Biomechanical Modelling of Musical Performance: A Case Study of the Guitar
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Computer-generated musical performances are often criticised for being unable to match the expressivity found in performances by humans. Much research has been conducted in the past two decades in order to create computer technology able to perform a given piece music as expressively as humans, largely without success. Two approaches have been often adopted to research into modelling expressive music performance on computers. The first focuses on sound; that is, on modelling patterns of deviations between a recorded human performance and the music score. The second focuses on modelling the cognitive processes involved in a musical performance. Both approaches are valid and can complement each other. In this thesis we propose a third complementary approach, focusing on the guitar, which concerns the physical manipulation of the instrument by the performer: a biomechanical approach. The essence of this thesis is a study on capturing, analyzing and modelling information about motor and biomechanical processes of guitar performance. The focus is on speed, precision, and force of a guitarist's left-hand. The overarching questions behind our study are: 1) Do unintentional actions originating from motor and biomechanical functions during musical performance contribute a material "human feel" to the performance? 2) Would it be possible determine and quantify such unintentional actions? 3) Would it be possible to model and embed such information in a computer system? The contributionst o knowledgep ursued in this thesis include: a) An unprecedented study of guitar mechanics, ergonomics, and playability; b) A detailed study of how the human body performs actions when playing the guitar; c) A methodologyt o formally record quantifiable data about such actionsin performance; d) An approach to model such information, and e) A demonstration of how the above knowledge can be embeddedin a system for music performance.
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