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Sight-reading CHAPTER 32 Introduction Anyone who wants to perform the works of tradi- tional Western music, and approach other musi- cal styles using a similar performance practice, will most likely have to master music notation. Many musical cultures rely on a system of sym- bols to store and teach complex musical styles that are not, or only partly, grounded in improv- isation. While the beginning music reader has to overcome the same problems as all readers do when
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   Sight-reading CHAPTER 32 Introduction Anyone who wants to perform the works of tradi-tional Western music, and approach other musi-cal styles using a similar performance practice, will most likely have to master music notation. Many musical cultures rely on a system of sym-bols to store and teach complex musical styles that are not, or only partly, grounded in improv-isation. While the beginning music reader has to overcome the same problems as all readers do when learning to read other texts, namely going from a tedious matching of symbols to sounds to meaning, the expert reader has automatized the process of encoding and transforming the signs into embodied action. For our purposes, we will call sight-reading the execution—vocal or instrumental—of longer stretches of non- or under-rehearsed music at an acceptable pace and with adequate expression. Some people also label this ‘playing by sight’ or ‘prima vista’. Another related set of activities might be called music or note reading: for example, the following of a score with the aim of studying a piece while the music is play-ing, or the studying of a new piece of music away from the instrument prior to physically prac-tising it. Both activities may even be accompa-nied by the sounding out of some notes on an instrument. However, the characteristic goal of sight-reading is the authentic performance, or as Mozart once phrased it, ‘to play the piece . . . so as to make believe that it had been composed by the one who plays it’ (letter from 1778 cited in Crofton and Fraser 1985 , p. 111). Similar to improvisation, sight-reading requires the instant adaptation to new constraints, which places it among those that motor scientists refer to as open skills (as opposed to closed skills that require reproduction of well-rehearsed motions, such as swimming, figure skating or playing a well-rehearsed piece of music). Today, studio musicians and accompanists must be able to sight-read, and many orchestra musicians have done it on a regular basis for centuries. It is this kind of un- or under-rehearsed performance that we are concerned with because it forms a well-defined and discrete skill comparable to that of playing by ear or improvising. When and under what conditions does sight-reading emerge as a skill in a culture? Music archaeology tells us about some forms of nota-tion from ancient Egypt and Greece and other cultures which have developed coding systems for music that mainly serve mnemonic purposes (e.g. Bent et al  . 2008 ). The Western model of notation started to develop in the ninth century in order to code multivoice vocal and later instru-mental music. In a musical culture (regardless of geographical place and historical time) in which music is solely improvised, sight-reading is not necessary, yet music reading skills may still be used for learning to play an instrument (e.g. in India). When composers and perform-ers assume specialized roles and performers are expected to perform a fixed repertoire, then sight-reading may be required to limit rehearsal times or if the repertoire changes frequently (e.g. in the Baroque era). While the nineteenth century still saw renowned performers play other composers’ pieces from the score, canoni-zation of the repertoire, the developing art of interpretation, and rising audience expectations has since then led to a performance practice based on memorized performance by solo per-formers of the piano and violin. Our modern performance traditions have come to favour Andreas C. Lehmann and Reinhard Kopiez In S. Hallam, I. Cross & M. Thaut (Eds.) (2009). The Oxford handbook of music psychology (pp. 344-351). Oxford: Oxford University Press.  Perception of music notation and sight-reading · 345 polished performances and relegated sight-reading to a useful craft, generally not worthy of public notice or competition (we know only of the Karl Bergemann sight-reading competition, Hanover, Germany). Obviously, most orchestral, chamber, and studio musicians play from the score and so do many performers of contemporary art music. There are a few known solo pianists who have used scores even for standard repertoire. It is unclear whether musicians perform better with or without the score, but the audience is likely to expect memorized performances. Also, using the score requires page-turning or the presence of a music stand which may be disturbing for the audience and the performer and might detract from the sounding music. A music stand may obstruct the view and hinder gestural free-dom and the positive influence of expression that is conveyed through the body (cf. Lehmann et al  . 2007 , pp. 173–174). In marked contrast to the public neglect and low prestige of sight-reading among perform-ers stands the steady interest of music psychol-ogists and pedagogues in this skill (for reviews see Sloboda 1984 ; Lehmann and McArthur 2002 ; Lehmann et al  . 2007 , Chapter 6 ). Starting with the early music psychology experiments of the 1920s (published in Jacobsen 1941 ) and the development of sight-reading tests (Watkins 1942 , and the Watkins–Farnum Performance Scale), all aspects of skills relating to sight-reading attracted renewed interest in the 1970s (e.g. Sloboda 1974 , 1976 , 1977 ) and have con- tinued to do so (cf. Lehmann and Ericsson 1993 , 1996 ; Kopiez and Lee 2006 , 2008 for the acquisition of sight-reading skills) up until recent psychophysiological studies (e.g. Schon and Besson 2005 ; Yumoto et al  . 