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The social psychology of orchestral performance

Cayenna's research is focused on the social-psychological and socio-political aspects of orchestral music-making -- from the intricacies of co-performer communication in modern and historically informed contexts, to the politics of participation and orchestras' geo-political significance.

This has ranged from investigating the moment-by-moment decision- making of orchestral musicians during rehearsal and performance, to researching the social and political implications of Afghanistan’s orchestral activities.


She explores these questions through a blend of practice-based research and empirical investigation -- combining her work as a conductor and performer with her academic foci.


A hallmark of her work has been to develop new technological solutions for addressing methodological hurdles in orchestral research, such as gaining access to performers thoughts and experiences while engaged in the act of performance and capturing micro-timing data from large numbers of orchestral players simultaneously.

Research Projects

The Orchestras of Afghanistan


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I am currently combining my interests in the sociology of orchestral practices with their international forms in my Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow research at the University of Sheffield.

Collaborating with scholars and musicians from Afghanistan now living in exile, we are collectively working to produce the first book which will focus exclusively on the historical and contemporary activities, practices and meaning-making of the orchestras of Afghanistan.


As part of this work, we have also been ensuring that the orchestral music of Afghanistan continues to flourish at a time where such music-making is censored in the country. The Orchestral Music of Afghanistan: Looking Forward, is an initiative featuring the new compositions of Afghan composers, creating greater access to this incredible musical world for composers and listeners alike.

Transforming 19th-Century Historically Informed Practice


This 4-year AHRC-Funded interdisciplinary research project at the University of Oxford led by professional violinist, Claire Holden, was aimed at expanding the musical resources available to historically informed performers of 19th-century repertoire though historical research and experimentation.

One major strand of this research involved experimental approaches to 19th-century orchestral style through a professional performance and recording project Accordes!  Music psychology Professor Eric Clarke and I developed new ways of capturing micro-timing data from all members of a 22-member string orchestra and comparing that data with player experiences and audience perceptions in a variety of conditions. You can read about our research methods here.

More information is available on the project website as well as links to the final recordings. Full project findings are forthcoming.


Tracking Authorship and Creativity in Orchestral Performance



MERID (Media Enabled Research Interface and Database) developed in partnership with members of the Cornell Computer Science Department.

After completing my masters' degrees in percussion performance and orchestral conducting, and working in the industry as the Music Director of two regional civic orchestras for seven years, I return to university to pursue a systematic study of the dynamics of orchestral music-making. After a third master's degree in 'reading and writing' as I call my Master of Studies in musicology, I undertook my doctoral research at the University of Oxford under the supervision of Professor Eric Clarke. in

My interest was to better understand how musicians conceptualised their own creative inputs into orchestral performance. Over the course of a three-part qualitative study including questionnaires and interviews and involving the development of a new online video-stimulated recall tool (MERID) to help orchestral musicians report on specific experiences in the rehearsal and performance process, I was able to obtain near to real-time data about what musicians are thinking, feeling and responding to when they perform. 

What this work revealed was the extremely complex, contingent and precarious meshwork of influences and action which musicians are constantly negotiating to determine exactly both how to characterise and precisely when to play their parts. Decisions which are influenced far beyond the visible hierarchies many people take for granted. 

My theory of orchestral performance will be published in an upcoming co-authored chapter with Eric Clarke later in 2023. 

If you can't wait, you can read the full 459-page(!) thesis here.


  • ​Ponchione-Bailey, C. (27 January 2023). Tár: busting the myths the film perpetuates of the all-powerful maestroThe Conversation.

  • Ponchione-Bailey, C. (2023). Everyday Bridges. In A. Bull, L. Nooshin & C. Scharff (Eds.), Voices for change in the classical music profession: New ideas for tackling inequalities and exclusions. New York: Oxford University Press.

  • Ponchione-Bailey, C. (4 July 2022). ‘Hope is essential’: Afghanistan’s silenced musicians find a new stageThe Guardian.

  • Ponchione-Bailey, C., & Clarke, E.F. (In Press). Agency, creativity and (inter)action in orchestral performance. In G. Michaelson & C. Stover (Eds.), Making music together: Analytical perspectives on musical interaction. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

  • Ponchione-Bailey, C., & Clarke, E.F. (2020). Technologies for investigating large ensemble performance. In R. Timmers, F. Bailes & H. Daffern (Eds.), Together in music: Participation, coordination, and creativity in ensembles. New York: Oxford University Press.

  • Palmer, F. M., Traill, J., & Ponchione-Bailey, C. (2020). Positioning ‘Conducting Studies’ in 2020: Where are we and where can where can we go?. Music Performance Research, 10, i-viii.

  • Ponchione-Bailey, C., & Clarke, E.F. (2020). Digital methods in the study of the nineteenth-century orchestra. Nineteenth-Century Music Review: The Digital Humanities and the Study of Nineteenth-Century Music, 1–32. 

  • Ponchione-Bailey, C. (2018). The body orchestral: the embodied process of orchestral performance. In L. Redhead & R. Glover (Eds.), Collaborative and distributed processes in contemporary music-making. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars, pp. 66–83.

  • Ponchione-Bailey, C., Palmer, F.M. & Traill, J. (Eds.) (2020). Oxford Conducting Institute Special Edition, Music Performance Research, 10.

  • Ponchione, C. (2016). Tracking Authorship and Creativity in Orchestral Performance. DPhil Thesis. University of Oxford.

  • Ponchione, C. (2013). Exploring a metamorphosis: identity formation for an emerging conductor. Arts and Humanities in Higher Education, 12, 181–193.

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