Skip the Pre-Concert Demo: How Technical Familiarity and Musical Style Affect Audience Response

Bin, S. Astrid and Bryan-Kinns, Nick and McPherson, Andrew P.

Proceedings of the International Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression

This paper explores the roles of technical and musical familiarity in shaping audience response to digital musical instrument (DMI) performances. In an audience study conducted during an evening concert, we examined two primary questions: first, whether a deeper understanding of how a DMI works increases an audience’s enjoyment and interest in the performance; and second, given the same DMI and same performer, whether playing in a conventional (vernacular) versus an experimental musical style affects an audience’s response. We held a concert in which two DMI creator-performers each played two pieces in differing styles. Before the concert, each half the 64-person audience was given a technical explanation of one of the instruments. Results showed that receiving an explanation increased the reported understanding of that instrument, but had no effect on either the reported level of interest or enjoyment. On the other hand, performances in experimental versus conventional style on the same instrument received widely divergent audience responses. We discuss implications of these findings for DMI design.