Breathing over a two week visit
By Finn Upham (McGill University), visiting researcher at RITMO during February 2020
Following a meeting with Prof. Alexander Jensenius during his visit to Montreal this fall, I was very pleased to come visit RITMO and share my own specialisation in respiration and music listening. There is so much research at this centre focused on movement and music, and respiration is always part of that action. With the right techniques and physiological know-how, there is much to be learned about our experiences of music by measuring how and when we breathe.
My visit started with a scratch and a shuffle with the Muddy Rhythms seminar. It was fascinating to see these examples of sound qualities and context colouring our perception of rhythm and timing, with so much insight from music outside of the classical canon. Interactions of language and music, productions techniques, genre associations, the mechanics of gesture, and our individual models inform how a beat is evaluated and interpreted. Having struggled with the issue of how some human gestures can be very precisely timed while others appear more loosely coordinated, it is very important to include these mechanical and conceptual factors into discussions of action and action perception.
Most of this visit was spent looking at motion capture and respiration band recordings from Agata's experiment in the MICRO project. We began by looking at the contrasts in participants' breathing during silent standing and during the presentation of musical stimuli. One expected result was a pronounced decrease in respiratory period with the beginnings of the music stimuli and lower period variability as the music played. Respiration research suggests this change reflects the participants' attention and engagement with an ongoing sound stimulus, an unconscious respiratory strategy that facilitates listening. That not all stimuli produced the same shift is worth looking into further.
But around the work on specific research collaborations, I enjoyed numerous meetings with students, postdocs, and faculty on their respective projects. The interdisciplinary mixture of research I see at RITMO is very exciting, blending artistic sensitivity to the specific, technology's excitement of the possible, and science's emphasis on the plausible. I'm particularly cheered to see the many experiments collecting traces of musical engagement over time, through motion capture of performances and the micromotions of listeners, eye tracking, physiological measurements and more. We have so much to learn through the study of experience and behaviour during musical activities, and the more data the better.
My warmest thanks to everyone who sat down with me to share their research and welcomed me into meetings about on going projects. The work was energizing, as are the possibilities of collaboration. I look forward to staying in touch with many of you in the future.