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The highs and lows of music: Subjective and neurophysiological responses during a live concert experience

The highs and lows of music: Subjective and neurophysiological responses during a live concert experience

Presenter Name:Rory Kirk

School/Affiliation:University of Sheffield

Co-Authors:Emily Wood, Cameron Anderson, Konrad Swierczek, Hany Tawfik, Dan Bosnyak, & Laurel J. Trainor


People’s strongest musical experiences are most often at live concerts (Lamont, 2011). Here we examine the effects of a highly expressive classical piano performance on subjective and neurophysiological responses of audience members. A live performance was held at the McMaster University LIVELab featuring a high-level, professional pianist from the Canadian Chopin Society. They performed for 40 minutes on a Yamaha Disklavier piano to a sold-out audience, including works from Scarlatti, Schuman, Prokofiev, and Chopin. Electroencephalography (EEG), heart rate (HR), and galvanic skin response (GSR) were measured from 20 participants simultaneously during the event. Subjective ratings of enjoyment, emotional intensity, familiarity, and connectedness with the audience and with the performer were completed after each piece. Additionally, audio and MIDI recordings were taken from the performance. In an ongoing online follow up study, participants listened to audio recordings of the performance and continuously rated their felt valence and arousal. As a first step, we are examining correlations between rated emotions and EEG alpha power, HR variability and GSR. The performer was also asked to indicate sections of their performance that were particularly emotionally expressive. We plan to compare EEG alpha power during these highly expressive moments and less expressive moments in the performances. Subsequent analyses will consider how auditory features compare to subjective ratings in predicting neurophysiological synchronisation between audience members (Chabin et al., 2022; Czepiel et al., 2021), considering distinctions between auditory and emotional processing (Wollman et al., 2020), and engagement and enjoyment of musical experiences (Kaneshiro et al., 2020).

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