Conducting
Overview
 
Conducting is the art of directing a music
Music
Music is an art form whose medium is sound and silence. Its common elements are pitch , rhythm , dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture...

al performance by way of visible gestures. The primary duties of the conductor are to unify performers, set the tempo, execute clear preparations and beats, and to listen critically and shape the sound of the ensemble. Orchestra
Orchestra
An orchestra is a sizable instrumental ensemble that contains sections of string, brass, woodwind, and percussion instruments. The term orchestra derives from the Greek ορχήστρα, the name for the area in front of an ancient Greek stage reserved for the Greek chorus...

s, choir
Choir
A choir, chorale or chorus is a musical ensemble of singers. Choral music, in turn, is the music written specifically for such an ensemble to perform.A body of singers who perform together as a group is called a choir or chorus...

s, concert band
Concert band
A concert band, also called wind band, symphonic band, symphonic winds, wind orchestra, wind symphony, wind ensemble, or symphonic wind ensemble, is a performing ensemble consisting of several members of the woodwind instrument family, brass instrument family, and percussion instrument family.A...

s and other musical ensemble
Musical ensemble
A musical ensemble is a group of people who perform instrumental or vocal music. In classical music, trios or quartets either blend the sounds of musical instrument families or group together instruments from the same instrument family, such as string ensembles or wind ensembles...

s often have conductors.
The principal conductor of an orchestra
Orchestra
An orchestra is a sizable instrumental ensemble that contains sections of string, brass, woodwind, and percussion instruments. The term orchestra derives from the Greek ορχήστρα, the name for the area in front of an ancient Greek stage reserved for the Greek chorus...

 or opera
Opera
Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text and musical score, usually in a theatrical setting. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery, and costumes and sometimes includes dance...

 company is sometimes referred to as a music director or chief conductor, or by the German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

 word, Kapellmeister
Kapellmeister
Kapellmeister is a German word designating a person in charge of music-making. The word is a compound, consisting of the roots Kapelle and Meister . The words Kapelle and Meister derive from the Latin: capella and magister...

or today: Dirigent.
Encyclopedia
Conducting is the art of directing a music
Music
Music is an art form whose medium is sound and silence. Its common elements are pitch , rhythm , dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture...

al performance by way of visible gestures. The primary duties of the conductor are to unify performers, set the tempo, execute clear preparations and beats, and to listen critically and shape the sound of the ensemble. Orchestra
Orchestra
An orchestra is a sizable instrumental ensemble that contains sections of string, brass, woodwind, and percussion instruments. The term orchestra derives from the Greek ορχήστρα, the name for the area in front of an ancient Greek stage reserved for the Greek chorus...

s, choir
Choir
A choir, chorale or chorus is a musical ensemble of singers. Choral music, in turn, is the music written specifically for such an ensemble to perform.A body of singers who perform together as a group is called a choir or chorus...

s, concert band
Concert band
A concert band, also called wind band, symphonic band, symphonic winds, wind orchestra, wind symphony, wind ensemble, or symphonic wind ensemble, is a performing ensemble consisting of several members of the woodwind instrument family, brass instrument family, and percussion instrument family.A...

s and other musical ensemble
Musical ensemble
A musical ensemble is a group of people who perform instrumental or vocal music. In classical music, trios or quartets either blend the sounds of musical instrument families or group together instruments from the same instrument family, such as string ensembles or wind ensembles...

s often have conductors.

Nomenclature

The principal conductor of an orchestra
Orchestra
An orchestra is a sizable instrumental ensemble that contains sections of string, brass, woodwind, and percussion instruments. The term orchestra derives from the Greek ορχήστρα, the name for the area in front of an ancient Greek stage reserved for the Greek chorus...

 or opera
Opera
Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text and musical score, usually in a theatrical setting. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery, and costumes and sometimes includes dance...

 company is sometimes referred to as a music director or chief conductor, or by the German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

 word, Kapellmeister
Kapellmeister
Kapellmeister is a German word designating a person in charge of music-making. The word is a compound, consisting of the roots Kapelle and Meister . The words Kapelle and Meister derive from the Latin: capella and magister...

or today: Dirigent. Conductors of choir
Choir
A choir, chorale or chorus is a musical ensemble of singers. Choral music, in turn, is the music written specifically for such an ensemble to perform.A body of singers who perform together as a group is called a choir or chorus...

s or choruses are sometimes referred to as choral director, chorus master, or choirmaster, particularly for choirs associated with an orchestra. Conductors of military band
Military band
A military band originally was a group of personnel that performs musical duties for military functions, usually for the armed forces. A typical military band consists mostly of wind and percussion instruments. The conductor of a band commonly bears the title of Bandmaster or Director of Music...

s and other bands may hold the title of bandmaster, or drum major. Respected senior conductors are sometimes referred to by the Italian
Italian language
Italian is a Romance language spoken mainly in Europe: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, by minorities in Malta, Monaco, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia, and by immigrant communities in the Americas and Australia...

 word, maestro
Maestro
Maestro is a title of extreme respect given to a master musician. The term is most commonly used in the context of Western classical music and opera. This is associated with the ubiquitous use of Italian vocabulary for classical music terms...

