Facing the music

William Forde Thompson*, Frank A. Russo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

67 Citations (Scopus)


From the phonograph of the 19th century to the iPod today, music technologies have typically isolated the auditory dimension of music, filtering out nonacoustic information and transmitting what most people assume is the essence of music. Yet many esteemed performers over the past century, such as Judy Garland and B.B. King, are renowned for their dramatic use of facial expressions (Thompson, Graham, & Russo, 2005). Are such expressions merely show business, or are they integral to experiencing music?
In the investigation reported here, we considered whether the facial expressions and head movements of singers communicate melodic information that can be “read” by viewers. Three trained vocalists were recorded singing ascending melodic intervals. Subjects saw the visual recordings (without sound) and rated the size of the intervals they imagined the performers were singing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)756-757
Number of pages2
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2007
Externally publishedYes


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