Non-verbal behaviours in popular music performance: A case study of The Corrs

K. Kurosawa, Jane Davidson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


The aim of this study was to investigate performer nonverbal behaviour in popularmusic performance in order to understand the use and functions of gestures,postures, and facial expression. To this end, the study begins by reviewing relevantpsychological and sociological research including Ekman and Friesen and Argyle’scategorisations of nonverbal behaviour. Drawing on these specific categories,functions of nonverbal behaviours in popular music performance are proposed.These include: to maintain performer self-control; to provide musical, narrative,emotional and personal information; to regulate and manipulate relationshipsbetween performer, co-performer and audience. The investigative work focuses ona case study of The Corrs and is carried out by observing two commerciallyavailable film recordings of the band in live performance. The songs demonstratethat within this band, three of the four members take turns singing solos. In thefirst performance, What can I do? is sung by Andrea (principle vocal), and in thesecond performance, No frontiers is sung by Sharon and Caroline. Focusing on thesoloists, all their nonverbal behaviours are classified in terms of types (e.g.,emblem, illustrator, regulator, adaptor, affect display) and frequency of behaviour.The results demonstrate that Ekman and Friesen and Argyle’s categorisationsprovide a complete description of the nonverbal behaviours found in theperformances. Moreover, the analysis reveals differences between individuals andthe two songs. With these findings, the paper concludes that nonverbal behavioursin this type of performance are crucial to the development, production andperception of the musical performance. Though preliminary, the study indicatesa need for much more detailed research of this topic if performers, educatorsand researchers are to understand and exploit the nonverbal aspects of a musicalcommunication fully.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-136
JournalMusicae Scientiae
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2005


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