("master").

History of conducting

An early form of conducting is cheironomy
Cheironomy
Cheironomy is the use of hand signals to direct vocal music performance. Whereas in modern conductingthe notes are already specified in a written score, in cheironomy the hand signs indicate melodic curves and ornaments.-History:...

, the use of hand gestures to indicate melodic
Melody
A melody , also tune, voice, or line, is a linear succession of musical tones which is perceived as a single entity...

 shape. This has been practiced at least as far back as the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

. In the Christian
Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

 church, the person giving these symbols held a staff
Staff of office
A staff of office is a staff, the carrying of which often denotes an official's position, a social rank or a degree of social prestige.Apart from the ecclesiastical and ceremonial usages mentioned below, there are less formal usages. A gold- or silver-topped cane can express social standing...

 to signify his role, and it seems that as music became more rhythm
Rhythm
Rhythm may be generally defined as a "movement marked by the regulated succession of strong and weak elements, or of opposite or different conditions." This general meaning of regular recurrence or pattern in time may be applied to a wide variety of cyclical natural phenomena having a periodicity or...

ically involved, the staff was moved up and down to indicate the beat, acting as an early form of baton
Baton (conducting)
A baton is a stick that is used by conductors primarily to exaggerate and enhance the manual and bodily movements associated with directing an ensemble of musicians. They are generally made of a light wood, fiberglass or carbon fiber which is tapered to a grip shaped like a pear, drop, cylinder...

.

In the 17th century, other devices to indicate the passing of time came into use. Rolled up sheets of paper, smaller sticks and unadorned hands are all shown in pictures from this period. The large staff was responsible for the death of Jean-Baptiste Lully
Jean-Baptiste Lully
Jean-Baptiste de Lully was an Italian-born French composer who spent most of his life working in the court of Louis XIV of France. He is considered the chief master of the French Baroque style. Lully disavowed any Italian influence in French music of the period. He became a French subject in...

, who injured his foot with one while conducting a Te Deum
Te Deum
The Te Deum is an early Christian hymn of praise. The title is taken from its opening Latin words, Te Deum laudamus, rendered literally as "Thee, O God, we praise"....

 for the King
Louis XIV of France
Louis XIV , known as Louis the Great or the Sun King , was a Bourbon monarch who ruled as King of France and Navarre. His reign, from 1643 to his death in 1715, began at the age of four and lasted seventy-two years, three months, and eighteen days...

's recovery from illness. The wound became gangrenous
Gangrene
Gangrene is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition that arises when a considerable mass of body tissue dies . This may occur after an injury or infection, or in people suffering from any chronic health problem affecting blood circulation. The primary cause of gangrene is reduced blood...

, and despite the efforts of doctors the gangrene spread to his leg and he died two months later.

In instrumental music, a member of the ensemble usually acted as the conductor. This was sometimes the principal violin
Violin
The violin is a string instrument, usually with four strings tuned in perfect fifths. It is the smallest, highest-pitched member of the violin family of string instruments, which includes the viola and cello....

ist, who could use his bow
Bow (music)
In music, a bow is moved across some part of a musical instrument, causing vibration which the instrument emits as sound. The vast majority of bows are used with string instruments, although some bows are used with musical saws and other bowed idiophones....

 as a baton, or a lute
Lute
Lute can refer generally to any plucked string instrument with a neck and a deep round back, or more specifically to an instrument from the family of European lutes....

nist who would move the neck of his instrument in time with the beat. It was common to conduct from the harpsichord
Harpsichord
A harpsichord is a musical instrument played by means of a keyboard. It produces sound by plucking a string when a key is pressed.In the narrow sense, "harpsichord" designates only the large wing-shaped instruments in which the strings are perpendicular to the keyboard...

 in pieces that had a basso continuo part. In opera performances, there were sometimes two conductors - the keyboard player was in charge of the singers, and the principal violinist was in charge of the orchestra.

