This year’s ICMPC recorded all of the talks in support of virtual attendance. Here is my long talk (20 min + Q&A) on coordination in respiration between audience members.
The Audience’s Breath: Collective Respiratory Coordination in Response to Music
F. Upham, H. Egermann, and S. McAdams
Performers have used respiratory metaphors to describe the reactions of the audience’s engagement with a performance. We refer to an audience holding their collective breath, or sighing with a release of tension. Significant regularities in respiratory phase have been measured in participants’ responses over multiple listenings to some recorded music (Sato, Ohsuga, & Moriya, 2012), but this fleeting alignment has not yet been measured in audiences at live concerts.
With recordings of respiration from audience members at live performances, we aim to evaluate whether there is measurable respiratory alignment between them to some or all pieces. If there is coordination, we consider which phase of the respiratory cycle shows the highest degree of alignment and how this could relate to audience members’ experience of the music performed.
Respiration data from two audiences were evaluated using new techniques in respiratory phase detection and measurement of coordination. From the first audience, 40 participants sat amongst a larger group in an experiment-led concert of chamber music including three pieces of contrasting genres. The second audience was composed of 48 participants who were presented solo flute music, some recorded and some played live. Half of this group continuously reported the unexpectedness of the music while the remaining half reported their felt emotional responses through handheld devices.
Five components of the respiratory phase were evaluated for coordination using activity analysis with parameters tuned to each: Inspiration Onset, High Inspiration Flow interval, Expiration Onset, High Expiration Flow interval, and Post-Expiration Pause. These phases relate to the mechanics of respiration and the sensory consequences of air exchange.
Significant coordination in respiratory phase components were observed between audience members to most stimuli, but the most coordinated phases varied from piece to piece. High Inspiratory and Expiration Flow intervals were most often significantly coordinated, compared to onsets. Post Expiratory Pauses, which would count instances of breath holding, were only coordinated in one piece. Less than half of participants engage in phase alignment concurrently, however numerous instances relate well to developing theories of respiration/cognition interactions, including differences in the alignment patterns of participants per rating task.
Audiences engage in measurable collective respiratory coordination with live performance and recorded music through simultaneous inspirations and expirations. However, these behaviours are performed by only a subset of participants at a time. This inter-participant difference is consistent with the results from repeated response experiments, in which only some participants have shown respiratory coordination with their own previous listenings. The fact that different phases of respiration showed coordination underlines the possibility that multiple mechanisms like embodied listening, attention, and hearing facilitation may be encouraging adjustments in audience members’ respiratory sequences for alignment.
Sato, T. G., Ohsuga, M., and Moriya, T. (2012). Increase in the timing coincidence of a respiration event induced by listening repeatedly to the same music track. Acoustical Science and Technology, 33(4):255–261
The slides are also available for download.
Finally, the podcast has begun. The So Strangely podcast explore new work in Music Science by having academics recommend recent publications. The recommender and I interview the first author on how the project came about and what it means for music, science, and research. This is a podcast for people interested in music science, students and academics, but we also try to make the conversation friendly to people in the many different disciplines contributing to the area.
Listen to the first few episodes now on The So Strangely Podcast website and subscribe to catch future works. So far we’ve discussed papers in Music Perception, Music Information Retrieval, and Neuroscience, and we are always on the look out for more.
On June 21st, 2018, I successfully defended by doctoral dissertation, Detection of Respiratory Phase Adaptation to Heard Music. Without a doubt, listeners do subtly and subconsciously adjust when they breathe to fit with music, lining up specific respiratory phases to specific moments, but this happens under limited conditions. Only some moments of music draw respiratory phase alignment, and some people show stronger susceptibility to music’s coordinating influence.
With the extra three months granted by my committee, my quantitative analysis of listener respiration was extended with qualitative analysis of alignment patterns in repeated response studies and audience experiments. Activity analysis identified moments of exceptional phase alignment and music theory enriched my interpretation of the corresponding stimulus. Out of 36 pieces of music, 21 provoked identifiable moments of alignment and out of these arose four theories of how listeners’ breathing could be drawn or cued by what they heard:
- Embodied perception/motor imagery: Some listeners toke inspirations when they might have, were they performing the music. This happens to vocal music, whether or not the performers’ breaths could be heard in music recordings. Examples from one case study participant can be seen in the attached figure, with inspirations (blue stars on chest expansion measurements) coinciding with performer inspirations during this a cappella folk song (highlighted in red on sound wave).
