Measuring musically embodied movement

Frederik Styns, Leon van Noorden, Marc Leman & Dirk Moelants

Ghent University, Belgium

For centuries scholars have argued for the existence of movement in music, making a distinction between tonal (melodic and harmonic) and rhythmic movement. In an attempt to link musical experience to body movement, the focus has been on sonification experiments, expressive gestures of music performers, and conductors’ movements. Little attention, however, has been paid to body movements while listening to music. This is remarkable, as more and more theories about music perception assume a relation with the motor system.

In this demo we will show how we try to measure people’s bodily experiences of music in terms of actual body movements. More specifically we aim to measure the listeners’ movements during a task where they are asked to synchronize with music. The focus is on hand/arm movements (such as conducting) and whole body movements (such as during walking or running). The movements are registered with a joystick and other sensors. The data of the measurements are captured by the musical software AnalogBox and processed with Matlab.

Preliminary results indicate that musical fragments of different styles and identical tempo make listeners move in different ways. Subsequent questions to answer are whether these differences are consistent among people and whether there are clear relationships between the movements and specific musical parameters.