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.

New publication: Headphones or Speakers? An Exploratory Study of Their Effects on Spontaneous Body Movement to Rhythmic Music

After several years of hard work, we are very happy to announce a new publication coming out of the MICRO project that I am leading: Headphones or Speakers? An Exploratory Study of Their Effects on Spontaneous Body Movement to Rhythmic Music (Frontiers Psychology).

From the setup of the experiment in which we tested the effects of listening to headphones and speakers.

This is the first journal article of my PhD student Agata Zelechowska, and it reports on a standstill study conducted a couple of years ago. It is slightly different than the paradigm we have used for the Championships of Standstill. While the latter is based on single markers on the head of multiple people, Agata’s experiment was conducted with full-body motion capture of individuals.

The most exciting thing about this new study, is that we have investigated whether there are any differences in people’s micromotion when they listen through either headphones or speakers. Is there a difference? Yes, it is! People move (a little) more when listening through headphones.

Want to know more? The article is Open Access, so you can read the whole thing here. The short summary is here:

Previous studies have shown that music may lead to spontaneous body movement, even when people try to stand still. But are spontaneous movement responses to music similar if the stimuli are presented using headphones or speakers? This article presents results from an exploratory study in which 35 participants listened to rhythmic stimuli while standing in a neutral position. The six different stimuli were 45 s each and ranged from a simple pulse to excerpts from electronic dance music (EDM). Each participant listened to all the stimuli using both headphones and speakers. An optical motion capture system was used to calculate their quantity of motion, and a set of questionnaires collected data about music preferences, listening habits, and the experimental sessions. The results show that the participants on average moved more when listening through headphones. The headphones condition was also reported as being more tiresome by the participants. Correlations between participants’ demographics, listening habits, and self-reported body motion were observed in both listening conditions. We conclude that the playback method impacts the level of body motion observed when people are listening to music. This should be taken into account when designing embodied music cognition studies.

New article: “Correspondences Between Music and Involuntary Human Micromotion During Standstill”

I am happy to announce a new journal article coming out of the MICRO project:

Victor E. Gonzalez-Sanchez, Agata Zelechowska and Alexander Refsum Jensenius
Correspondences Between Music and Involuntary Human Micromotion During Standstill
Front. Psychol., 07 August 2018 | https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01382

Abstract: The relationships between human body motion and music have been the focus of several studies characterizing the correspondence between voluntary motion and various sound features. The study of involuntary movement to music, however, is still scarce. Insight into crucial aspects of music cognition, as well as characterization of the vestibular and sensorimotor systems could be largely improved through a description of the underlying links between music and involuntary movement. This study presents an analysis aimed at quantifying involuntary body motion of a small magnitude (micromotion) during standstill, as well as assessing the correspondences between such micromotion and different sound features of the musical stimuli: pulse clarity, amplitude, and spectral centroid. A total of 71 participants were asked to stand as still as possible for 6 min while being presented with alternating silence and music stimuli: Electronic Dance Music (EDM), Classical Indian music, and Norwegian fiddle music (Telespringar). The motion of each participant’s head was captured with a marker-based, infrared optical system. Differences in instantaneous position data were computed for each participant and the resulting time series were analyzed through cross-correlation to evaluate the delay between motion and musical features. The mean quantity of motion (QoM) was found to be highest across participants during the EDM condition. This musical genre is based on a clear pulse and rhythmic pattern, and it was also shown that pulse clarity was the metric that had the most significant effect in induced vertical motion across conditions. Correspondences were also found between motion and both brightness and loudness, providing some evidence of anticipation and reaction to the music. Overall, the proposed analysis techniques provide quantitative data and metrics on the correspondences between micromotion and music, with the EDM stimulus producing the clearest music-induced motion patterns. The analysis and results from this study are compatible with embodied music cognition and sensorimotor synchronization theories, and provide further evidence of the movement inducing effects of groove-related music features and human response to sound stimuli. Further work with larger data sets, and a wider range of stimuli, is necessary to produce conclusive findings on the subject.

New publication: Sonic Microinteraction in “the Air”

I am happy to announce a new book chapter based on the artistic-scientific research in the Sverm and MICRO projects.

Citation: Jensenius, A. R. (2017). Sonic Microinteraction in “the Air.” In M. Lesaffre, P.-J. Maes, & M. Leman (Eds.), The Routledge Companion to Embodied Music Interaction (pp. 431–439). New York: Routledge.
Abstract: This chapter looks at some of the principles involved in developing conceptual methods and technological systems concerning sonic microinteraction, a type of interaction with sounds that is generated by bodily motion at a very small scale. I focus on the conceptualization of interactive systems that can exploit the smallest possible micromotion that people are able to both perceive and produce. It is also important that the interaction that is taking place allow for a recursive element via a feedback loop from the sound produced back to the performer producing it.

New publication: Exploring music-related micromotion

I am happy to announce the publication of a new anthology that I have contributed a chapter to:

Jensenius, A. R. (2017). Exploring music-related micromotion. In C. Wöllner (Ed.), Body, Sound and Space in Music and Beyond: Multimodal Explorations (pp. 29–48). Routledge.

The chapter does not have an abstract, but the opening paragraph summarizes the content quite well:

As living human beings we are constantly in motion. Even when we try to stand absolutely still, our breathing, pulse and postural adjustments lead to motion at the micro-level. Such micromotion is small, but it is still possible to experience it in the body and it is also visible to others. This chapter reflects on such (un)conscious and (in)voluntary micromotion observed and experienced when one attempts to stand physically still, and how musical sound influences such micromotion.