Skill Development and Stabilisation of Expertise for Electronic Music Performance

  • Jan C. SchacherEmail author
  • Patrick Neff
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 9617)


Skill development, the stabilisation of expertise through practise, and processes of bodily as well as neural sharing in the context of gesture-based electronic music performance are the topic of this article. The key questions centre around the affective, embodied but also neurological aspects of these processes. The types of awareness on a corporeal level and the neural processes that occur within the musician and the listener-viewer are investigated, since in music performance the perceptions of musician and audience depend on shared embodiment and cognitive processes. The aim is to show that ‘enactive’, embodied concepts merely provide a different perspective of the same complex matter than what the cognitive neurosciences propose. A concrete musical piece is used as an example that shows a gestural practice using sensor-based instruments and digital sound processing in order to expose the critical relationships between musician, instrument, technology and the audience. The insights arising from blending the two complementary perspectives in this context can be productive both for artistic practice as well as systematic research in music.


Cognitive sciences Electronic music Embodiment Expertise Neural plasticity Performance Shared perception Skill development Stabilisation 



This investigation originates from the ‘Motion Gesture Music’ project at the Institute for Computer Music and Sound Technology of the Zurich University of the Arts, and is funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation Grant No. 100016_149345.


  1. 1.
    Bermúdez, J.L.: The Paradox of Self-Consciousness. The MIT Press, Cambridge (2000)Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Berrol, C.F.: Neuroscience meets dance/movement therapy: mirror neurons, the therapeutic process and empathy. Arts Psychother. 33(4), 302–315 (2006)Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Berthoz, A.: Le Sens du Mouvement. Odile Jacob, Paris (1997)Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Bezzola, L., Mérillat, S., Jäncke, L.: The effect of leisure activity golf practice on motor imagery: an fMRI study in middle adulthood. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 6, 1–9 (2012). Article 67Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Blakemore, S.J., Decety, J.: From the perception of action to the understanding of intention. Nat. Rev. Neurosci. 2(8), 561–567 (2001). Scholar
  6. 6.
    Cattell, R.B.: Theory of fluid and crystallized intelligence: a critical experiment. J. Educ. Psychol. 54(1), 1–22 (1963)Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Csikszentmihalyi, M.: Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. Harper and Row, New York (1990)Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Debarnot, U., Sperduti, M., Di Rienzo, F., Guillot, A.: Experts bodies, experts minds: how physical and mental training shape the brain. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 8, 1–17 (2014)Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Decety, J., Chaminade, T.: When the self represents the other: a new cognitive neuroscience view on psychological identification. Conscious. Cogn. 12(4), 577–596 (2003)Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Enticott, P.G., Kennedy, H.A., Bradshaw, J.L., Rinehart, N.J., Fitzgerald, P.B.: Understanding mirror neurons: evidence for enhanced corticospinal excitability during the observation of transitive but not intransitive hand gestures. Neuropsychologia 48(9), 2675–2680 (2010)Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Fitch, W.T.: The Evolution of Language. