing body towards the dancing, speaking, and gesturing body. Through my video analysis, two contrasting strategies came to light, which I termed Gesturist and Soundist. The gesturist-violinist reads the indications in the score as gestural events, manifested directly in body movement. The soundist-violinist translates the score into sonic images that trigger the necessary sound-producing body movements. While this schematic division worked well initially in the enquiry, my analysis suggests that it is necessary to find a combination of these strategies, where the physicality of the gesturist’s body is guided by the soundist’s ear.

A video essay (“Sancho’s punishment”) demonstrates my attempt to merge the violin-sound-producing movements with the physical gestalt movements of throwing and lifting.


  • Historically informed performance
  • baroque violin
  • musical gestures
  • musical interpretation
  • embodied music cognition


  • ISSN: 1741-265X
Pwter Spissky
E-mail: peter [dot] spissky [at] mhm [dot] lu [dot] se