Experience, expectation, and personal meaning: understanding the person-environment relationship in the context of a musical performance

  • James Armstrong University of Surrey


The environment in which a musical performance takes place is influential over a musician’s playing beyond its acoustical properties (Byrne 2012), social settings (Bates 2012), and staging (Vad 2017). However, the individual’s relationship with their environment is typically overlooked. An interdisciplinary approach combining the fields of music performance studies and environmental psychology has been developed in order to investigate the environmental attributes influential over a musician’s performance from their own perspective. Musicians are tasked with performing short instrumental excerpts of their choosing in a number of real-world and acoustically simulated environments. A semi-structured interview with participants is then conducted in order to gather qualitative data about their experiences during the study, otherwise unavailable through musical analysis alone. This paper presents the conclusive findings of an ongoing PhD research project, revealing the delicate interactions between a musician and their surroundings that form the person-environment relationship in the context of a performance. Elements of cultural significance, social expectation, behaviour-settings, and personal meaning are explored in depth. The impact of this study is important in understanding how different physical environments can affect a musician’s approach and attitudes towards performing on an emotional and psychological level.