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (2010)Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Gallagher, H.L., Frith, C.D.: Functional imaging of ‘Theory of Mind’. Trends Cogn. Sci. 7(2), 77–83 (2003)Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Gallagher, H.L., Frith, C.D.: Dissociable neural pathways for the perception and recognition of expressive and instrumental gestures. Neuropsychologia 42(13), 1725–1736 (2004)Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Gallagher, H.L., Jack, A.I., Roepstorff, A., Frith, C.D.: Imaging the intentional stance in a competitive game. NeuroImage 16(3), 814–821 (2002)Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Gallagher, S.: Bodily self-awareness and object perception. Theoria et Historia Scientiarum VII(1), 53–68 (2003)Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Gallagher, S.: How the Body Shapes the Mind. Clarendon Press, Oxford (2005)Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Gallagher, S., MarcelMarcel, A.J.: The self in contextualized action. J. Conscious. Stud. 6(4), 4–30 (1999)Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Gibson, J.J.: The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception. Lawrence Erlbaum, Hillsdale (1986)Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Godøy, R.I.: Gestural-Sonorous objects: embodied extensions of Schaeffer’s conceptual apparatus. Org. Sound 11(2), 149–157 (2006)Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Held, K.: Husserl’s phenomenology of the life-world. In: Welton, D. (ed.) The New Husserl: A Critical Reader. Indiana University Press, Bloomington (2003)Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Howard, I.S., Wolpert, D.M., Franklin, D.W.: The value of the follow-through derives from motor learning depending on future actions. Curr. Biol. 25(3), 397–401 (2015)Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Iyer, V.: Improvisation, temporality and embodied experience. J. Conscious. Stud. 11(3–4), 159–173 (2004)Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Jäncke, L.: Music making and the aging brain. Zeitschrift für Neuropsychologie 24(2), 113–121 (2013). Scholar
  24. 24.
    Johnson, M.: The Meaning of the Body, Aesthetics of Human Understanding. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago (2007)Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Kensinger, E.A.: Remembering emotional experiences: the contribution of valence and arousal. Rev. Neurosci. 15(4), 241–252 (2004)Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Kim, J.H.: Embodiment musikalischer Praxis und Medialität des Musikinstrumentes - unter besonderer Berücksichtigung digitaler interaktiver Musikperformances. In: Harenberg, M., Weissberg, D. (eds.) Klang (ohne) Körper, Spuren und Potenziale des Körpers in der elektronischen Musik, pp. 105–118. Transcript, Bielefeld (2010)Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Lakoff, G., Johnson, M.: Metaphors We Live By. University Of Chicago Press, Chicago (1980)Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Legrand, D.: Pre-reflective self-consciousness: on being bodily in the world. Janus Head 9(2), 493–519 (2007)Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Leman, M., Camurri, A.: Understanding musical expressiveness using interactive multimedia platforms. Musicae Sci. 10(1 suppl), 209–233 (2006)Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Lotze, M., Heymans, U., Birbaumer, N., Veit, R., Erb, M., Flor, H., Halsband, U.: Differential cerebral activation during observation of expressive gestures and motor acts. Neuropsychologia 44(10), 1787–1795 (2006)Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Luria, A.R.: The Working Brain. Penguin Books, Harmondsworth (1973)Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Marcel, A.: The Sense of Agency: Awareness and Ownership of Action. In: Roessler, J., Eilan, N. (eds.) Agency and Self-Awareness, pp. 48–93. Oxford University Press, Oxford (2003)Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    Merleau-Ponty, M.: Phenomenology of Perception. Gallimard, Paris (1945). 2007, paperback ednGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Michel-Dansac, D.: In a Personal communication, March 2014Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Montgomery, K.J., Isenberg, N., Haxby, J.V.: Communicative hand gestures and object-directed hand movements activated the mirror neuron system. Soc. Cogn. Affect. Neurosci. 2(2), 114–122 (2007)Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Montgomery, K.J., Haxby, J.V.: Mirror neuron system differentially activated by facial expressions and social hand gestures: a functional magnetic resonance imaging study. J. Cogn. Neurosci. 20(10), 1866–1877 (2008). Scholar
  37. 37.