- Inspiration suppression for attentive listening: The noise of inspiration and expiration can get in the way of auditory attention and there are (rare) moments in music when listeners seem to delay breathing in or out so as to hear better. A moment like this is also in the attached figure, with post-expiration pauses extended from 97.4 s.
- Respiratory marking of salient moments: Listeners would sometimes breath in our out with recurring elements of musical motives, as if acting with something important or familiar. This was more common in structurally complex music and moments of strong affect, such as powerful lyrics, increasing tension, or exceptional aesthetics.
- Post-event respiratory reset: In a few cases, well timed respiration cycles occurred after events, like after the last line of a song. This is reminiscent of relaxing sighs and similar actions through to help the respiratory system reset back to normal relaxed quiet breathing.
Causal mechanisms for these four theories are suggested by current respiration and music cognition research, however they each require further exploration on experimental data beyond what was studied here. And it is also possible they might arise more frequently than could be captured by these statistics, limited as they are to behaviour that co-occurs with the music at least 20-40% of the time. Between a theorize mechanism and well designed experiments, it may yet be possible to detect these deviation in action, giving us further clues into how listeners are engaging with the music they hear.
More details to come in the shape of my final dissertation document. To be completed in the next month or so.
The Activity Analysis paper has been published in Music Perception!
Titled “Activity Analysis and Coordination in Continuous Responses to Music”, this paper explains what we can learn about the consistency of activity in continuous responses to music using the example of Continuous Ratings and (with the appendicies) all the technical details behind the results.
Abstract: Music affects us physically and emotionally. Determining when changes in these reactions tend to manifest themselves can help us understand how and why. Activity Analysis quantifies alignment of response events across listeners and listenings through continuous responses to musical works. Its coordination tests allow us to determine if there is enough inter-response coherence to merit linking their summary time series to the musical event structure and to identify moments of exceptional alignment in response events. In this paper, we apply Activity Analysis to continuous ratings from several music experiments, using this wealth of data to compare its performance with that of statistics used in previous studies. We compare the Coordination Scores and nonparametric measures of local activity coordination to other coherence measures, including those derived from correlations and Cronbach’s α. Activity Analysis reveals the variation in coordination of participants’ responses for different musical works, picks out moments of coordination in response to different interpretations of the same music, and demonstrates that responses along the two dimensions in continuous 2D rating tasks can be independent.
Download the PDF (Upham_McAdams_2018_ActivityAnalysis) and get the MatLab toolbox to use this technique on more continuous response data.
Million thanks to my co-author and mentor, Prof. Stephen McAdams, whose steadfast support made this work possible, and the patience of our editor at Music Perception, Prof. David Temperley.
In the Solo Response Project, I recorded my own responses to a couple dozen pieces of music everyday for most of a month, self report and psychophysiological, to generate a data set that would let me compare experiences as captured through these measurement systems. The data set has mostly been used behind the scenes to tune signal processing and statistics, but there is plenty to learn about the music as well, given how I reacted to these stimuli.
On the project website, there is now a complete set of stimulus-wise posts sharing plots of how I responded to these pieces of music as they played and over successive listenings. Each post includes a recording of the stimulus (more or less), and figures about each of:
- Continuous felt emotion ratings,
- facial surface Electromyography (Zygomaticus and Corrugator) and of the upper Trapezius,
- Heart rate and Respiration rate,
- Respiration phases,
- Skin Conductance and Finger Temperature.
The text doesn’t explain much but those familiar with any of these signals will find it interesting to see how a single participant’s responses can vary over time. Some highlights from the amalgam above (left to right, top to bottom):
- The familiar subito fortissimo [100s] and continued thundering in O Fortuna from Carmina Burana is so effective that my skin conductance kept peaking through that final section. (At least on those days when GSR was being picked up at all.)
- Some instances of respiratory phase aligning were unbelievably strong, for example to Theiving Boy by Cleo Laine [85s].
- Evidence that I still can’t help but smile at the way Charles Trenet pronounces the word play in “Boum!” (“flic-flac-flic-flic” [60s])
- Self-reported felt emotional responses can change from listening to listening, particularly to complex stimuli like Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 14 in C-sharp minor.
- Finger temperature plunging [130s] with the roaring coda [118s] in the technical death metal piece of Portal by the band Origin
- Respiration getting progressively slower at the end [90s] of a sweet bassoon and harp duet by Debussy called Romance.
There is still a lot to say about the responses to the 25 stimuli used in this project, but as always, anyone is welcome to poke through the posts to look, listen, and consider what might be going on.