European Society for the Cognition of Music conference 31 July 20 17 – 4th August 2017, University of Ghent,
It was the great pleasure of members of the YMPG to be welcomed to Ghent for this conference. The planning started around Christmas when members submitted their abstracts to be considered for either spoken or poster presentations. With high success levels achieved, members met in Ghent, Belgium, and joined with some 200 other cognitive music psychologists from across Europe and beyond.
Following registration, the conference opened with an introduction from Marc Leman, conference chair and researcher at the university of Ghent. He described his futile attempt to find someone of clout from the university to give an opening address; however, everyone was on holiday! Portrayed as a subpar speaker, but by no means thus in reality, Richard Parncutt, president of ESCOM. He welcomed attendees and urged all to buy membership of the society.
The first key note of the event was delivered by Martin Clayton, from Durham University. He discussed his research regarding interaction, entrainment and music performance, specifically in Hindustani Classical music. For those of us without a working knowledge of this style of music the whole talk was engaging and informative, on an almost overwhelming level.
Following this the true proceedings began. Anyone who has attended a conference of this size will know that at almost any point in time there may be several presentations occurring simultaneously. Therefore, it becomes a game of balancing those speeches you really want to attend versus the disruption factor and time allowance required for movement of rooms within sessions but between presentations. As a single body I can only report on those presentations I attended.
The first two presentations I attended were both in the Emotion 1 session in a large and slightly dated lecture theatre. The first; Korte, Williamson & Cerci: ‘Playing on autopilot’ new insights on emotion regulation in music students. An interesting introduction to the concept of depersonalisation or the detachment from one’s sense of self, often connected to other diagnoses such as migraine, psychosis, anxiety disorders etc. Next, Parncutt & Sattmann: Musical chills as experimental correlates of adaptive vigilance: An ecological-evolutionarily stimulus-response theory. A presentations dealing with complex contradictions the can be observed as naturally occurring in nature in order to achieve a purpose, namely survival and reproduction.
After a chaotic but very welcome lunch break the choices continued, with the necessity to choose four of 12 possible presentations options. Due to personal interest and future research plans I chose the ‘children’ session, in a significantly smaller room alongside a busy and noisy road. Unperturbed by this the two presentations, on research conducted in Italy began. Di Stephano, Focaroli, Giuliani, et al. Children play with music: results from consonance and dissonance perception study. In this we were introduced to their development of a small joy-stick style toy which played either consonant or dissonant music depending on which direction the child participants moved the device with an aim to measure how long they spent on each sound.
Following this, Bonnetti & Melzoff: Musical mode, intelligence and emotional-visual-spatial dimensions: A comparison between children and adults. This was concerned with cross-modal stimuli conditioning in children and adults.
The final presentation in this session was the one that had drawn me to the room initially due to the pro-social aspect of the research. Rabinowitch & Meltzoff: The pro-social impacts of embodied rhythmic movement in joint music interactions. The series of studies here discussed very convincing evidence that co-action with others increases the probability that children would behave pro-socially in tasks that involved gummy bear distribution between themselves and another and others among others. The results were very significant and convincing; however, there was a great deal of emphasis on the use of music as an intervention on children as young as an effect could be observed and little mention of the effect in older children or even adults. It would also be interesting to find out more about the mechanisms involved; why does this phenomenon occur? It is exciting to see what else will come out of this Washington based lab.
A top up of caffeine levels in attendees then allowed for a lively poster session. 29 posters were displayed in this first session and with just 90 minutes to get around them all; the pressure was on. The full list of poster titles can be found here, a few of note though: an interesting piece of research on the characteristics that increase the likelihood of musical piracy, another on the links of poor health and lack of musical training. Also on display in this poster session was work contributed to by our director: Emerson & Egermann: Expressivity, embodiment, control: Exploring the motivations for building new digital musical instruments.
The final spoken presentation sessions of the day that I attended were those pertaining to semiotics and politics. The first presentation in this session was Wong, Mullensiefen, & Keller: Expressing archetypes through music: A musical semiotics approach to the encoding and decoding of archetypal figures. Then Krause, Anglada – Tort, & North: Gender and pop music lyrics. In which they had taken the top five records from the pop charts in the UK every week since c.1960 to present. They then moderated all the lyrics and ran them through software that analysis the frequency the lyrics mentioned specific things such as first person references, optimism, aggression etc. They then compared these results to the gender of the performer of these songs and found that female performers are more likely to sing about inspiration among other things, where as male performers were more likely to perform lyrics that include aggression, passivity, first person reference etc. The final presentation of the day was on an interesting study on the affect of patriotic vs. protest songs on individuals who identify as right or left wing in Israel.
After a long day and a lot information, it was time for a well earned Belgian beer!
The second day began with a key note by Tom Fritz from Leipzig on Music-enhanced experience: Perception, learning, memory. At least that was the title, I am not sure to what extent it was necessarily representative of the talk that he gave. Regardless, what we were treated to instead was an exploration of how we use music at every stage of development and life. He has, no doubt, had a prolific career with a great deal of success and a great head of hair!
The choices of the day before still resonating, the first presentations commenced, after another injection of caffeine. And so to the first spoken presentation given by a former YMPG member, Anna Czepiel (below) now conducting her MA at Jyväskylä in Finland: Conscious and subconscious body movement: An exploratory study into expressive and technical gestures in piano playing. Read her abstract here.
Anna was followed by Coorevits, Maes, & Leman: Gesture in the communication and control of musical timing. Research conducted at the University of Ghent so a performance to a home crowd. The research concluded that adding expressive gesture improves the control and communication of expressive timing in performance. Adding movement while performing establishes different timing relationships between musicians. Then lunch, how is sitting and watching presentations such hungry work?
