THE PSYCHOLOGICAL BASIS OF CONDUCTING
The conductor works largely through the instrumentality of instinctive imitation; that is, his methods are founded upon the fact that human beings have an innate tendency to copy the actions of others, often without being conscious that they are doing so. Thus, if one person yawns or coughs, a second person observing him has an instinctive tendency to do likewise. One member of a group is radiant with happiness, and very soon the others catch the infection and are smiling also; a singer at a public performance strains to get a high tone, and instinctively our faces pucker up and our throat muscles become tense, in sympathetic but entirely unconscious imitation. In very much the same way in conducting, the leader sets the tempo,—and is imitated by the musicians under him; he feels a certain emotional thrill in response to the composer's message,—and arouses a similar thrill in the performers; lifts his shoulders as though taking breath,—and causes the singers to phrase properly, often without either the conductor or the singers being aware of how the direction was conveyed. It is at least partly because we instinctively imitate the mental state or the emotional attitude of the pianist or the vocalist that we are capable of being thrilled or calmed by musical performances, and it is largely for this reason that an audience always insists upon seeing the artist as well as hearing him. In the same way the musicians in a chorus or orchestra must see the conductor and catch from him by instinctive imitation his attitude toward the music being performed. This point will be more fully discussed in a later chapter, when we take up interpretation in conducting.