    Ophir, E., Nass, C., Wagner, A.D.: Cognitive control in media multitaskers. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 106(37), 15583–15587 (2009)Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Paine, G.: Towards unified design guidelines for new interfaces for musical expression. Organised Sound 14(2), 142–155 (2009)Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Pascual-Leone, A., Amedi, A., Fregni, F., Merabet, L.B.: The plastic human brain cortex. Annu. Rev. Neurosci. 28(1), 377–401 (2005). Scholar
  40. 40.
    Poeppel, D.: The analysis of speech in different temporal integration windows: cerebral lateralization as ‘asymmetric sampling in time’. Nat. Speech Percept. 41(1), 245–255 (2003). Scholar
  41. 41.
    Proust, J.: Perceiving intentions. In: Roessler, J., Eilan, N. (eds.) Agency and Self-awareness: Issues in Philosophy and Psychology, pp. 296–320. Oxford University Press, Oxford (2003)Google Scholar
  42. 42.
    Rancière, J.: The emancipated spectator. Art Forum XLV(7), March 2007Google Scholar
  43. 43.
    Rizzolatti, G., Arbib, M.A.: Language within our grasp. Trends Neurosci. 21(5), 188–194 (1998)Google Scholar
  44. 44.
    Rizzolatti, G., Fogassi, L., Gallese, V.: Neurophysiological mechanisms underlying the understanding and imitation of action. Nat. Rev. Neurosci. 2(9), 661–670 (2001). Scholar
  45. 45.
    Russell, J.A.: A circumplex model of affect. J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 39(6), 1161–1178 (1980)Google Scholar
  46. 46.
    Salat, D.H., Buckner, R.L., Snyder, A.Z., Greve, D.N., Desikan, S.R., Busa, E., Morris, J.C., Dale, A.M., Fischl, B.: Thinning of the cerebral cortex in aging. Cereb. Cortex 14(7), 721–730 (2004)Google Scholar
  47. 47.
    Sawyer, K.: The cognitive neuroscience of creativity: a critical review. Creat. Res. J. 23(2), 137–154 (2011)Google Scholar
  48. 48.
    Schacher, J.C.: The quarterstaff, a gestural sensor instrument. In: Proceedings of the Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression (NIME 2013), Daejeon & Seoul, Korea Republic (2013)Google Scholar
  49. 49.
    Schacher, J.C., Järveläinen, H., Strinning, C., Neff, P.: Movement perception in music performance - a mixed methods investigation. In: Proceedings of the International Conference on Sound and Music Computing, SMC 2015, Maynooth, Ireland (2015)Google Scholar
  50. 50.
    Schacher, J.C., Kocher, P., Bisig, D.: The map and the flock - emergence in mapping with swarm algorithms. Comput. Music J. 38(3), 49–63 (2014)Google Scholar
  51. 51.
    Schlaug, G., Jäncke, L., Huang, Y., Staiger, J.F., Steinmetz, H.: Increased corpus callosum size in musicians. Neuropsychol. Dev. Stud. Corpus Callosum 33(8), 1047–1055 (1995). Scholar
  52. 52.
    Serrien, D.J., Ivry, R.B., Swinnen, S.P.: Dynamics of hemispheric specialization and integration in the context of motor control. Nat. Rev. Neurosci. 7(2), 160–166 (2006). Scholar
  53. 53.
    Sheets-Johnstone, M.: Kinesthetic memory. In: Sheets-Johnstone, M. (ed.) The Corporeal Turn: An Interdisciplinary Reader, pp. 253–277. Imprint Academic, London (2009)Google Scholar
  54. 54.
    Small, C.: Musicking – the meanings of performing and listening. A lecture. Music Educ. Res. 1(1), 9–22 (1999)Google Scholar
  55. 55.
    Varela, F.J., Thompson, E.T., Rosch, E.: The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience. The MIT Press, Cambridge (1991)Google Scholar
  56. 56.
    Wan, C.Y., Schlaug, G.: Music making as a tool for promoting brain plasticity across the life span. Neurosci. 16(5), 566–577 (2010)Google Scholar
  57. 57.
    Zatorre, R.J., Chen, J.L., Penhune, V.B.: When the brain plays music: auditory-motor interactions in music perception and production. Nat. Rev. Neurosci. 8(7), 547–558 (2007)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Open Access This chapter is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 International License (, which permits any noncommercial use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license and indicate if changes were made.

The images or other third party material in this chapter are included in the chapter's Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the chapter's Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder.

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Computer Music and Sound TechnologyZurich University of the ArtsZürichSwitzerland
  2. 2.Royal Conservatoire, AP HogeschoolAntwerpBelgium
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversity of ZurichZürichSwitzerland

Personalised recommendations