MusicLab Copenhagen: Absorption with The Danish String Quartet

Why do people get absorbed in musical experiences? RITMO has teamed up with the world-leading The Danish String Quartet for a unique research concert in the middle of Copenhagen.

DSQ Festival 2021 MusicLab Cover Photo

The Concept

P2 Prize

Together with the Danish String Quartet, RITMO is the winner of P2 Prisen Happening of the Year from the Danish Radio for the event MusicLab Copenhagen.

Working with one of the world's best chamber ensembles, The Danish String Quartet (DSQ), a team of researchers from the University of Oslo, and several other European institutions hosted this "science concert" to understand how the mind and body are engaged in musicians and audience members in intense states of shared musical absorption.

The event combined music, science, and science communication in a novel format. The audience (local and online) experienced a high-quality concert while also being part of an experiment aimed at understanding more about the minds and bodies of expert musicians.

Hear more about the concept in the mini-documentary The Sound of Consciousness describing the artistic and scientific motivations for running this unique event.

The Concert

The concert featured pieces a variety of pieces from the last centuries:

  • Ludvig van Beethoven (1770-1827): Strygekvartet nr. 16 i F-dur, opus 135
  • Alfred Schnittke (1934-1998): Strygekvartet nr. 3


  • J.S. Bach (1685-1750): Contrapunctus
  • Nordisk Folkemusik: Arr. Den Danske Strygekvartet

The concert was streamed live on YouTube. Below is a recording of the stream.

The Science

We measure heart-rate variability and breath synchronization between the four DSQ members and selected audience members to check for indicators of "a shared zone of musical absorption", which seem to characterize some of the greatest concerts. We also intend to measure the relation between absorption, attention and mind-wandering through pupillometry and micro-movements of the audience.

The  researchers using their respective areas of expertise, ranging from phenomenology to musicology, music technology, and experimental psychology, will be able to work on important questions such as:

  • What is the relation between musical absorption and empathy?
  • Is there such a thing as a shared zone of absorption, and is it measurable?
  • How can the logic of music be visualized?

These questions will be tested through various methods ranging from theoretical philosophy to qualitative interviews to quantitative physiological measures and music technology.

The concert will also premiere a new visualization technology, developed in the MIRAGE project, in collaboration with the Con Espressione project.

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The science communication

The concert will be live-streamed, and you can even participate in some experiments from home.

Watch on Facebook

Watch on YouTube

The concert will also be transmitted on Danish Radio, P2 and made into a short film.

After the concert, there will be a "data jockeying" session where the researchers show how they analyze the data and explain some of the hidden experiments having taken place. It is also possible to just hang out in the bar and have a casual conversation with musicians and researchers.

The Philosophical Foundations

Read a feature story about the project, or listen to a podcast episode:



Tags: MusicLab
Published Jan. 24, 2020 1:41 PM - Last modified Sep. 28, 2022 12:30 PM