Monday, November 28, 2011

Conducting "tense" intonation work

Clip art: Clker
Always nice to discover a piece of research that seems to confirm the validity of something you have been doing. The linked research explored the perceived vocal tension associated with certain gestures used by choral conductors, specifically,

(a) palm up
(b) palm down
(c) pointing gesture
(d) flat gliding motion to the side
(e) a clenched fist.

The pedagogical movement patterns of the hands across the visual field representing intonation contours include all those gestures except the last (which is used in one of the rhythm-oriented PMPs.)  In fact, most of what we now use for intonation PMPs (there are basically 5 or 6 of them) came from observations I did about 15 years ago on the gestures used by pronunciation teachers during intonation lessons. What was most striking in the 2004 Fuelberth study was that the relative tension generated by those conducting gestures seemed to correlate well with their functions in HICP as either focus conveying (a stressed syllable of varying intensity) or a lead up to (or follow off from) a stressed element.  We do, of course, also refer to "tense" and "lax" vowels in some phonetic systems.

It is a case where a little "tension" works well in anchoring the felt sense of both discourse prominence and expressiveness. All together now . . . 

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