Yes, Orchestra Conductors Make a Difference
Infrared lights on a baton help prove it: Study
By John Johnson, Newser Staff
Posted Dec 1, 2012 2:20 PM CST
Classical music conductors really do make a difference, a study says.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – Skeptics might think orchestra conductors are superfluous as they stand front and center waving their batons, but a new study suggests otherwise. In fact, the University of Maryland research concludes that the more forceful a conductor is, the better the music, reports NPR. Researchers put infrared lights on a conductor's baton and on the bows of violinists, then captured the resulting patterns in space with infrared cameras.

"You have a signal that is originating from the conductor, because he is moving his hands and his body," explains the lead researcher. "And then the players, they perceive that signal, and they create another signal by moving the bows of the violin appropriately. So you have some sort of sensorimotor conversation." What's more, they tried the experiment with a veteran conductor who wielded tight control over the musicians and with a relative novice who did not. Listeners found the music from the more authoritarian conductor to be better.

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Showing 3 of 20 comments
Dec 4, 2012 8:28 AM CST
Anyone else see the cartoon where the sign on the music stand in front of the conductor said "Wave that stick till the music stops; Then turn around and bow" I think this research was in response to that cartoon.
Dec 2, 2012 11:33 AM CST
This is dumb. The job of a conductor is to direct the orchestra. What else would he be up there for? Otherwise they could simply use a metronome.
Dec 2, 2012 10:52 AM CST
What an absolutely redundant study. All y'have to do is either 1) read a little about the nature of orchestral music or 2) ask someone in an orchestra.