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The Psychology of Live Music Performance – Virtual Workshop Report

This workshop was hosted by the organisers Dr Liila Taruffi (Durham University) and Dr Mats Küssner (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin) on 19 June 2020.

Over the last decades, live music experiences have undergone a drastic aesthetic transformation, becoming a space for radical experimentation and providing the opportunity to alter the ritualised (non-)interplay between performers and audiences. As the line between performers and audience becomes more blurred, they both participate in the production of a constantly evolving, shared aesthetic experience. This ongoing shift is well reflected by audience experiences of live music at affective, cognitive, social, and sensory levels.

Going towards a more ecologically valid, empirical psychology and aesthetics of live music performance will therefore require considering cross-disciplinary research questions such as the following: How do venues impact social resonance and engagement within listeners? What are music’s qualities associated with immersive experiences? What are the dynamics between audience, artists and settings in shaping social and affective experiences? To what extent does the bodily presence of audience and artists contribute to an experience of liveness? What are audiences’ expectations and their perceived value of live music performance?

The virtual workshop (held via Zoom) brought together researchers from aesthetics, psychology and musicology, providing an interdisciplinary space to advance the understanding of live music experiences. Besides short presentations by our invited speakers, the workshop featured various group discussions on current issues and recently conducted field work at Berlin’s CTM Festival. To show solidarity with performing artists during a time of global crisis and to reflect on the experience of virtual live performances, we were delighted to host two short lunch time performances by Paolo Cognetti and Giulia Vismara. The invited speakers were Prof. Stephanie Pitts (University of Sheffield), Prof. Karen Burland (University of Leeds), Prof. Andy Hamilton (Durham University) and Dr Hauke Egermann (University of York).

In total, 69 people attended the workshop from a wide range of countries incl. Australia, Canada, China, Cyprus, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Kenya, Philippines, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland and the UK.