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Want to be a music star?

Get the
look right first: Study suggests
we primarily use visual
information when judging
performances
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Volunteers asked to spot winners of classical


music competitions
Novices and experts had higher success rate
when watching video-only
Success rate of listening to audio-only
recordings was lower
Passion was the most important visual
indicator, study found

Taking to the stage to perform in a classical concert takes not


only talent but countless hours of dedicated practice.
Musicians, however, may find it more rewarding and lucrative
to devote more time to their appearance.
Scientists have found that audiences are more likely to be
swayed by an artists looks and showmanship than their
musical ability.
Striking the right chord: A study has suggested professional musicians and
novices rely primarily on visual information when making judgements
about a performance. Pictured is Nicola Benedetti (left) and Vanessa Mae
(right)
Study: Passion was the most important visual indicator of the quality of a
performance, the research suggested

Even other professionals rely on visual cues rather than the


quality of musical performance to judge their fellow artists.
They end up relegating the sound of music to the role of noise,
said study leader Dr Chia-Jung Tsay, herself a concert pianist as
well as a psychologist.
Her findings may dismay less photogenic or outgoing artists but

seem to be confirmed by the appeal of attractive performers.


Those who have found stardom by taking classical music into
the mainstream include violinist Vanessa-Mae, 34, and Alison
Balsom, also 34, nicknamed trumpet crumpet by admirers.
In the study at University College London, video recordings of
ten classical contests with the sound muted were shown to a
group of novice fans and professional musicians.
They correctly picked the best recital in almost half by relying
on visual clues such as the players passion or involvement.
But when researchers played only the sound, just a fifth could
identify the winners.
Vocal: The researchers said although the performances were all
instrumental she expected the findings would hold for singers, and
perhaps even more so

When asked earlier how they would judge an artist, most of the
884 participants had said that sound mattered most.
Dr Tsay added: It is unsettling to find and for musicians not to
know that they themselves relegate the sound of music to the
role of noise. Classical music training is often focused on
improving the sound but this research is about what is really
being evaluated.
Even when we want to be objective in evaluating the sound of
music, when it comes to live performance, the visual
experience can be the most influential aspect.
People in the studies werent able to distinguish elements like
passion from the sound alone, and these factors appear to be
used as proxies for quality.
Dr Tsay said the findings, published in the journal Proceedings
of the National Academy of Sciences, could have implications in
other areas such as hiring staff and selecting political leaders.