Symposium on Empirical Methods for Music Theorists

1 Description
2 Program
2.1 Sunday November 1
2.2 Monday November 2
3 Location
4 Registration
5 Organizers

The Music Cognition Interest Group of SMT and CIRMMT Research Axis 5 (Music Perception and Cognition) is pleased to announce a Symposium on Empirical Methods to take place immediately following the upcoming SMT meeting in Montreal.

This symposium is intended to serve music theorists who have little or no background in empirical methodology, and to serve as the capstone to a cognition-laden conference experience, beginning with the MCG regular meeting (Saturday noon-2 p.m) and the MCG-sponsored Special Session on Saturday at 8 p.m. (


Sunday November 1

2:00-2:15 Introductions

2:15-3:15 Stephen McAdams and Finn Upham Dealing with subjective musical experience in time: Challenges in interpreting continuous-response measures
In the last thirty years, the technology to record listeners' experience of music continuously in time has become more and more accessible, developing from a few handcrafted sensors to ipod applications. Now the question is how to analyse these piles of time series data to get statistics relevant to the musical experience. With examples of subjective familiarity and emotional intensity ratings, we will discuss how to handle this highly variable data, common challenges and pitfalls, and how we can look for relationships to musical form and other dynamic musical feature.

3:15-4:00 Marcelo Wanderley Motion capture of music performances: Advantages and limitations
Motion capture (MoCap) is a series of techniques that allow for the (very) accurate recording of human movements. Commonly available MoCap systems are based on (active and passive) infrared, electromagnetic, ultra-sound, mechanical, inertial and hybrid technologies. Such systems vary tremendously in complexity and price depending on the technique and the size of the capture space, from a few thousand to several hundred thousand dollars, basically limiting their use to research laboratories. But independent of their price, another limitation for the widespread use of MoCap systems to the analysis of musical performer users is, in many cases, their lack of accurate synchronization between audio and MoCap data. Such a feature is essential in the analysis of music performance if one wants to accurately relate the acquired movement to a musical event (e.g. a note played). In this talk, I will review various MoCap technologies and discuss ways to circumvent synchronization limitations in various MoCap systems available at the Input Devices and Music Interaction Laboratory at McGill. Examples will be provided illustrating the use of MoCap to the analysis and synthesis of performer movements.
4:00-4:30 Johanna Devaney Techniques for extracting performance data from audio recordings
There is a wealth of information available in recording performances. Interest in studying this information dates back almost as far as the birth of recordable media. While early studies were extremely arduous and entirely manual, today there are numerous options for semi-automatic and automatic extraction of performance data. This talk will survey a number of such tools and will consider the various challenges that arise when extracting and studying performance parameters.

4:30-5:00 Discussion

5:00-7:00 Reception

Monday November 2

9:00-10:00 Caroline Palmer The role of sensory feedback in performance
Musicians perform sucessfully under a wide variety of feedback conditions due to changes in musical instruments, architectural environments, and sound transmission issues such as wearing headphones in a studio versus live conditions in a concert venue. The sensory feedback (auditory, visual, tactile/proprioceptive) available to performers differs across these conditions, and in fact is rarely the same from one performance to another. I will review recent research that demonstrates performers' sensitivities and insensitivities to changes in sensory feedback, and how their performances are altered in both solo and ensemble performance. Examples will be provided from motion capture experiments that demonstrate changes in resulting sound and motion of performers due to changes in sensory feedback.
10:00-12:00 David Huron From Idea to Experiment
Music theorists have a long history of identifying and framing highly interesting and sometimes vexing problems surrounding music as heard and conceptualized. Studying these problems in a rigorous fashion, however, is another matter. In this 2-hour session, symposium attendees will work through three small-group activites, tracing out a general Question-to-Theory-to-Conjecture-to-Hypothesis-to-Protocol procedure.

The workshop will be held at the Schulich School of Music of McGill University in room A-832 of the New Music Building (555 Rue Sherbrooke Ouest).


An online form is available at Registration is limited to 30 people due to space constraints, so please ensure that you are able to attend before registering. A link to this online form is also available via the SMT site at

We plan to collect a small registration fee at the door (no more than $20) to assist CIRMMT with the cost of the Sunday evening reception and Monday morning coffee & pastries.


Johanna Devaney, Schulich School of Music of McGill University
Peter Martens, Texas Tech University School of Music