New Master Thesis: Freestyle Dressage: an equipage riding to music

catherineI am happy to announce that the dissertation of one my master students has just been made available in the DUO archive:

Catherine wrote about the importance and influence of music in freestyle dressage. Most of my students are working on more music technological topics, and I can clearly say that supervising Catherine was both fun and a great learning experience for myself. I now know much more about horses and riding and music than I did before.

Here is Catherine’s own abstract for the thesis:

This thesis is a study of freestyle dressage as a specific case of music related movement. Freestyle dressage is performed by horse and rider in competitions, and is ridden with music. The music is a part of the performance and music and movement is supposed to be related. The aims of the thesis is to (a) shed light on what influence the music has on the equipage (b) how this affect the audience and judges (c) whether the synchronicity between horse and rider is real or imagined. The symbiosis of what we hear and see is what makes the performance spectacular, but it is also the reason why we very quickly sense when something is not synchronized. These strong links between sound and movement is something the audience is aware of, but do we still get spellbound? This thesis tries to reveal to what degree our senses presume that events are synchronous, and at the same time tries to establish whether the music and movements are related. The thesis is divided into three parts, the first part is theoretical and the two following are both empirical. The methods used here are a literature study and an empirical study with qualitative analysis of relationships between motion and sound and interviews of a selected group of people with different backgrounds. The thesis concludes that the music does make a difference to the audience and the rider. The rider has to pay attention to the music and the audience gets a spectacular show when music is part of the freestyle dressage program.

Definitions: Motion, Action, Gesture

I have been discussing definitions of the terms motion/movement, action and gesture several times before on this blog (for example here and here). Here is a summary of my current take on these three concepts:

Motion: displacement of an object in space over time. This object could be a hand, a foot, a mobile phone, a rod, whatever. Motion is an objective entity, and can be recorded with a motion capture system. A motion capture system could be anything from a simple slider (1-dimensional), to a mouse (2-dimensional), to a camera-based tracking system ((3-dimensional)  or an inertial system (6-dimensional: 3D position and 3D orientation). I have previously also discussed the difference between motion and movement. Since motion is a continuous phenomenon, it does not make sense to talk about it in plural form: “motions”. Then it makes more sense to talk about one or more motion sequences, but most probably it makes even more sense to talk about individual actions.

Action: a goal-directed motion (or force) sequence, for example picking up a stone from the ground, playing a piano tone. Actions may have a clear beginning and end, but they may also overlap due to coarticulation, such as when playing a series of tones on the piano. This uncertainty as to how actions should be segmented (or chunked), is what makes them subjective entities. As such, I do not think it is possible to measure an action directly, since there is no objective measure for when an action begins or ends, or how it is organised in relation to other actions. But, based on knowledge about human cognition, it is possible to create systems that can estimate various action features based on measurements of motion.

Gesture: the meaning being expressed through an action or motion. A gesture is not the same as action or motion, although it is related to both of them. As such, a gesture can be seen as a semiotic sign, in which the meaning is conveyed through an action, but it is highly subjective and dependent on the cultural context in which the action is carried out. Also, the same meaning can be conveyed through different types of physical actions. For example, the meaning you convey when you wave “good-bye” to someone may be independent of whether you do it with the left or the right arm, the size of the action, etc.

Unfortunately, with the popularity of motion and gesture studies over the last years, I see that many people use the term gesture more or less synonymously to action or motion. This is particularly the case in the field of “gesture recognition” in various versions of human-computer interaction (HCI).  I think it is unfortunate because we loose the precision with which we can describe the three different phenomena. If we track continuous motion in time and space, it is “motion tracking”. If we aim at recognising certain physical patterns in time and space, I would call it “action recognition” unless we are looking for some meanings attached to the actions. “Gesture recognition” I would only use if we actually recognise the meaning attached to some actions or motion. An example here would be to recognise the emotional quality of the performance  of a violinist. That, however, is something very different than tracking the bowing style.

movement-action
An illustration of my definition of the difference between motion and action

Difference between the terms movement and motion

Terminology is always challenging. I have previously written about definitions of actions and gesture several times (e.g. here,  here, and here) and chapter 2 in the book Musical gestures: sound, movement, and meaning (Routledge, 2010).

Movement vs motion

There are, however, two words/terms that I still find very challenging to define properly and to differentiate: movement and motion. In Norwegian, we only have one word (bevegelse) for describing movement/motion, which makes everything much simpler. But when writing in English, which word should be used? And what is the difference?

It only adds to the confusion that Wiktionary defines movement as “physical motion between points in space”. And Wikipedia has a page on motion (in physics), while none of the many movement pages are related to body movement.

During the last years, I have asked many native English speakers about the difference between motion and movement, but have not received any good explanations yet. Many of them think they are slightly different, although this is usually based on their feeling rather than on a proper explanation of the difference. Some native speakers think the two words are the same and can be used interchangeably.

I have also asked researchers working on various types of movement-oriented disciplines about their use of the words, and they often tend to stick to one or the other. From these discussions, I have come to think that people working in biomechanics and physics prefer motion, while people working in physiotherapy, dance and music prefer movement. That motion is a more scientific term is also suggested here. From this, we could assume that motion is related to the measurable displacement of objects, which the term motion capture attest to, while movement refers to the qualities or meaning of the displacement.

Asking Google for help

The above assumptions are, however, only my assumptions. So I thought it would be interesting to see if I could get some more empirical data on the topic. So I decided to use the powers of Google to quantify the differences. Here are some figures from google and google scholar:

search termGoogleGoogle Scholar
movement562 000 0004 120 000
motion144 000 0002 210 000
“body movement”4,830 00083 000
“body motion”1 370 00076 300

So, clearly, movement seems to be used much more frequently than motion in general language, and also in the scientific literature. However, body movement and body motion are used almost the same amount of times in scientific papers.

But what if we search for the use of the two terms in different fields? Then we get these numbers:

search term 1search term 2GoogleGoogle Scholarsearch term 2GoogleGoogle Scholar
music+movement565 000 0001 960 000+motion213 000 0001 110 000
physics+movement136 000 0001 940 000+motion64,100 0001 340 000
mechanics+movement36 400 0001 270 000+motion46 800 0001 140 000
biomechanics+movement6 110 000163 000+motion3 060 000167 000
physiotherapy+movement4 580 00071 200+motion2 530 00038 600
kinesiology+movement1 690 00028 900+motion1 050 00020 100

Again, we see that movement is generally used more than motion, even in physics and mechanics. I am quite surprised that music+motion is used so frequently, particularly since movement has a double meaning in music (i.e. parts of a piece).

Conclusion

What to conclude from all of this? I still do not know what the difference between movement and motion is, and the numbers show that movement is used more than motion also in the disciplines that I thought used motion almost exclusively. Still, I like the idea that motion is used to describe physical properties, while movement is used to describe the qualities of motion. So I will stick to that for a while myself.

What do you think? Any comments or suggestions are highly welcome!

Sonification of Traveling Landscapes

I just heard a talk called “Real-Time Synaesthetic Sonification of Traveling Landscapes” (PDF) by Tim Pohle and Peter Knees from the Department of Computational Perception (great name!) in Linz. They have made an application creating music from a moving video camera. The implementation is based on grabbing a one pixel wide column from the video, plotting these columns and sonifying the image. Interestingly enough, the images they get out (see below) of this are very close to the motiongrams and videograms I have been working on.

Picture 1.png