By the early 19th century, it became the norm to have a dedicated conductor, who did not also play an instrument during the performance. The size of the usual orchestra expanded during this period, and the use of a baton became more common, as it was easier to see than bare hands or rolled-up paper. Among the earliest notable conductors were Louis Spohr
Louis Spohr
Louis Spohr was a German composer, violinist and conductor. Born Ludewig Spohr, he is usually known by the French form of his name. Described by Dorothy Mayer as "The Forgotten Master", Spohr was once as famous as Beethoven. As a violinist, his virtuoso playing was admired by Queen Victoria...

, Carl Maria von Weber
Carl Maria von Weber
Carl Maria Friedrich Ernst von Weber was a German composer, conductor, pianist, guitarist and critic, one of the first significant composers of the Romantic school....

, Louis Antoine Jullien
Louis Antoine Jullien
Louis Antoine Jullien was a French conductor and composer of light music.Jullien was born in Sisteron, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, and was baptised Louis George Maurice Adolphe Roche Albert Abel Antonio Alexandre Noë Jean Lucien Daniel Eugène Joseph-le-brun Joseph-Barême Thomas Thomas Thomas-Thomas...

 and Felix Mendelssohn
Felix Mendelssohn
Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn Barthóldy , use the form 'Mendelssohn' and not 'Mendelssohn Bartholdy'. The Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians gives ' Felix Mendelssohn' as the entry, with 'Mendelssohn' used in the body text...

, all of whom were also composers. Mendelssohn is claimed to have been the first conductor to utilize a wooden baton to keep time, a practice still generally in use today. Amongst prominent conductors who did not or do not use a baton are Leopold Stokowski
Leopold Stokowski
Leopold Anthony Stokowski was a British-born, naturalised American orchestral conductor, well known for his free-hand performing style that spurned the traditional baton and for obtaining a characteristically sumptuous sound from many of the great orchestras he conducted.In America, Stokowski...

, Pierre Boulez
Pierre Boulez
Pierre Boulez is a French composer of contemporary classical music, a pianist, and a conductor.-Early years:Boulez was born in Montbrison, Loire, France. As a child he began piano lessons and demonstrated aptitude in both music and mathematics...

, Dimitri Mitropoulos, Kurt Masur
Kurt Masur
Kurt Masur is a German conductor, particularly noted for his interpretation of German Romantic music.- Biography :Masur was born in Brieg, Lower Silesia, Germany and studied piano, composition and conducting in Leipzig, Saxony. Masur has been married three times...

, Leonard Bernstein
Leonard Bernstein
Leonard Bernstein August 25, 1918 – October 14, 1990) was an American conductor, composer, author, music lecturer and pianist. He was among the first conductors born and educated in the United States of America to receive worldwide acclaim...

, Valery Gergiev
Valery Gergiev
Valery Abisalovich Gergiev is a Russian conductor and opera company director. He is general director and artistic director of the Mariinsky Theatre, principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, and artistic director of the White Nights Festival in St. Petersburg.- Early life :Gergiev,...

, and Nikolaus Harnoncourt
Nikolaus Harnoncourt
Nikolaus Harnoncourt is an Austrian conductor, particularly known for his historically informed performances of music from the Classical era and earlier. Starting out as a classical cellist, he founded his own period instrument ensemble in the 1950s, and became a pioneer of the Early Music movement...

. Hans von Bülow
Hans von Bülow
Hans Guido Freiherr von Bülow was a German conductor, virtuoso pianist, and composer of the Romantic era. He was one of the most famous conductors of the 19th century, and his activity was critical for establishing the successes of several major composers of the time, including Richard...

 is sometimes considered the first professional musician whose principal career was as a conductor.

Hector Berlioz
Hector Berlioz
Hector Berlioz was a French Romantic composer, best known for his compositions Symphonie fantastique and Grande messe des morts . Berlioz made significant contributions to the modern orchestra with his Treatise on Instrumentation. He specified huge orchestral forces for some of his works; as a...

 and Richard Wagner
Richard Wagner
Wilhelm Richard Wagner was a German composer, conductor, theatre director, philosopher, music theorist, poet, essayist and writer primarily known for his operas...

 were also great conductors, and they wrote two of the earliest essays dedicated to the subject. Berlioz is considered the first virtuoso conductor. Wagner was largely responsible for shaping the conductor's role as one who imposes his own view of a piece onto the performance rather than one who is just responsible for ensuring entries are made at the right time and that there is a unified beat.

