The Body in (Early) Music

Peter Spissky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.
Original languageEnglish
JournalArts and Humanities in Higher Education
Issue number3/4
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Free keywords

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


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