2005 ). It is important for research that we measure indi-viduals’ ability to perform at first sight under standardized conditions. Optimally, those con-ditions should mirror real-life conditions encountered by expert sight-readers (Lehmann and Ericsson 1993 ). In this chapter we will briefly look at how notation is perceived and then move on to the structure of sight-reading while taking into account the real-time conditions under which it takes place. This will include a discussion of per-ceptual and problem-solving issues. Finally we will outline the course of skill acquisition with its characteristic differences between novices and experts, and present a model of sight-read-ing performance. Perception of music notation and sight-reading To begin, we have to understand how the eye operates when we try to acquire information in everyday life. Contrary to what most people believe, the eye does not function like a movie camera. Rather, its operation can be likened to that of a flashlight in the dark being turned on and off at short intervals. Roughly four to five times a second the eye moves around the visual field in discrete jumps (saccades) with short resting points (fixations). The saccades take about 15–50 msecs, the fixations about 150–200 msecs. At this point it becomes clear that a con-scious attending to every eighth note in a piece at MM = 120 would be almost impossible. During each fixation, the external image is pro- jected on the retina at the back of the eye. Wile the retina is comparably large, we are able to receive a sharp image only from a narrow part in the middle. This round central part is called the fovea centralis, and whatever surrounds it will produce the somewhat blurry parafoveal image. Hence, the field of vision that will be per-ceived in great clarity only averages 0.5–2°, which corresponds to the size of an inch at a reading distance of about 30 inches (75 cm), or the area covered by a pointed-up thumb with extended arm. The parafoveal vision includes 10° of the field of vision (e.g. Rayner and Pollatsek 1989 ). The role of preview benefits and parafoveal-on-foveal effects are currently a hot topic in word-reading research. It is from such individual snapshots that our brain fash-ions what we experience as a large and steady picture of the outside world. Unfortunately, the eye movements cannot be allocated wilfully but are in fact guided by preconscious processes and drawn by outside stimuli. For example, move-ments and boundaries in the visual field attract attention, just as do human faces, but our cog-nition also guides the eye movements. For example, when a car disappears behind another we are likely to scan the plausible location of its  346 · CHAPTER 32  Sight-reading  reappearance, and we search the face of a person for cues to his or her mood. Today, we know that information gathered from one or several fixations is integrated in meaningful units or chunks of information which are the basis for further processing. Since the location and dura-tion of fixations is indicative of the processing underlying music reading, eye movements offer important insights into the workings of the musical mind. To explain the structure of sight-reading, we have to account for how much and which information is retrieved from the page and how it is assembled into meaningful units that are sequentially programmed and executed. The problem in surveying the results of eye movement in sight-reading is that the research methodologies are not standardized with regard to complexity of stimulus, tempo of perform-ance, and so forth. Unlike in text-reading research where many studies appear within a few years using the same paradigm, the time lag between publications on sight-reading is large and findings are often difficult to integrate. By and large, the earliest studies (Jacobsen 1941 ) established what subsequent studies have con-firmed, namely that eye movement patterns are dependent on the level of expertise: beginners had many fixations, long pauses during fixa-tions, and unsystematic reading of note combi-nations; intermediate musicians had about as many fixations as there were notes, and they read chords in systematic fashion from bottom to top; experts showed fewer fixations than notes and also systematic reading of chords (from top to bottom). Saccades can point for-ward in reading direction but also backwards (regressively)—for example to the current point of performance. This is most likely done to dou-ble-check things that have been read already or result from attention being detracted to per-formance errors (not a very efficient strategy). With increasing experience, the sight-reader experiences a reduction in the number of regres-sive fixations. Kinsler and Carpenter ( 1995 ), who strangely claimed that ‘a thorough search of the literature failed to find any account what-soever of the eye movements used to read music’ (p. 12), studied eye movements during perform-ance of notated rhythms. Their results showed that slower tempi lead to more and shorter fixa-tions. One problem in research with self-selected performance tempo is that slower tempi neces-sarily result in more fixations. Lannert and Ullman ( 1945 ) found a 0.45 correlation between tempo and accuracy, and we can never be sure if participants have traded off faster tempi for more fixations and thus ensure a more accurate performance. Equal speeds can only be achieved by using a pacing-voice methodology (Lehmann and Ericsson 1993 ). That notational input has an influence on the eye movements was mentioned previously (cf. systematic vertical reading of chords). Notational variants (e. g., eighth notes with or without con-necting bars) resulted in person-specific eye movements, and eighth notes (with connecting bars) tended to be looked at in pairs while quar-ter notes were attended to individually (Kinsler