Expressive Timing, Musical Tension, and Listener-Performer Synchronicity: Commentary on Ohriner


  • Bruno Gingras University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria



performance, synchronization, expressive timing, expectations, musical tension


Ohriner (this volume) empirically investigated the ability of listeners to rhythmically entrain to performances of Chopin’s mazurkas and suggested that performers can manipulate listeners’ expectations and influence their perceived musical tension by using eccentric or unpredictable patterns of tempo variation. In this commentary, I attempt to situate Ohriner’s research in a broader context, while elaborating on his findings and proposing alternative interpretations in some cases. I suggest that, although mazurkas are particularly suitable for a study of entrainment due to their clear metrical structure, it would be appropriate to study musical genres in which the metrical structure is obscure or even absent. I also question Ohriner’s interpretation of a lack of synchronicity as being predominantly associated with negative emotions. Furthermore, in order to examine more rigorously the influence of synchronicity on perceived musical tension, I present a controlled experimental design to disentangle the effects of tempo and rubato, which would involve measuring both entrainment and musical tension while asking participants to rate the perceived eccentricity of the performances.