Aesthetics of Conducting: Expression and Gesture

In Jean Paul Olive & Susanne Kogler (eds.), Expression et geste musical. L'Harmattan. pp. 65-73 (2013)

Andreas Dorschel
Goethe University Frankfurt
Expression in orchestral music is a matter of conductors rather than orchestras. Why should that be so? The straightforward answer seems to be that expression is bound to the individual self. But, then, does it have to be? Collective expression of, e.g., anger, rage or protest is not at all unusual in the public domain of politics. Our intuition of conductors’ expressive primacy could be salvaged if we were to conceive of orchestras as their instruments. But that will not do. For conducting is to make oneself understood by an orchestra rather than to impact on it causally. A better way of making sense of the relationship between conductor and orchestra is offered by the theory of the social contract. That idea should be supplemented by an account of the relationship between the conductor who gesturally embodies the music’s expression on the one hand and the audience on the other hand.
Keywords conducting  orchestra  expression  gesture  conductor  performance  tempo  individual  instrument  audience
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