New Centre of Excellence: RITMO

The new centre directors: Anne Danielsen (years 1–5) and Alexander Refsum Jensenius (years 6-10).

I am happy to announce that the Research Council of Norway has awarded funding to establish RITMO –  Centre of Excellence for Interdisciplinary Studies in Rhythm, Time and Motion. The centre is a collaboration between Departments of Musicology, Psychology and Informatics at University of Oslo.

Project summary

Rhythm is omnipresent in human life, as we walk, talk, dance and play; as we tell stories about our past; and as we predict the future. Rhythm is also central to human biology, from the microoscillations of our nervous system to our heartbeats, breathing patterns and longer chronobiological cycles (or biorhythms). As such, it is a key aspect of human action and perception that is in complex interplay with the various cultural, biological and mechanical rhythms of the world.

The vision behind RITMO is to reveal the basic cognitive mechanism(s) underlying human rhythm, using music, motion and audiovisual media as empirical points of departure. No other interdisciplinary research environment has focused solely on rhythm and its direct and indirect impacts before. Given the fundamental role of rhythm in human life, such an endeavour is long overdue.

RITMO will undertake research on rhythm in human action and perception, and on the aesthetic and cultural ‘texts’ that such processes elicit. This venture will benefit from the combined perspectives of the humanities, cognitive neuroscience, social sciences and informatics. Now is the right time to establish such a centre, because we can finally explore some of the larger questions of the humanities via state-of-the-art technologies for motion capture, neuroimaging, pupillometry and robotics. Such a research strategy is as novel as it is essential to any engagement with the impact of human rhythm. RITMO will generate groundbreaking knowledge about the structuring and understanding of the temporal dimensions of human life. As such, it will change how we view human cognition and supply a cornerstone for the future exploitation of rhythm in applications for well-being and rehabilitation.

New Book: “A NIME Reader”

I am happy to announce that Springer has now released a book that I have been co-editing with Michael J. Lyons: “A NIME Reader: Fifteen Years of New Interfaces for Musical Expression“. From the book cover:

What is a musical instrument? What are the musical instruments of the future? This anthology presents thirty papers selected from the fifteen year long history of the International Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression (NIME). NIME is a leading music technology conference, and an important venue for researchers and artists to present and discuss their explorations of musical instruments and technologies.

Each of the papers is followed by commentaries written by the original authors and by leading experts. The volume covers important developments in the field, including the earliest reports of instruments like the reacTable, Overtone Violin, Pebblebox, and Plank. There are also numerous papers presenting new development platforms and technologies, as well as critical reflections, theoretical analyses and artistic experiences.

The anthology is intended for newcomers who want to get an overview of recent advances in music technology. The historical traces, meta-discussions and reflections will also be of interest for longtime NIME participants. The book thus serves both as a survey of influential past work and as a starting point for new and exciting future developments.

The ebook (PDF/epub) is a free download for all institutions/libraries affiliated with Springer Link.

Surviving with only Android for a week?

Is it possible to “survive” with only using Android-based devices for a whole week? I have been using a Sony Xperia Android tablet for a year’s time now, mainly as a convenient note taker at meetings, but never really as a laptop replacement. 

When I got the tablet I always thought that it would be interesting to see if it could actually be used as a proper working machine, particularly when used together with the accompanying bluetooth keyboard. Not for development, of course, but for everything else. Going on a week’s travel, I decided to try it out, that is, only bring the tablet, and leave my Ubuntu workhorse at home. It was a bit scary, particularly since I had several things I had to get done computer-wize this week, but I still decided to try it out. 

A week later, and here is my verdict…


I have never really gotten used to writing on small bluetooth keyboards, but, as many things in life, this is a matter of practice. After a couple of days, I actually managed to get up to quite some speed also on the tiny keyboard. It still feels small, but I have learned to write with very few mishits and now manage to write without thinking about the keyboard as a limitation


I know that some of the best laptops (and particularly MacBooks) sport a full-day battery life, but my little thing easily runs for 12 working hours without charging. So this one is definitely a win for the Sony tablet. 


One of the nice things with a tablet is that they are built for touch interaction. I have a touchscreen on my laptop as well, and Ubuntu even provides the relevant drivers for using it with for multi-touch control. But the bigger form factor of the laptop makes for a less than optimal touch-screen experience. So I rarely use the touch screen on my laptop very much.


The big advantage of a computer is that it is, well, a computer, with lots of programs. The quality of Android apps have increased steadily, though, and in my experience many apps are actually easier and faster to use than their computer/browser siblings. One example is the WordPress app that I am currently using to write this blog post. It is really smooth and nice-looking, and provides a better end-user experience than the online WordPress writing tool. 

Wifi and mobile network

One huge benefit of using the tablet is that it has a sim-card installed, providing a mobile connection (4G in most places) when I don’t have wifi available. This is a huge plus, as I never need to worry about remembering to download files before I disconnect. As my mobile provider now also sports free roaming throughout the EU, I have fast and reliable access most places I travel. 

File system

While all the above points have been positive, and in favour of the tablet, there are also some downsides. The biggest challenge is the of the lack of a proper file system. I use a combination of different types of cloud storage services (Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, and UiO servers), so it is easy enough to get access to my files. But even though I can access, open files and move them around, it is very time-consuming and troublesome. 

A big advantage with Android over iOS is that you can actually access your files in different ways. But I still don’t like the app-centric approach that seems to dominate the world of mobile devices. I like to be able to create the files I need, store them where I want, organize them in folders according to my own needs, and open them with different types of programs. The idea of locking files to particular apps and services may be good for some users, but not for me. It just slows me down and makes my computing life less than ideal. 

So, all in all, while this week has certainly proven that I can get a lot of things done on a tablet, perhaps even more than I had thought, I am looking forwards to getting back to a proper computer again. 

Music Moves on YouTube

We have been running our free online course Music Moves a couple of times on the FutureLearn platform. The course consists of a number of videos, as well as articles, quizzes, etc., all of which help create a great learning experience for the people that take part.

One great thing about the FutureLearn model (similar to Coursera, etc.) is that they focus on creating a complete course. There are many benefits to such a model, not least to create a virtual student group that interact in a somewhat similar way to campus students. The downside to this, of course, is that the material is not accessible to others when the course is not running.

We spent a lot of time and effort on making all the material for Music Moves, and we see that some of it could also be useful in other contexts. This semester, for example, I am teaching a course called Interactive Music, in which some of the videos on motion capture would be very relevant for  the students.

For that reason we have now decided to upload all the Music Moves videos to YouTube, so that everyone can access them. We still encourage interested people to enroll in the complete course, though. The next run on FutureLearn is scheduled to start in September.

Starting up my new project: MICRO

I am super excited about starting up my new project – MICRO – Human Bodily Micromotion in Music Perception and Interaction – these days. Here is a short trailer explaining the main points of the project:

Now I have also been able to recruit two great researchers to join me, postdoctoral researcher Victor Evaristo Gonzalez Sanchez and PhD fellow Agata Zelechowska. Together we will work on human micromotion, how music influences such micromotion, and how we can get towards microinteraction in digital musical instruments. Great fun!

This week we have already made some progress, both in terms of analysis and synthesis. A sneak peak below, more to come…

Alexander Refsum Jensenius