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Shape as understood by performing musicians

Prior, Helen



Abstract Previous studies of performing musicians have examined performance preparation and its concomitant decision-making, as well as musical expression and some of the ways in which performers describe their expressive intentions, but studies of the commonly-used terms ‘shape’ or ‘shaping’ are rare. Recent studies of musicians’ use of the concept of shape have examined its multi-modal characteristics and expression (Prior 2012a, 2012b); its link with musical identity (Prior 2011); and its function, revealed in interviews, as one of many heuristics, or tools for achieving a particular musical effect rapidly and without cumbersome amounts of conscious thought (Leech-Wilkinson and Prior 2014). This chapter analyses these data further, leading to the construction of a model of musical shaping that encompasses the levels at which shaping was discussed, triggers for musical shaping, heuristics, technical modifications, and the resulting change in musical sound. An overview of the interview data is provided through an explanation of each of these components, and the distribution among the participants of the use of each idea discussed. The model is then used to represent selected parts of the interview data to give an insight into some of the ways in which the components of the model were combined in the interviews. Finally, the model is discussed in relation to its potential for generalization embracing other performing musicians.


Prior, H. Shape as understood by performing musicians.

Deposit Date Jun 2, 2017
Journal Music and shape
Peer Reviewed Not Peer Reviewed
Keywords Musical performance, Shape, Shaping, Shaping levels, Triggers for shaping, Heuristics, Technical modifications, Changing sound, Expression
Public URL