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. (Read more orchestra stories.)