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Sam Thompson

Evaluating Evaluation: An Investigation of Quality Judgements in Musical Performance

PhD 2005 (London)

This thesis develops a critique of traditional performance evaluation in music, through theoretical reinterpretation of existing practice and both naturalistic and controlled experimental methods.

Initially, notions of 'formal' and 'informal' evaluation are examined, with the former interpreted as a special case of the latter in which listeners attempt to 'objectify' their judgement such that certain personal responses are consciously eliminated.

The first empirical study explores typical performance evaluation practice. Evidence is found to suggest that experienced evaluators disagree considerably about the quality of several performances and that they perform poorly in terms of discriminating between different aspects of performance. A second study makes novel use of a continuous measurement methodology to probe the dynamic characteristics of a performance evaluation task. Results suggest that skilled listeners make quality judgements about performances remarkably quickly. Moreover, the study's group design shows that evaluative judgements of different aspects of performance may develop differently over time.

Drawing on a wider theoretical framework, the third study considers the relation of quality judgements to affective responses for an audience at a live orchestral concert. Data from the study suggest that personal affective responses may be more important than the performance's absolute perceived quality in influencing listeners' enjoyment of a concert, but that other factors also contribute. The fourth study uses a sampling questionnaire methodology in which respondents are encouraged to reflect on factors that influence their enjoyment of a performance. Principal Components Analysis is used to produce a tentative model of relationships between these factors.

In the final chapter, findings from the four studies are considered, and an argument made for the reconceptualisation of existing practice such that informal evaluative judgement are accorded priority. Limitations of the work and suggestions for future research are discussed. 

Related publications

Thompson S (2006), Audience responses to a live orchestral concert, Musicae Scientiae, 10, 215-244 [DOI]

Thompson S (2007), Determinants of listeners' enjoyment of a performance, Psychology of Music, 35, 20-36 [DOI]

Thompson S, Williamon A, & Valentine E (2007), Time-dependent characteristics of performance evaluation, Music Perception25, 13-29 [DOI]

Thompson S & Williamon A (2003), Evaluating evaluation: Musical performance assessment as a research tool, Music Perception, 21, 21-41 [DOI] 

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