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Faculty of Music


Do listeners’ body movements influence their perception of rhythms?

Li-Ching Wang: Centre for Music and Science, University of Cambridge

Spontaneous body movement can be observed in most musical environments. Recently, researchers from different fields have applied various methodologies to investigate the connections between movement and music and findings have been utilised in music education and movement rehabilitation. However, the nature of the impulse to move with music is still relatively unknown and the possible meanings and functions of these synchronous movements remain unclear. This paper explores the relationship between rhythm perception and body movement – especially head movement – through three behavioural experiments on rhythmic complexity judgment, rhythm recognition and rhythm reproduction. The results revealed that synchronous body movements influence the perception of rhythmic complexity. These movements do not necessarily make the rhythms sound simpler or more complex, yet movement of different parts of the body, the way we move and the enjoyment could all affect the results. Head movement plays an important role in rhythm recognition and reproduction and serves to detect errors in repeated rhythmic phrases. In sum, body movements provide opportunities for listeners to utilise music in different ways.

The talk will be followed by a wine reception. All welcome.

Tuesday, 20 October, 2015 - 17:00 to 18:00
Event location: 
5.00pm, Lecture Room 1