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TitleJuslin, P. N. (2003). Five Facets of Musical Expression. a Psychologist's Perspective on Music Performance. Psychology of Music, 31(3), 273-302
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Psychology of Music

DOI: 10.1177/03057356030313003
2003; 31; 273 Psychology of Music

Patrik N. Juslin
Five Facets of Musical Expression: A Psychologist's Perspective on Music Performance

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Five facets of musical expression:
a psychologist’s perspective on
music performance

273A RT I C L E

Psychology of Music

Psychology of Music
Copyright © 

Society for Education,
Music and Psychology

Research
vol (): ‒

[- ()
:; ‒; ]

PAT R I K N . J U S L I N
U P P S A L A U N I V E R S I T Y

A B S T R A C T The aim of this article is to outline a psychological approach to
expression in music performance that could help to provide a solid foundation for
the teaching of expressive skills in music education. Drawing on previous
research, the author suggests that performance expression is best conceptualized
as a multi-dimensional phenomenon consisting of five primary components: (a)
Generative rules that function to clarify the musical structure; (b) Emotional
expression that serves to convey intended emotions to listeners; (c) Random
variations that reflect human limitations with regard to internal time-keeper
variance and motor delays; (d) Motion principles that prescribe that some aspects
of the performance (e.g. timing) should be shaped in accordance with patterns of
biological motion; and (e) Stylistic unexpectedness that involves local deviations
from performance conventions. An analysis of performance expression in terms
of these five components – collectively referred to as the GERMS model – has
important implications for research and teaching of music performance.

K E Y W O R D S : computational modelling, emotion, expression, music education, music
performance

He put the bow to his instrument . . . and then, the first notes, bold and fiery,
sang through the hall. At once the spell began to work. Was this really the
music of a violin? What grandeur in these slurred notes, what absolute purity!
There came roulades of double-stop harmonic notes, and a long run across four
octaves, played staccato in a single stroke of the bow . . . Then came a noble,
moving theme, which sounded as though a human voice was singing . . . After
the seemingly endless applause had subsided, Paganini began to play the second
movement. It was an adagio, and showed the virtuoso from quite a different
angle. There were none of the devilish tricks that had stunned the audience
during the first movement. A sublime, angelic song of great noblesse and sim-
plicity touched the hearts of the listeners . . . The notes followed one another as

sempre :

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TA B L E 2 Summary of hypotheses regarding the primary components of performance expression according to the GERMS model

Component

Characteristic G E R M S

Origin of pattern Generative Emotion-specific Internal timekeeper Biological motion; Deviations from
transformations of patterns of acoustic and motor delay distinct patterns of expected performance
the musical structure cues deriving from variance reflecting movement typical conventions

vocal expression human limitations of human beings

Nature of pattern Local expressive Mainly overall levels Semi-random patterns Dynamic, non- Local; not predictable
features related to of multiple uncertain, 1/f noise and white compensatory from the structure
the structural partly redundant cues noise; very small in patterns; smooth
interpretation that are compensatory magnitude, irregular and global

Salient brain regions Left hemisphere Right hemisphere Lateral and medial Left hemisphere Anterior cingulate
(adjacent to Broca’s (the basal ganglia) parts of the (adjacent to the cortex
area) cerebellum, plus the superior temporal

motor cortex sulcus)

Perceptual effects Clarifies structure; Expresses emotions Generates a ‘living’ Yields expressive Heightens tension
affects the inherent and moods (mainly in and natural quality form that is similar and unpredictability
expression of a piece broad categories of to human gestures

emotion)

Knowledge dependence Medium Low None Low High

Aesthetic contribution Beauty, order, Recognition, arousal, Unevenness, novelty Balance, unity, Novelty, arousal
coherence personal expression recognition

Under voluntary control Yes, mostly Yes No Yes, partly Yes


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Page 16

involves involuntary patterns of variability that contribute a certain uneven-
ness to a performance, and also may enhance the novelty aspect of art.

The M-component originates in patterns of human movement (biological
motion), like arm gestures, which reflect the unique construction of the
human body (e.g. the unique composite of anatomical proportions, including
both geometrical dimensions and distribution of mass between parts of the
body). Perception of the M-component partly reflects the human ability to
distinguish animate objects from inanimate objects on the basis of patterns of
sounds, which could have great survival value. This involves complex,
dynamic and non-compensatory temporal patterns that are processed by
the left hemisphere (Natale, 1977; Peretz, 1990), possibly by brain regions
adjacent to those that analyse biological motion in vision, like the superior
temporal sulcus (Allison et al., 2000). The M-component contributes to the
recognition aspect of art – by signalling human intentionality – but also
lends balance and smooth gesturing to a performance.

The S-component originates in a general human tendency to create schemat-
ic expectations that can guide behaviour, and the consequent monitoring of
such expectations that may give rise to emotional arousal, signalling that
something important has happened. This notion is recurrent in psychological
theories of emotion since the beginning of the 20th century (e.g. Oatley, 1992).
As regards music performance, I have hypothesized that the S-component
reflects a performer’s deliberate attempt to deviate from stylistic expectations
concerning performance conventions in order to add tension and unpre-
dictability to the performance. The S-component involves locally focused
expressive features that contribute to the novelty, originality and arousal
aspects of art. Monitoring of expectations is believed to be processed by parts
of the anterior cingulate cortex (Ochsner and Feldman Barrett, 2001). What
is the relationship of the S-component to the others? My guess is that the first
four components are sufficient to achieve an acceptable performance, but that
the S-component is what makes a performance really special. Thus, much of
the artistic process aims at turning GERM performances into GEMS. That is,
reducing random fluctuations to a minimum and increasing the originality of
the musical interpretation.

A PRELIMINARY IMPLEMENTATION

Can this kind of psychological theory be turned into something useful in
empirical terms? In a recent study, we made the first attempt to implement a
component approach in a computational model, the GERM model, that simu-
lates different aspects of expression (Juslin et al., 2002).5 The model com-
prised only four main sources of variability (Generative rules, Emotional
expression, Random variability, Motion principles), since we had not figured
out how to implement the fifth component, S, at the time. The model takes as
its input (a) a musical notation, and (b) a performer interpretation. We
assume that there is both a structural interpretation (e.g. phrase structure)

Juslin: Five facets of musical expression 287

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Page 30

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PAT R I K N. J U S L I N is Associate Professor of Psychology at the Department of
Psychology, Uppsala University, Sweden, where he teaches courses on emotion,
perception, and music psychology. He is the director of the inter-disciplinary research
project Feedback-Learning of Musical Expressivity (Feel-ME) (http://www.psyk.uu.se/
hemsidor/musicpsy/). He is a member of the International Society for Research on
Emotions (ISRE), and received ESCOM’s Young Researcher Award in 1996. He co-edit-
ed the book Music and Emotion (Oxford University Press, 2001) with John Sloboda. As
well as his work as a researcher, Juslin has worked professionally as a guitar player
and toured internationally with blues/jazz bands.
Address: Patrik N. Juslin, Department of Psychology, Uppsala University, Box 1225, SE
– 751 42 Uppsala, Sweden. [email: [email protected]]

302 Psychology of Music 31(3)

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