And we’re off: RITMO Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Rhythm, Time, and Motion

I am happy to announce that RITMO Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Rhythm, Time, and Motion officially started last week. This is a new centre of excellence funding by the Research Council of Norway.

Even though we have formally taken off, this mainly means that the management group has started to work. Establishing a centre with 50-60 researchers is not done in a few days, so we will more or less spend the coming year to get up to speed. The plan is that the faculty group will begin working together from January, while in parallel recruiting PhD and postdoctoral fellows. We aim at moving into our new spaces and having most of the people in place by August 2018, and that is also when we will have the kick-off party.

At least we now have a small web page up and running, and more content will be added as we move along. Here is a short summary of what we will be working on:

RITMO is an interdisciplinary research centre focused on rhythm as a structuring mechanism for the temporal dimensions of human life.
The research will be highly interdisciplinary, combining methods from musicology, psychology and informatics to study rhythm as a fundamental property that shapes and underpins human cognition, behaviour and culture.

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 oscillations of our nervous system to our heartbeats, breathing patterns and longer chronobiological cycles. 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.

RITMO will undertake research on rhythm in human action and perception, using music, motion and audio-visual media as empirical points of departure. Our core idea is that the human ability to experience the world and our actions as rhythmic, points to a basic cognitive mechanism that is in itself rhythmic in nature. The vision of RITMO is to understand more about this cognitive mechanism, and through this generate ground-breaking knowledge about the ways in which humans structure and understand the temporal dimensions of their life.

The centre is interdisciplinary and will combine perspectives and methods from music and media studies, philosophy and aesthetics, cognitive neuroscience, and informatics, using state-of-the-art technologies for motion capture, neuroimaging, pupillometry and robotics.

RITMO is to reveal the basic cognitive mechanism(s) underlying human rhythm, using music, motion and audiovisual media as empirical points of departure.

The research will be highly interdisciplinary, combining methods from musicology, psychology and informatics to study rhythm as a fundamental property that shapes and underpins human cognition, behaviour and culture.

Sverm-Resonans – Installation at Ultima Contemporary Music Festival

I am happy to announce the opening of our new interactive art installation at the Ultima Contemporary Music Festival 2017: Sverm-resonans.

Time and place: Sep. 12, 2017 12:30 PM Sep. 14, 2017 3:30 PM, Sentralen

Conceptual information

The installation is as much haptic as audible.

An installation that gives you access to heightened sensations of stillness, sound and vibration.

Stand still. Listen. Locate the sound. Move. Stand still. Listen. Hear the tension. Feel your movements. Relax. Stand stiller. Listen deeper. Feel the boundary between the known and the unknown, the controllable and the uncontrollable. How does the body meet the sound? How does the sound meet the body? What do you hear?

Approach one of the guitars. Place yourself in front of it and connect to your standstill. Feel free to put your hands on the body of the instrument. Try closing your eyes. From there, allow yourself to open up to the sound-vibrations through the resting touch and listening. Stay as long as you like and follow the development of the sound, and your inner sensations, experience, images, and associations as the sound meets you. As opposed to a traditional instrument, these guitars are “played” by (you) trying to stand still. The living body interacts with an electronic sound system played through the acoustic instrument. In this way, Sverm-Resonans explores the meeting points between the tactile and the kinesthetic, the body and the mind, and between motion and sound.

Technical information

The technical setup of Sverm-Resonans is focused on the meeting point between digital and acoustic sound making. Each of the guitars is equipped with a Bela micro-computer, which produces electronic sound through an actuator placed on the back of the guitars. There are no external speakers, all the sound generation is coming the vibration of the acoustic guitar. Each of the guitars produce a slowly pulsing sound – based on an additive synthesis with a slight randomness on the sine tones – that breathes and gives life to the soundscape. The guitars are also equipped with an infrared sensor that detects the presence of a person standing in front of the guitar, and which inversely controls the amplitude of a pulsating noise signal. That is, the longer you stand still, the more sound you will get.

About the installation

Sverm-Resonans at Sentralen

Sverm-Resonans is a new sound installation by Alexander Refsum Jensenius, Kari Anne Vadstensvik Bjerkestrand, Victoria Johnson, Victor Gonzalez Sanchez, Agata Zelechowska, and Charles Martin.

The installation is the result of the ongoing art/science research projects Sverm, MICRO and AAAI, three projects which in different ways explore human micromotion and musical microsound. Supported by University of Oslo, Research Council of Norway, Arts Council Norway, The Fund for Performing Artists, The Audio and Visual Fund, and The Nordic Culture Fund.

SMC paper based on data from the first Norwegian Championship of Standstill

We have been carrying out three editions of the Norwegian Championship of Standstill over the years, but it is first with the new resources in the MICRO project that we have finally been able to properly analyze all the data. The first publication coming out of the (growing) data set was published at SMC this year:

Reference: Jensenius, Alexander Refsum; Zelechowska, Agata & Gonzalez Sanchez, Victor Evaristo (2017). The Musical Influence on People’s Micromotion when Standing Still in Groups, In Tapio Lokki; Jukka Pa?tynen & Vesa Va?lima?ki (ed.),  Proceedings of the 14th Sound and Music Computing Conference 2017.

Full text: PDF

Abstract: The paper presents results from an experiment in which 91 subjects stood still on the floor for 6 minutes, with the first 3 minutes in silence, followed by 3 minutes with mu- sic. The head motion of the subjects was captured using an infra-red optical system. The results show that the average quantity of motion of standstill is 6.5 mm/s, and that the subjects moved more when listening to music (6.6 mm/s) than when standing still in silence (6.3 mm/s). This result confirms the belief that music induces motion, even when people try to stand still.

We are also happy to announce that the dataset is freely available here.

 

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.

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.