Completing the MICRO project

I wrote up the final report on the project MICRO – Human Bodily Micromotion in Music Perception and Interaction before Christmas. Now I finally got around to wrapping up the project pages. With the touch of a button, the project’s web page now says “completed”. But even though the project is formally over, its results will live on.

Aims and objectives

The MICRO project sought to investigate the close relationships between musical sound and human bodily micromotion. Micromotion is here used to describe the smallest motion that we can produce and experience, typically at a rate lower than 10 mm/s.

Example plots of the micromotion observed in the motion capture data of a person standing still for 10 minutes.

The last decades have seen an increased focus on the role of the human body in both the performance and the perception of music. Up to now, however, the micro-level of these experiences has received little attention.

The main objective of MICRO was broken down into three secondary objectives:

  1. Define a set of sub-categories of music-related micromotion.
  2. Understand more about how musical sound influences the micromotion of perceivers and which musical features (such as melody, harmony, rhythm, timbre, loudness, spatialization) come into play.
  3. Develop conceptual models for controlling sound through micromotion, and develop prototypes of interactive music systems based on these models.

Results

The project completed most of its planned activities and several more:

  1. The scientific results include many insights about human music-related micromotion. Results have been presented in one doctoral dissertation, two master theses, several journal papers, and at numerous conferences. As hypothesized, music influences human micromotion. This has been verified with different types of music in all the collected datasets. We have also found that music with a regular and strong beat, particularly electronic dance music, leads to more motion. Our data also supports the idea that music with a pulse of around 120 beats per minute is more motion-inducing than music with slower or faster tempi. In addition, we found that people generally moved more when listening with headphones. Towards the end of the project, we began studying whether there are individual differences. One study found that people who score high on empathic concern move more to music than others. This aligns with findings from recent studies of larger-scale music-related body motion.
  2. Data collected from the project has been released openly in Oslo Standstill Database. The database contains data from all Championships of Standstill, the Headphones-Speakers study, and from the Sverm project that preceded MICRO.
  3. Software developed during the project has been made openly available. This includes various analysis scrips implemented in Jupyter Notebooks. Several of the developed software modules have been wrapped up in the Musical Gestures Toolbox for Python.
  4. The scientific results have inspired a series of artistic explorations, including several installations and performances with the Self-playing Guitars, Oslo Muscle Band, and the Micromotion Apps.
  5. The project and its results have been featured in many media appearances, including a number of newspaper stories and several times on national TV and radio.

Open Research

MICRO has been an Open Research flagship project. This includes making the entire project as open as possible but as closed as necessary. The project shares publications, data, source code, application, and other parts of the research process openly.

Summing up

I am very happy about the outcomes of the MICRO project. This is largely thanks to the fantastic team, particularly postdoctoral fellow Victor Gonzalez Sanchez and doctoral fellow Agata Zelechowska.

Results from the Sverm project inspired the MICRO project, and many lines of thought will continue in my new AMBIENT project. I am looking forward to researching unconscious and involuntary micromotion in the years to come.

Recruiting for the AMBIENT project

I am happy to announce that I am recruiting for my new research project AMBIENT: Bodily Entrainment to Audiovisual Rhythms. The project will continue my line of research into the effects of sound and visuals on our bodies and minds and the creative use of such effects. Here is a short video in which I explain the motivation for the project:

Now hiring

The idea is to put together a multidisciplinary team of three early career researchers experienced with one or more of the following methods: sound analysis, video analysis, interviews, questionnaires, motion capture, physiological sensing, statistics, signal processing, machine learning, interactive (sound/music) systems. The announcement texts are available here:

Application deadline: 15 March 2022. Do not hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions about the positions.

About the project

Much focus has been devoted to understanding the “foreground” of human activities: things we say, actions we do, sounds we hear. AMBIENT will study the sonic and visual “background” of indoor environments: the sound of a ventilation system in an office, the footsteps of people in a corridor, or people’s fidgeting in a classroom.

Examples of periodic auditory and visual stimuli in the environments to be studied in AMBIENT: individuals in offices (WP2), physical-virtual coworking (WP3), telematic classroom (WP4).

The project aims to study how such elements influence people’s bodily behaviour and how people feel about the rhythms in an environment. This will be done by studying how different auditory and visual stimuli combine to create rhythms in various settings.

Rhythms can be constructed from different elements: (a) visual, (b) auditory, (c) audiovisual, (d) spatiotemporal, or (e) a combination of audiovisual and spatiotemporal. The numbers in (e) indicate the cyclic, temporal order of the events.

The hypothesis is that various types of rhythms influence people’s bodily behaviour through principles of entrainment, that is, the process by which independent rhythmical systems interact with each other.

Objectives

The primary objective of AMBIENT is to understand more about bodily entrainment to audiovisual rhythms in both local and telematic environments. This will be studied within everyday workspaces like offices and classrooms.

The primary objective can be broken down into three secondary objectives:

  1. Understand more about the rhythms of in-door environments, and make a theoretical model of such rhythms that can be implemented in software.
  2. Understand more about how people interact with the rhythms of in-door environments, both when working alone – and together.
  3. Explore how such rhythms can be captured and (re)created in a different environment using state-of-the-art audiovisual technologies.

Work packages

The work in AMBIENT is divided into five work packages:

  • WP1: Theoretical Development
  • WP2: Observation study of individuals in their offices
  • WP3: Observation study of physical-virtual workspaces
  • WP4: Exploration of (re)creation of ambience in a telematic classroom
  • WP5: Software development

The work packages overlap and feed into each other in various ways.

The relationships between work packages. The small boxes within WP2–4 indicate the different studies (a/b/c) and their phases (1/2/3). See WP sections for explanations.

Open Research

The AMBIENT project is an open research lighthouse project. The aim is to keep the entire research as open as possible, including sharing methods, data, publications, etc.

Funding

The Research Council of Norway, project number 324003, 2021-2025