Try not to headbang challenge

I recently came across a video of the so-called Try not to headbang challenge, where the idea is to, well, not to headbang while listening to music. This immediately caught my attention. After all, I have been researching music-related micromotion over the last years and have run the Norwegian Championship of Standstill since 2012.

Here is an example of Nath & Johnny trying the challenge:

As seen in the video, they are doing ok, although they are far from sitting still. Running the video through the Musical Gestures Toolbox for Python, it is possible to see when and how much they moved clearly.

Below is a quick visualization of the 11-minute long sequence. The videogram (similar to a motiongram but of the original video) shows quite a lot of motion throughout. There is no headbanging, but they do not sit still.

A videogram of the complete video recording (top) with a waveform of the audio track. Two selected frames from the sequence and “zoomed-in” videograms show the motion of specific passages.

There are many good musical examples listed here. We should consider some of them for our next standstill championship. If corona allows, we plan to run a European Championship of Standstill in May 2022. More information soon!

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 |

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.

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 project Funding: MICRO!

sverm2_15_eyes_2_a_head_a_1024I am happy to announce that I have received funding from the Norwegian Research Council’s program Young Research Talents for the project: MICRO – Human Bodily Micromotion in Music Perception and Interaction. This is a 4-year long project and I will be looking for both a PhD and postdoctoral fellow to join the team. The call will be out later this year, but please do not hesitate to contact me right if you are interested.

Here is a short summary of the project:

How and why does music make us move? This has been a highly discussed topic in musicology and music psychology in recent years. Most of the research in the field has so far focused on fairly large-scale motion to music, such as dancing. This project will investigate how music influences what we may call micromotion, such as the tiny motion observed when people try to stand still. Even though such micromotion is barely visible, it can be measured in a motion capture laboratory. This makes it possible to carry out studies of the effects of music on micromotion.

Results of the project will include:

  • knowledge about how music influences human motion at the micro-level
  • a large, open database of micromotion recordings
  • prototype software for using micromotion in interactive music systems

The project is based on the most recent research in musicology, psychology and neuroscience, will build on findings in the Sverm project. Most of the research will be carried out in the music and motion lab at the Department of Musicology, and will be affiliated with the fourMs group.

Let me know if you are interested in joining us!


New publication: “How still is still? exploring human standstill for artistic applications”

sverm-dumpI am happy to announce a new publication titled How still is still? exploring human standstill for artistic applications (PDF of preprint), published in the International Journal of Arts and Technology. The paper is based on the Sverm project, and was written and accepted two years ago. Sometimes academic publishing takes absurdly long, which this is an example of, but I am happy that the publication is finally out in the wild.


We present the results of a series of observation studies of ourselves standing still on the floor for 10 minutes at a time. The aim has been to understand more about our own standstill, and to develop a heightened sensitivity for micromovements and how they can be used in music and dance performance. The quantity of motion, calculated from motion capture data of a head marker, reveals remarkably similar results for each person, and also between persons. The best results were obtained with the feet at the width of the shoulders, locked knees, and eyes open. No correlation was found between different types of mental strategies employed and the quantity of motion of the head marker, but we still believe that different mental strategies have an important subjective and communicative impact. The findings will be used in the development of a stage performance focused on micromovements.


Jensenius, A. R., Bjerkestrand, K. A. V., and Johnson, V. (2014). How still is still? exploring human standstill for artistic applications. International Journal of Arts and Technology, 7(2/3):207–222.


    Author = {Jensenius, Alexander Refsum and Bjerkestrand, Kari Anne Vadstensvik and Johnson, Victoria},
    Journal = {International Journal of Arts and Technology},
    Number = {2/3},
    Pages = {207--222},
    Title = {How Still is still? Exploring Human Standstill for Artistic Applications},
    Volume = {7},
    Year = {2014}}