Technique

Conducting is a means of communicating artistic directions to performers during a performance. Although there are many formal rules on how to conduct correctly, others are subjective, and a wide variety of different conducting styles exist depending upon the training and sophistication of the conductor. The primary responsibilities of the conductor are to unify performers, set the tempo, execute clear preparations and beats, and to listen critically and shape the sound of the ensemble. Communication is non-verbal during a performance, however in rehearsal
Rehearsal
For other uses, see Rehearsal or Dress rehearsal A rehearsal is a preparatory event in music and theatre that is performed before the official public performance, as a form of practice, and to ensure that all details of the performance are adequately prepared and coordinated for professional...

 frequent interruptions allow directions as to how the music should be played.

Conducting requires an understanding of the elements of musical expression (tempo
Tempo
In musical terminology, tempo is the speed or pace of a given piece. Tempo is a crucial element of any musical composition, as it can affect the mood and difficulty of a piece.-Measuring tempo:...

, dynamics
Dynamics (music)
In music, dynamics normally refers to the volume of a sound or note, but can also refer to every aspect of the execution of a given piece, either stylistic or functional . The term is also applied to the written or printed musical notation used to indicate dynamics...

, articulation
Articulation (music)
In music, articulation refers to the musical direction performance technique which affects the transition or continuity on a single note or between multiple notes or sounds.- Types of articulations :...

) and the ability to communicate them effectively to an ensemble. The ability to communicate nuances of phrasing and expression through gestures is also beneficial. Conducting gestures are preferably prepared beforehand by the conductor while studying the score
Sheet music
Sheet music is a hand-written or printed form of music notation that uses modern musical symbols; like its analogs—books, pamphlets, etc.—the medium of sheet music typically is paper , although the access to musical notation in recent years includes also presentation on computer screens...

, but may sometimes be spontaneous.

A distinction is sometimes made between orchestral conducting and choral conducting. Stereotypically, orchestral conductors use a baton
Baton (conducting)
A baton is a stick that is used by conductors primarily to exaggerate and enhance the manual and bodily movements associated with directing an ensemble of musicians. They are generally made of a light wood, fiberglass or carbon fiber which is tapered to a grip shaped like a pear, drop, cylinder...

 more often than choral conductors (though not always: this is up to the conductor's personal preference), and emphasize the use of beat patterns over gestural conducting, which concentrates more on musical expression and shape. Also stereotypically, an orchestra will play "behind" the conductor's beat, while choral ensembles will sing "on" the beat.

The grip of the baton varies from conductor to conductor. Despite a wide variety of styles, a number of standard conventions have developed.

Beat and tempo

The beat
Beat (music)
The beat is the basic unit of time in music, the pulse of the mensural level . In popular use, the beat can refer to a variety of related concepts including: tempo, meter, rhythm and groove...

 of the music is typically indicated with the conductor's right hand, with or without a baton
Baton (conducting)
A baton is a stick that is used by conductors primarily to exaggerate and enhance the manual and bodily movements associated with directing an ensemble of musicians. They are generally made of a light wood, fiberglass or carbon fiber which is tapered to a grip shaped like a pear, drop, cylinder...

. The hand traces a shape in the air in every bar
Bar (music)
In musical notation, a bar is a segment of time defined by a given number of beats of a given duration. Typically, a piece consists of several bars of the same length, and in modern musical notation the number of beats in each bar is specified at the beginning of the score by the top number of a...

 (measure) depending on the time signature
Time signature
The time signature is a notational convention used in Western musical notation to specify how many beats are in each measure and which note value constitutes one beat....

, indicating each beat with a change from downward to upward motion. The images show the most common beat patterns, as seen from the conductor's point of view.

The downbeat indicates the first beat of the bar, and the upbeat indicates the last beat of the bar. The instant at which the beat occurs is called the ictus (plural: ictus or ictuses), and is usually indicated by a sudden (though not necessarily large) click of the wrist or change in baton direction. In some instances, "ictus" is also used to refer to a horizontal plane in which all the ictuses are physically located, such as the top of a music stand
Music stand
A music stand is a device that holds sheet music in a position that allows the musician to read it while performing.There are various types of music stands. The most common modern type is made of metal and can be folded for ease of transportation...

 where a baton is tapped at each ictus. The gesture leading up to the ictus is called the "preparation", and the continuous flow of steady beats is called the "takt".

If the tempo
Tempo
In musical terminology, tempo is the speed or pace of a given piece. Tempo is a crucial element of any musical composition, as it can affect the mood and difficulty of a piece.-Measuring tempo:...

 is slow or slowing, or if the time signature
Time signature
The time signature is a notational convention used in Western musical notation to specify how many beats are in each measure and which note value constitutes one beat....

 is compound, a conductor will sometimes indicate "subdivisions" of the beats. The conductor can do this by adding a smaller movement in the same direction as the movement for the beat that it belongs to.

