Small Influence of Performing from Memory on Audience Evaluation


  • Reinhard Kopiez Hanover University of Music, Drama and Media, Hanover, Germany
  • Anna Wolf Hanover University of Music, Drama and Media, Hanover, Germany
  • Friedrich Platz State University of Music and Performance, Stuttgart, Germany



performance evaluation, memory, audio-visual, playing by heart


This study investigates the influence of an actual music stand on the evaluation of a videotaped audio-visual solo instrumental performance. Previous research has provided evidence that the presence of a score or music stand (obstructing the audience's view of the performer) might negatively influence the evaluation of the performance. However, due to methodological ambiguities, results in previous studies cannot be regarded as definitive. Thus, we conducted a replication study of Williamon (1999) with better control over confounding variables (e.g., varying levels of technical proficiency in different conditions). A violoncello player performed two pieces for solo instrument: once with a music stand on stage (pretending to play from score) and once without. The level of technical proficiency was kept constant in both performance presentations by the use of a pre-recorded, well-rehearsed performance from memory. Audio tracks were synchronized with the performance movements in a playback paradigm. Based on the performance evaluations from a web-based experiment (N = 471 participants), we found a significant but small effect size for the main effect of performance presentation (with vs. without music stand) (d = 0.23). We conclude that the audience's appreciation of a particular performance from memory might be based on factors other than the objective performance quality.