Food & Paper: Interpersonal coordination in music performance and mirror games (Thompson)

How do performing musicians synchronise their movements? In this talk, Marc Thompson will present his studies on interpersonal coordination in musical activities.

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Over the past few years, I’ve become interested in how performing musicians synchronise their movements. In conversation, speakers copy each others’ speech patterns, gestures and postures. The same could be said for music-making, which requires musicians to move together, both physically and psychologically, to build unified and cohesive performances.

In this talk, I’ll explore these themes through two studies on interpersonal coordination in musical activities. Both studies utilised optical motion capture data, and analytical coupling methods to quantify entrainment.

First, I’ll focus on interpersonal coordination in dyadic violin performance. In a small study, we asked violinists to perform duets in varying levels of expressiveness.  Here, I used the method of canonical correlation analysis (CCA) to study how expressive intentions alter the amount of coordination between musicians.

Second, I’ll discuss a study on mirror games, an improvisational activity meant to build social bonds between the players. Mirror games contain highly synchronised movements, which can inform about emergent properties equal to those found in improvised music-making such as shared intentionality, creativity and assumed leader/follower roles. I’ll attempt to make the case that this is indeed a form of music, and also explore intersubjectivity using windowed cross-correlation (WCC).


Thompson's research focuses on embodiment in musical production and perception. He has studied this within a variety of contexts including piano performance, conducting and African dance, mostly using optical motion capture. His current post is Senior Researcher in Musicology (Department of Music, Art & Culture Studies, University of Jyväskylä, Finland), which allows him to balance research with teaching courses such as Music and Media programming in Max/MSP, Music Psychology, and Music & Well-being.

Published Apr. 3, 2019 11:15 AM - Last modified Apr. 20, 2020 3:22 PM