Changes to the tempo are indicated by changing the speed of the beat. To carry out and to control a rallentando, a conductor may introduce beat subdivisions.

While some conductors use both hands to indicate the beat, with the left hand mirroring the right, formal education discourages such an approach. The second hand is therefore used for cueing the entrances of individual players or sections, and to aid indications of dynamics, phrasing, expression, and other elements.

Dynamics

Dynamics
Dynamics (music)
In music, dynamics normally refers to the volume of a sound or note, but can also refer to every aspect of the execution of a given piece, either stylistic or functional . The term is also applied to the written or printed musical notation used to indicate dynamics...

 are indicated in various ways. The dynamic may be communicated by the size of the conducting movements, larger shapes representing louder sounds. Changes in dynamic may be signaled with the hand that is not being used to indicate the beat: an upward motion (usually palm-up) indicates a crescendo
Crescendo
-In music:*Crescendo, a passage of music during which the volume gradually increases, see Dynamics * Crescendo , a Liverpool-based electronic pop band* "Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue", one of Duke Ellington's longer-form compositions...

; a downward motion (usually palm-down) indicates a diminuendo
Dynamics (music)
In music, dynamics normally refers to the volume of a sound or note, but can also refer to every aspect of the execution of a given piece, either stylistic or functional . The term is also applied to the written or printed musical notation used to indicate dynamics...

. Changing the size of conducting movements frequently results in changes in the character of the music depending upon the circumstances.

Dynamics can be fine-tuned using various gestures: showing one's palm to the performers or leaning away from them may demonstrate a decrease in volume. To adjust the overall balance of the various instruments or voices, these signals can be combined or directed towards a particular section or performer.

Cueing

The indication of entries, when a performer or section should begin playing (perhaps after a long period of silence), is called "cueing". A cue must forecast with certainty the exact moment of the coming ictus, so that all the players or singers affected by the cue can begin playing simultaneously. Cueing is achieved by engaging the players before their entry and executing a clear preparation, often directed towards the specific players. An inhalation, which may or may not be a semi-audible "sniff" from the conductor, is a common element in the cueing technique of many conductors. Mere eye contact or a look in the general direction of the players may be sufficient in many instances, as when more than one section of the ensemble enters at the same time. Larger musical events may warrant the use of a larger or more emphatic cue designed to encourage emotion and energy.

Other musical elements

Articulation may be indicated by the character of the ictus, ranging from short and sharp for staccato
Staccato
Staccato is a form of musical articulation. In modern notation it signifies a note of shortened duration and separated from the note that may follow by silence...

, to long and fluid for legato
Legato
In musical notation the Italian word legato indicates that musical notes are played or sung smoothly and connected. That is, in transitioning from note to note, there should be no intervening silence...

. Many conductors change the tension of the hands: strained muscles and rigid movements may correspond to marcato, while relaxed hands and soft movements may correspond to legato or espressivo.

Phrasing may be indicated by wide overhead arcs or by a smooth hand motion either forwards or side-to-side. A held note is often indicated by a hand held flat with palm up. The end of a note, called a "cutoff" or "release", may be indicated by a circular motion, the closing of the palm, or the pinching of finger and thumb. A release is usually preceded by a preparation and concluded with a complete stillness.

Conductors aim to maintain eye contact with the ensemble as much as possible, encouraging eye contact in return and increasing the dialogue between players/singers and conductor. Facial expressions may also be important to demonstrate the character of the music or to encourage the players.

See also

  • Cheironomy
    Cheironomy
    Cheironomy is the use of hand signals to direct vocal music performance. Whereas in modern conductingthe notes are already specified in a written score, in cheironomy the hand signs indicate melodic curves and ornaments.-History:...

  • List of conductors
  • Conductorless orchestra
    Conductorless orchestra
    The conductorless orchestra, sometimes referred to as a self-conducted orchestra or unconducted orchestra, is an instrumental ensemble that functions as an orchestra but is not led or directed by a conductor. Most conductorless orchestras are smaller in size, and generally perform chamber orchestra...

  • Maestro
    Maestro
    Maestro is a title of extreme respect given to a master musician. The term is most commonly used in the context of Western classical music and opera. This is associated with the ubiquitous use of Italian vocabulary for classical music terms...


Further reading

  • Elliott W. Galkin, History of Orchestral Conducting, Pendragon Press (New York, NY), 1988.

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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