The education and training session commenced with Wolf, Duvel, & Kopiez: Prevalence and predictors of music related neuromyths among teachers and students. This research seemed particularly topical in the year of ‘fake news’. This meta research found that neither teachers or students are experts on topics regarding educational neuroscience in music. Especially those unsubstantiated myths using neuroscientific language, such as “brain hemisphere” or “cognitive abilities”, which were often assumed to be correct. In the discussion following the talk the issue was raised that this was published as a scientific paper; how does this information get disseminated to those who require it most?
Correa: Musical analysis and emotions: A case study of a teaching and learning strategy designed to promote optimal experience was the next presentation. He found that keeping the learning journal promotes self regulated learning during the planning of performance. This, in addition to the novel analytical approach, transformed the musical analysis course into an appropriate environment to promote performance optimal experiences, which might contribute to further personal and professional development.
Then the second YMPG spoken presentation of the day: Mimi O’Neill (below right), current MA student, who spoke about one of her undergraduate dissertations: Does practise make perfect? An investigation on the effect of the presence of other people on eliciting the dominant response in musical performance. See her full abstract here.
The final talk in this session was Vasconcelos & Pinheiro: An electrophysiological investigation on the role of musical training on speech prosody processing and segmentation. This research found that auditory expertise underlying long-term musical training may impact both early and late stages of vocal emotional processing, particularly the extraction of sensory information from an acoustic signal. They also suggest that musical expertise leads to facilitated recognition of angry prosody in sentences carrying no intelligible semantic information.
The second poster session was a further display of 27. Again, a highlights approach is the most realistic when faced with so much choice. Elvers & Steffens Motivational music promotes risky decision-making but not the execution of ball-throwing task. An interesting extension on a presentation given at the University of York a year ago. Also, an interactive drum kit technology by Mendoza & Thompson for their research Modelling perceived segmentation of bodily gestures induced by music.
On the longest day of the conference there was another four presentation session to squeeze in. The session options were dance, cross-modal & conducting or aesthetic experience. The final presentation of YMPG day at the conference fell into the latter. Our group director, Hauke Egermann, presented his most recent study on the Interaction between aesthetic judgement and emotional processing: Studying a concert audience listening to contemporary music. For the full abstract click here.
The social supper took place in the Parnassus restaurant with a buffet and great food selection.
The final day of presentations began with a keynote by Elvira Brattico from Denmark entitled Aesthetic empowerment through music in which she describes her career researching how we experience music intensely throughout our lives and that music activates many brain regions. This was followed by an exploration, by Kathryn Emerson on Seeing the music in their hands: How conductors’ descriptions shape the music. She explained, in great detail, how she conducted conversation analysis on videos she had taken of conductors during choral rehearsals. She explained that she saw communication as falling into three categories; description, indication and depiction.
Then the main body of the day got going, I chose to go to the emotion 2 session since the opening presentation was given by Jonna Vuoskoski on work she had conducted with Tuomas Eerola since I had replicated some of their previous work earlier in the year. This presentation was discussing their paper The enjoyment of sadness-inducing music is mediated by feelings of being moved which stemmed from the finding in the aforementioned study that high trait empathy and moving sadness are indicative of experiencing the paradoxical enjoyment of sad music. Then was future YMPG member Diana Kayser (right) facing a new era in studying music-induced emotions – How letting go of the status quo may help see the seemingly invisible.
After lunch and a session of three presentations on well-being, specifically the success or not of musical interventions in Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and other chronic diseases, and another poster session we then went to the centre of Ghent to Aula. A more impressive venue could not have been imagined! In this hall we were presented with the keynote address of the conference, delivered by legendary Jane Ginsberg and John Sloboda. Also in attendance, founding president of ESCOM Irène Deliège (below). To say I was star struck would be an understatement. Jane introduced the session and subsequently her former supervisor, John. He gave a measured and detailed analysis of the reach of ESCOM globally and concluded perhaps more can be some to encourage participation from a wider range of geographical locations. Jane then took over again and described the enormous contribution Irène has made to European music science.
Then, without any warning a concert began. It was part concert, part lecture with some amateur dramatics thrown in for good measure by charity Shout at Cancer. The aim of this was to raise awareness of life after a laryngealectomy or the removal of the voice box due to throat cancer. A group of professional male singers were joined on stage by six men, many with thick cockney accents, who formed the a-laryngeal choir. What started as bizarre then got more interesting when they acted out an awareness raising scene of how these men might experience a trip to a restaurant, the highlight of which was easily the moment when the actor put his real glasses on to read an imaginary menu. However; by the end of the hour I think the entire room was a little bit in love with this extraordinary group of people so that when it came to their duet of Somewhere Over the Rainbow with operatic Laverne Williams there were more than a few smiles and/or watery eyes.
To conclude the day a celebratory reception was held in honour of 25 years of ESCOM, as Irène Deliège said ‘ESCOM iz een good hellz.’ This bled into a late late night and I can now say that I have seen parts of Ghent most people only imagine!
Based on this I have to admit to missing the plenary talk by Richard Parncutt on plans for the ICMPC-ESCOM 2018 conference. The workshop that followed though was very interesting. The aim of the research group, from Finland, has been to develop new musical interfaces especially for music educational purposes, but the advanced versions of the products can be used in professional live music and dance performances and as a rehabilitation tool. In the workshop participants have an opportunity to explore and test in practice several different implementations of wearables in music, such as Musical Glove, Musical Fingerless Glove, Wrist Music Controller, Edu/Music Mat, Board Controller/Game and Music Shirt/Vest. We were given examples of different possibilities of how to implement wearable music technology in music education, research and live music performances.
And with that the conference ended. Delegates left with heads a-buzzing with information, flicking through the abstract book to remind themselves of the whirlwind that was ESCOM 17. Full abstract book can be found here.