Room for interpretation: methodological aspects of a music research project


The artistic research project ‘Room for interpretation’ addresses questions concerning the influence of room acoustics on the performance of Western art music from the performers’ perspective. The empirical core of the project is a number of experimental performance sessions carried out in Studio Acusticum, Piteå, a concert hall with mechanically variable acoustics. The authors discuss issues relating to the project’s design and methodology; the focus of the article is thus the research process rather than the results. A presentation of the project, its preconditions, goals, design and methodology is followed by an overview of previous research, mostly in acoustic science, on the same or closely related topics. In the third part of the article, characteristics of the present project are compared to those of the previous studies. In the following part, ’Room for interpretation’ is related to the ongoing discussion on the purposes and means of artistic research. The authors argue that the project, while showing certain similarities to previous studies, differs considerably with respect to aims and important aspects of design, and that its characteristic features agree well with those usually regarded as typical of artistic research. The article concludes with a summary of the most important results concerning: differences between performers’ reactions in the live situation and when listening to their own recordings; differences between chamber ensembles, conducted ensembles and soloists as to the influence of the acoustics on the performance; and the prevalence of sound over other musical parameters in performers’ comments on their recorded performances.


Musical performance; musical interpretation; artistic research; methodology; room acoustics; variable acoustics; Studio Acusticum.



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