Gender and Gesture Translation: Perception and Response in Choral Conducting

  • Author / Creator
    Brooks, Sara
  • The full thesis for this degree consists of two concerts and a scholarly essay. The concerts, presented on March 2, 2014 and November 2, 2015 featured the following works: Gloria RV 589 by Antonio Vivaldi, Mass No. 2 in G Major D. 167 by Franz Schubert, Cantata BWV 6 – Bleib bei uns, denn es will Abend warden by J.S. Bach, as well as a world premiere of I think they laugh in Heaven by Canadian composer Jeff Enns. The essay explores gesture and the perception of gender in the choral rehearsal or performance, and is appropriately introduced by the following statement: “When a woman makes a certain gesture it is interpreted differently than when a man makes the same gesture.” – Marin Alsop Marin Alsop’s observation on a gender-specific approach to conducting invites reflection on the following question: what differences exist in the conducting gestures of male and female conductors, and how are these differences interpreted by an ensemble? In contemporary society, research in gendered leadership in the areas of politics, education, and business is quickly evolving. Music scholars also acknowledge stylistic differences between male and female conductors. However, gender-specific conducting techniques remain a generally under-developed topic. The study of gender differences within the field of choral conducting requires examination of the relationships that exist between body types, physical gestures, verbal communication styles, and leadership behaviours, especially as they appear in choristers’ responses. This document initiates discussion of these topics with respect to performance and perception, and is intended to show the possible translation of study models between general social interaction and conductor-chorister interaction. The first portion of this study provides a review of studies conducted within the twentieth and twenty-first centuries in the fields of social psychology and nonverbal communication. The selected studies successfully link the performance of gender to gesture, laying the groundwork for discussion of podium gesture and its perception. A second section of this study presents findings from analysed video footage of choral conductors (male and female) in rehearsal and survey results compiled from chorister exposure to video footage. This investigation embodies a rich social dimension that has been lacking in specialized scholarship on the role and impact of gender in choral conducting. An investigation of this nature not only provides insight into chorister response, but will result in a greater awareness of the gender-related gesture typology, one that can eventually lead to a deeper connection between conductor and ensemble.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Music
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
    • Department of Music
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
    • Ratzlaff, Leonard (Music)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Meredith, Victoria (Music, University of Western Ontario)
    • Schroeder, Angela (Music)
    • Gier, Christina (Music)
    • Ingraham, Mary (Music)
    • Patrouch, Joseph (History and Classics)