Musical sight-reading expertise: cross-modality investigations


It is often said that experienced musicians are capable of hearing what they read from the score and vice versa. This suggests that they are able to process and to integrate multimodal information. Does the expertise in music rely on an efficient cross-modal integration? This paper investigates this issue with 2 experiments. In the first one, 30 expert and 31 non expert musicians were required to report whether two successively auditory and visual presented fragments of classical music were same or different. In half the conditions the participants received the fragments in visual presentation only (same modal presentation), in the other half they received the fragments in auditory and visual presentation (cross-modal presentation). As expected, analysis of Response Time and Errors showed that experts performed the task more accurately and rapidly than non experts, whatever the modal presentation, while non experts performed more accurately and rapidly in the same modal presentation. So, more experienced performers seem to be better able to transfer information from one modality to another. In the second experiment, 15 expert and 10 non expert musicians were required to listen, read, and perform classical piano excerpts. The experiment was run in two consecutive phases during which each excerpt was (1) read without playing and (2) sight-read (read and played). In half the conditions, the participants heard the music before the reading phases. The excerpts contained suggested fingering of variable difficulty (difficult, easy, or no fingering). Eye movements were registered during the reading phases. Analyses of fixations and playing mistakes validated the hypothesized modal independence of information among expert musicians, observed in the first experiment. Moreover analyses validated the cross-modal capacities of expert memory. For experts, the mere viewing of a musical score may facilitate planning and preparation for motor execution, whereas non-experts do not appear to have this cross-modal integration ability. Results are discussed in terms of amodal memory for expert musicians that can be in support of theoretical work by Ericsson and Kintsch [24]: more experienced performers better integrate knowledge across modalities

Cite this paper

@inproceedings{DraiZerbib2011MusicalSE, title={Musical sight-reading expertise: cross-modality investigations}, author={V{\'e}ronique Drai-Zerbib and Thierry Baccino}, year={2011} }