Author ORCID Identifier

Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Fine Arts



First Advisor

John Nardolillo


The origin of playing behind-the-beat is attributed to the Hungarian conductor Arthur Nikisch (1855-1922), who is one of the most important figures in the history of the art of conducting. Nikisch, serving as Music Director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Berlin Philharmonic, and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra during a critical moment in the development of orchestral playing, influenced a generation of conductors who followed. Behind-the-beat playing, as many conductors and musicians refer to in describing experiences of top professional orchestral musicians, is a prevailing characteristic of theirs, not often observed in amateur orchestras and their conductors. It is an idea that is opposed to the notion of “time-beating,” which has come to have a negative connotation as not constituting expressive musicianship. “Time-beating” conveys that the conductor is emphasizing the beats (ictus). This kind of conducting describes ictus-focused-conducting, where one expects the sound to arrive exactly on the beat or on the ictus. In contradiction with this notion, behind-the-beat playing, evidenced in top professional orchestras and conductors, suggests that the sound happens behind the beat; after the ictus gesture of the conductor.

This project argues that rebound-focused-conducting, as opposed to ictus-focused-conducting, allows and facilitates behind-the-beat playing, which is a natural and universal phenomenon in the highest-levels of orchestral music making. Through a thorough examination of conducting literature and empirical studies, this project reveals that propensity for rebound-focused-conducting will yield many benefits for an orchestra. In any level of conducting, understanding and application of the behind-the-beat concept will facilitate organic communication with the orchestra, smoother musical connections, more flow, warmer tone production, and more mature and organic phrasing. Further study on the relationship between conducting gesture and sound response will contribute to this mysterious and under-discussed field. A deeper investigation of this relationship may be able to answer, for example, why in different circumstances the degree of “behind-the-beat” playing increases or decreases.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)