When your body makes the music
In the near future your body might create your own compositions, all adapted to your needs of the moment. Music research may now provide the recipe for how your body can make music.
Research shows that nobody is able to stand completely still. Could micromotion be used to provide us with customized music? (Photo: Wade Brooks, Flickr CC)
Imagine coming home tired from work. Your neck is stiff, your head is full of unsolved problems. Then: a keystroke, and the room fills up with just the right music that relaxes tired muscles and makes life seem better.
This situation exists already, you might object. You know your favourite music and you are free to put it on. The difference is that the music in the scenario above is made from tiny movements in your own body. It is customized to you and your condition at the time.
Research project 2016–2020
Funded by the Research Council of Norway
We can’t stand still
This has a sort of science fiction ring to it, musicologist Alexander Refsum Jensenius?
‘Yes, but to some extent it is already possible now. Many current computer games use large bodily movements to steer the content, including the music. From research we know quite a lot about large bodily movements and music, and in a new project we will investigate so-called micromotion. We will study both how these motions are affected by music and how we can use them to make music,’ he explains.
What is micromotion?
‘In studies of large bodily movements we have seen that we also make some smaller movements, that are on the borderline between the conscious and the subconscious. If you ask people to stand completely still, they can’t. Our body moves, and our head moves on average seven millimetres per second when we stand upright. However, this micromotion varies from one person to another, and we know little about this.’
How do you intend to proceed to make music from micromotion?
‘First we will analyse how music affects these movements. Today, we can link rhythm to large periodic movements, meaning movements that are repeated, for example stamping your foot on the floor. We can also link tone pitch to up-and-down movements, such as raising and lowering your hand. After having studied how music affects micromotion, we will use the results to test various methods for making music. We will have an “open lab” once every semester to test out the technology we are developing.’
Completely new musical experiences
We already receive playlists with recommendations adapted to our musical taste from Tidal and Spotify. Do we really need fully personal, customized music?
‘The recommended playlists are based on music we have listened to before, and they will therefore be quite similar to what we already know. My goal is to provide people with completely new musical experiences based on bodily movements of which we are not always aware.’
Interactive music may perhaps be used to stimulate and correct movements in patients with impaired mobility.
In what way will we benefit from such technology?
‘We may for example imagine this being used for entertainment, by having customized music when sitting on the sofa at home or on a bus. Rehabilitation is another example. Interactive music may perhaps be used to stimulate and correct movements in patients with impaired mobility.’