Social resonance

Sometimes it makes sense to study very different scenarios in order to identify some of the affordances of a theoretical framework that might otherwise be difficult to discern. In the particular case that I wish to address here structural resonance can sometimes be elusive. An example of structural resonance is emotional contagion. People can "catch" emotions from others just by being-in-with them. As I drove in the early morning to the convenience store to pick up some milk for my spouse's cereal I heard a violin concerto on WQXR. I had heard the piece many times before and just hearing the first few bars created a strong desire within me to listen to the entire piece. I also found myself tearing up as the music unfolded. I quickly purchased the milk, drove home, and searched for the piece on iTunes. To my astonishment it was not there. I thenendeavoredto locate the concerto on YouTube. I searched for Johannes Brahms' violin concerto and the top hit featured Alan Gilbert, the conductor of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. Since we are season-ticket holders for the Philharmonic I was attracted to that performance and clicked on it. The orchestra was the North German Radio Symphony and the concerto was performed on Dec 10, 2005at the NHK Music Festival, NHK Hall (Tokyo).Without knowing much about the soloist,Sayaka Shoji(庄司紗矢香), I began to watch the piece. Almost immediately I was transfixed. Of course the piece is a favorite of mine, but these performers and the performance were exceptional. I felt as if I was experiencing something was quite unique and special.

The changes in emotion were interesting to watch at several levels.


Facial expression of emotion was evident throughout the three movements of the videoclip and it is obvious that the conductor and soloist were close to one another (spatially and emotionally), focused, and in synchrony. Just as obviously the music played a role in the production and maintenance of emotions (and emotional climate) and, at the same time, emotions mediated the prosody of the music. There's something about the hands or more precisely the fingers when it comes to excellence in violin playing. The way Sayaka's fingers moved on the strings make a difference to the overtones/quality of the music and I suspect there is resonance between facial expression, movement of the fingers, and the timbre of the music. I think this is a good example of each of these listed factors (and others in the constituted whole) presupposing one another. From the very beginning of this videotape emotion is etched into the faces of both soloist and conductor. You can move frame by frame once the YouTube video has downloaded onto your computer. I was interested to see the communication and synchrony between conductor and soloist. Of course rehearsal affords fluency and all that goes with it – anticipation, appropriateness, timeliness etc.

The in-the-moment emotions run the gamut from abject sadness/sorrow to ecstasy. The beginning of the concerto through to the inadvertent clapping midway through and then after the clapping until the conclusion are mirror images of one another. I would assess the emotional climate for each of these two parts to be "inspirational." And yet if you look at the moment-by-moment segments you get an impression that is very different.

There are many social categories that constitute a structural field that supports the production/reproduction of an "inspirational" emotional climate. These include the relatively young age of the performer, my prior history of attachment to the violin concerto, my prior history of attachment to the orchestra, racial differences between the soloist and the conductor, and virtuoso performance. My thinking is that this is a good piece to review for the purpose of looking to see how theoretical frameworks associated with emotional climate, in-the-moment emotions, structural resonance, emotional contagion, etc., can be studied and what artifacts can be used to support publications about these topics (such as off prints with associated analyses using frameworks such as those of Ekman,Turner, and Collins).

It might be a stretch, but I want to argue there is a deep sense of mindfulness in this performance. I think the spontaneous smile captured in the next offprint, captured during the inadvertent clapping episode, is a good example of not trying to fight emotions while meditating or maintaining a mindful state. Amusement, happiness, understanding and compassion were spontaneously represented in theSayaka'sface and within seconds she moved on, switched emotions, and was ready for the finale.


What do you think? Enjoy the performance :-).

Kenneth Tobin 2015