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Passionate Performance Roundup

August 20, 2013

Our impressions of a performer’s musical talents are strongly influenced by their stage presence.



The perks of passionate playing. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

(Jupiter Images)

At the highest levels of musical performance, looks may matter more than sound. This according to new research in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Expert judges were played audio recordings of competitions among professional musicians; shown video with no sound; and finally, both sound and video. Surprisingly, they were best at picking the actual winners when they saw only the video; hearing the performances reduced their ability to less than random chance. The findings suggest that when musicians play this well, judges rely more on how passionate and expressive they look than how they sound.

In other news, University of Kent scientists describe a laser technology that analyses lipstick on crime-scene evidence. They correctly identified brands of lipstick left on cigarettes, cups and clothing right through the evidence bag. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.