Laban Movement, Conducting, and Expressive Singing

July 28, 2008 / By: John Habermann

The purpose of this study was to determine if the application of Laban Movement principles improved the expressive singing of a high school choir.  Sub-problems included whether a choir sang more expressively as a result of applying Laban Movement in rehearsal and performance, or if a choir sang more expressively as a result of applying traditional choral methods in rehearsal and performance.  Members of the Mounds Park Academy Concert Choir were solicited to participate in this study.  These students were randomly chosen and placed into two ensembles of 24 singers each:  Group I incorporated Laban Movement principles into rehearsal while Group II applied a more traditional choral method.  Judges listened to two recorded performances:  one conducted applying the Laban technique; and the other employing traditional conducting gestures.  The task of the judges was to determine, using the descriptors provided by the researcher, if one performance was more musical/expressive than the other.  Using a Likert scale, the Non-Laban Group scored an average of 3.4 while the Laban Group averaged 2.4.   When comparing the total scores, the three judges ranked the Non-Laban Group four to seven points higher than the Laban Group.  All judges agreed or strongly agreed that the Non-Laban Group exhibited four of the five expression statements:  (1) Text was given appropriate stress and direction; (2) Phrases were given appropriate dynamic contour; (3) Legato passages exhibited flow and sustainment; and (5) Notes of longer duration displayed appropriate melodic motion (crescendo, decrescendo, or messa di voce). They did not, however, agree that the Non-Laban Group achieved the criteria set forth in the fourth statement:  (4) Accented passages exhibited appropriate weight and direction. Based on these findings, the researcher concluded that the Non-Laban Group was more expressive than the Laban Group during rehearsal and performance.  Recommendations for further study include the application of Laban Movement by the participants during performance and the use Laban Movement in combination with the traditional choral method during the rehearsal process.