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Presentation by Dr. Frank A. Russo

Movement, Mimicry and Emotion in Music

Abstract: A number of reasonable proposals have been tabled over the years in an effort to explain how we experience emotion in music. An approach to this question that has been receiving increasing attention concerns the role of movement that is either implied or executed as part of music performance. Movement can be implied by a number of variables including the speed of event onsets and the size of pitch intervals. Movements can be executed through instrumental actions, ancillary gestures, and/or facial expressions involved in performance. For example, in vocal music, head movement, eyebrow raising and mouth opening are all positively correlated with interval size. Recent evidence from my lab suggests that observers visually track these movements and that they experience spontaneous facial muscle activations that mimic those necessary to execute the movements. We will present a new model that attempts to integrates these findings. The model suggests that the mimicry of movement in music is an automatic feed-forward consequence of a neural simulation of movement and that it may support: (a) emotional understanding, and (b) belief in the authenticity of the emotions expressed.

Bio: Frank Russo is Associate Professor of Psychology and Director of Psychological Science Training at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada. After earning his Ph.D. from Queen’s University at Kingston in 2002, he completed Postdoctoral Fellowships in Music Cognition and Hearing Science. In 2006, he founded the Science of Music, Auditory Research and Technology (SMART) lab at Ryerson University. Current work includes multimodal perception of music, vocal emotional communication, and cognitively based music information retrieval. Other notable work includes consultation with U.S. and Canadian Departments of Transportation on locomotive horn effectiveness, and invention of a sensory-substitution technology supporting perception of music by deaf and hard of hearing individuals. Current research funding has been awarded by the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario, and the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation.


May 19 2011


4:00 pm - 5:00 pm




BRAMS, Suite 0-120
1430 boul. Mont Royal, Université de Montréal



BRAMS (International Laboratory for Brain, Music and Sound Research) is a unique laboratory dedicated to research excellence in the study of music and auditory cognition with a focus on neuroscience. BRAMS is located in Montreal and jointly affiliated with the University of Montreal and McGill University.


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