Aarhus Universitets segl

MIB guest talk: Chris Corcoran

PhD student from University of Cambridge visits MIB and gives talk on swing performance in classical musicians.

Oplysninger om arrangementet


Fredag 8. juni 2018,  kl. 13:00 - 14:00


Meeting room 5th floor, DNC Building 10G, Aarhus University Hospital, Nørrebrogade 44, Aarhus C


Keeping score: Notation-based responses to swing music in unenculturated musicians


This project investigates the frequently observed problem that score-reliant classical musicians struggle to ‘groove’ or ‘swing’ in the performance of popular music rhythms. Swing is considered a socially negotiated outcome arising from performer interactions, and is traditionally considered to be an aural, but not notation-based, skill (Berliner 1994, Monson 1996). Therefore this project seeks to gain more data on how playing from notation affects unenculturated classical performers’ swing responses. In acknowledging the logistical pressures of classical concert life, which make aural training for unenculturated classical musicians unfeasible, the project also investigates the possibility of increasing swing in the short-term via an experimental notation.

In a forthcoming experiment, musicians will be recorded while performing musical excerpts transcribed in three different notational styles: A) Jazz (i.e. straight eight notes), B) Specified 2:1 beat-upbeat ratio (i.e. triplets or 12/8 metre), and C) Experimental (embedded performer interactions and groove techniques, flexible rhythms). Enculturated judges will compare the resulting recordings to a reference jazz recording, rate them for swing, and provide comments on technique. Combined with statistical analysis of recordings and brief interviews with the participating musicians, the gained data will allow for further insight into the topic and provide a feasibility assessment of the experimental notation.

Since the experimental process is in the final planning stage, I would appreciate feedback and input from the audience.

Topics of research include: swing and groove techniques and performer interactions; empirical assessment of microrhythms; notation-based learning vs. aural learning; cognitive factors in sight-reading and score-dependency; internal representation of music associated with aural feedback and pitch-to-pace mapping; issues in jazz and contemporary classical music notation.


Chris Corcoran is a German-Irish composer and researcher currently studying for a PhD in Music at the University of Cambridge. His PhD is divided between studying composition with composer Richard Causton and music psychology with Dr Neta Spiro (formerly Prof Nicholas Cook). He has taught on a variety of Cambridge undergraduate courses as a supervisor, including in music psychology. Chris holds an MMus from King's College London and an MA from City University London. Before starting his PhD, he spent several years working for publishers Schott Music and Oxford University Press, as well as Personal Assistant to composer Sir Peter Maxwell Davies. He is currently a visiting researcher at the Department of Psychology, University of Copenhagen.