CORDIS - EU research results

Enhancing aesthetic reception of contemporary music through active tempo control with physiological monitoring

Project description

Improving perception of complex contemporary music

Complex contemporary music (CM) promotes musical creativity and musical cultural evolution. Unfortunately, it is still perceived as music for a select audience. Many listeners find it more difficult to connect to CM, for example by physically tapping their foot or moving, than to mainstream classical or popular music. The EU-funded EAR Stretch project will support listener appreciation for CM through embodied interaction, using physical gestures to control the tempo of the music. Specifically, it will conduct a study comparing normal to interactive listening with tapping-based temporal control of CM, including new CM created especially for the project. The study will also investigate the neural and physiological responses underpinning subjective aesthetic evaluations of CM.


Complex contemporary music (CM) is the crucible for musical invention that exemplifies human creativity. It forms the lifeblood of musical cultural evolution, but can be alienating to the uninitiated. In EAR Stretch, we propose to help non-specialized listeners gain a deeper appreciation for CM through embodied interaction with temporal expression of the music. When communicating music, skilled performers often help listeners make sense of the music through expressive prosodic inflections of timing and tempo. In familiar music, listeners can often recognize the pulse and tap a foot along to the expressed beat. But in CM, listeners’ internalization of the beat and subsequent embodied reactions may be limited. The embodied cognition that comes from physically engaging with time—including organization of intrinsic brain activity and changes in perception—may be lacking in CM listening, contributing to poor reception. We hypothesize that empowering listeners to physically control the temporal expression of CM will lead to improved reception of the music as measured by neural and physiological changes and aesthetic evaluation of the music. Our main objective is to determine the impact of motor-based temporal engagement with CM on the listener-performer’s reception of the music. Acoustic- and complexity-matched CM compositions will be created specially for a psychophysiological study comparing normal listening to interactive listening with tapping-based temporal control. Objective measures, neural and physiological responses, will probe the underlying causes of subjective aesthetic evaluations and elucidate the roles of arousal, attention, and entrainment in these sources. Positive impact of interactive, embodied engagement with CM will transform the CM landscape, inspire the redesign of concert experiences, promote social inclusion, and propel CM into the musical vernacular, inciting cultural and intellectual development.


Net EU contribution
€ 196 707,84
75794 Paris

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Ile-de-France Ile-de-France Paris
Activity type
Research Organisations
Total cost
€ 196 707,84