and Carpenter 1995 ). Truitt et al  . ( 1997 , also Goolsby 1994 ) questioned why fixations often landed between notes, and we suggest that read-ers tend to construct intervals rather than read-ing every note. Weaver ( 1943 ) found that polyphonically structured music was read in horizontal zigzagging patterns that tended to follow melodic lines in the different voices, whereas homophonic music resulted in zigzag-ging up and down motions. However, a critical look at his stimuli unveils that notation and structure were hopelessly confounded, e.g. no attemept was made to notate polyphonic stimuli in alternative (more homophonic looking) ways. none of the stimuli was polyphonic, yet it notated as if homophonically structured. Regardless of the shortcomings, we can say that experience and structure of input modify viewing patterns. Once the information has been retrieved dur-ing one or several fixations, it is stored and assembled in meaningful units in anticipation of the motor performance. Here also it was found that experience allowed for larger tempo-ral range of planning (Drake and Palmer 2000 ). The extent and nature of the buffering of infor-mation is part of the memory system to be dis-cussed in the next section. Memory processes The amount of information stored temporarily from a particular sequence of fixations or during a certain timespan can be assessed by experi-ments that allow sight-readers only limited visual  Sight-reading as problem-solving · 347 access to the score by either very brief (tachisto-scopic) display, by limiting the period of time during which the score is visible, or by using a computer that follows the fixations with a ‘moving window’ technique that permits variable pre-view. By this we can measure aspects of memory, namely the perceptual and the eye–hand span. The perceptual span denotes the distance between the current point of performance and the far-thest distance the person is looking ahead. Using a moving window technique, Truitt et al  . ( 1997 ) found that a preview of two beats leads to a slower tempo, larger variability in note dura-tions, and errors. Subjects performed better with previews between two and four beats or, ideally, with previews to the end of the next bar. Furneaux and Land ( 1999 ) found the number of notes to be about four for experts and two for novices. Unlike Truitt et al  . ( 1997 ) who found the time between fixation and performance to stand at 0.5 secs, Furneaux and Land ( 1999 ) documented between 0.7–1.3 seconds, depend-ent on the tempo. Similar results have been found in studies on typewriting (Gentner 1988 ). This narrow preview is at odds with the phe-nomenological experience of sight-readers who claim a much larger preview. With multiple fix-ations that can go anywhere in the piece, musi-cians construct motor programmes that rely on more than mere visual input of the foveal area (see below for further details). This leads to the larger eye–hand spans that can be measured when withdrawing the notation unexpectedly (Sloboda 1977 ). Sloboda found that meaningful musico-structural units influenced the length of the eye–hand span. For example, a larger dis-tance from the next phrase boundary tended to stretch the eye–hand span; a shorter caused it to shrink. Hiding a longer piece of music at arbi-trary points might still allow for cumulative effects of the previously sight-read material, whereas the method of briefly displaying dis- jointed snippets of information for several hun-dred milliseconds does not. We know that the reading context influences patterns of fixation (Bekkering and Neggers 2002 ). If we consider that repeated trials lead to better sight-reading accuracy and that better sight-readers have a better recall for material after a single trial (Lehmann and Ericsson 1993 ), we have to con-sider the effects of long-term working memory typically found among experts (Ericsson and Kintsch 1995 ). This privileged access to long-term memory allows expert readers to store briefly presented material in long-term memory with-out extensive rehearsal. Inner hearing Some authors have claimed that inner hearing and audiation processes may be important in sight-reading, and independent tests of audia-tion, imagery, and pattern matching are posi-tively associated with sight-reading ability (e.g. Kornicke 1995 ; Waters et al  . 1998 ; Kopiez and Lee 2006 ). These processes would suggest that the mental representation of music nota-tion involves the building of melodic and other expectancies by the performer. Recent electro-physiological studies have confirmed this point. In studies in which listeners followed a visually presented score that was accompanied by the corresponding sounds, discrepancies between the printed score and auditory events resulted in a recorded mismatch negativity about 150 msec after the dissociation in the vicinity of Heschl’s gyrus, where auditory pitch detection is located (Schon and Besson 2005 ; Yumoto et al  . 2005 ). This means that performers are likely able to know if their sounds match the score or not. Whether or not auditory images are used for planning of movements may depend on the musician. For example, Banton ( 1995 ) found that sight-reading without auditory feedback led to only slightly more mistakes than normal feed-back; however, omitting visual access to the keys resulted in markedly poorer performance. A clas-sic experiment by Allport et al  . ( 1972 ) revealed that pianists could repeat words that were pre-sented while sight-reading at the piano, which suggests that auditory feedback is not necessary. However, it may be used to create expectations. Sight-reading as problem-solving We already mentioned that not all notes can be focused on and that problem-solving processes will have to complement the incomplete visual input. In fact, everyday experiences teach us that some pieces are able to be sight-read more easily
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