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Durham University


Research Projects

Current research projects include:

Interpersonal Entrainment in Music Performance

Interpersonal Entrainment in Music Performance (IEMP) is an interdisciplinary research project, based on a large-scale international collaboration between a group of scholars with a common interest in interpersonal coordination and synchrony in music-making. It is funded by the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) for two years from April 2016.

The project is led by Martin Clayton and Tuomas Eerola at Durham, with international co-investigators Antonio Camurri (Casa Paganini – InfoMus, Genoa) and Peter Keller (MARCS Institute, University of Western Sydney). These investigators will collaborate with a wider international group of researchers with interests in musical entrainment and expertise in a wide variety of musical traditions, supported by Postdoctoral Research Associate Kelly Jakubowski and lead technician Simone Tarsitani (Durham).

Full details about this project can be found at

Contact: Professor Martin Clayton,


Khyal: Music and Imagination

“Khyal: Music and Imagination” is an AHRC-funded project based at Durham University which will run from January 2016 and which aims to stimulate new forms of artistic production based on interactions between performers, ethnomusicologists and visual artists, and to promote public engagement with music and visual arts.

Full details about this project can be found at


Earworms: Quantifying the experience of tunes stuck in the head

Involuntary musical imagery (INMI or “earworms”) - the spontaneous recall and repeating of a tune in your head - can be attributed to a wide range of triggers, including memory associations and recent musical exposure.

The present study, funded by the Leverhulme Trust, examines whether a song’s popularity and melodic features might help to explain whether it becomes an earworm, using a dataset of tunes that were named as earworms by 3,000 survey participants.

The project was conducted with colleagues at Goldsmiths, University of London and the University of Tübingen in Germany.

For more details, visit


SWEET SORROW: Empathy-related mechanisms involved in the enjoyment of music-induced sadness

Academy of Finland Grant 270220 (2013-2017), 575 873 €

Music is a powerful inducer of emotions, and able to induce strong experiences that involve feelings of sadness, loss, and melancholia. Yet, such purportedly negative emotional experiences are frequently enjoyed by listeners. Mounting evidence from other domains suggests that physiological and endocrinal changes involved in empathy-related mechanisms lie at the core of such negative yet potentially positive emotional experiences. The aim of the proposed project is to test the central claims put forward by the empathy-comfort theory, which attempts to explain the mechanisms behind the enjoyment of music-induced sadness.

The project proposes a series of experiments that address the key questions involved:

  1. Can music induce genuine sadness?
  2. Are empathic individuals more susceptible to music-induced sadness?
  3. Do the consoling hormones account for the enjoyment of music-induced sadness?

If the theoretical predictions are supported by empirical evidence, this knowledge can have a potentially significant impact for the development of well-being applications such as music therapy and uses of music in rehabilitation.

More details about this project led by Tuomas Eerola can be found at


The Breath of Music: Investigating respiration in Indian music performance

This project, funded by The Leverhulme Trust, investigates respiration and heart rate in Indian instrumental performance, and aims to discover how these physiological processes are related to musical structure and interpersonal coordination. Indian music is a new but rich area for research into respiration given its variety of well-defined metrical and phrase structures. It is also an ideal case study with which to connect respiration research to our work on interpersonal coordination (entrainment), in order to broaden the perspective of embodied music cognition.

More details about this project can be found at


Large-scale corpus analysis of historical electronic music using MIR tools: Informing an ontology of electronic music and cross-validating content-based methods
AHRC grant(mini-project within Transforming Musicology)

A large corpus of 2000 historical electronic music tracks will be created, and analysed by computer in an exhaustive calculation no human musicologist could attempt. But interesting questions remain in relating such 'machine listening' to human analysis, and the results will inform investigation of an ontology of electronic music and trends in music over 50 years of works.

PI: Nick Collins, Durham University, UK
Co-I Peter Manning, Durham University, UK
RA: Simone Tarsitani, Durham University, UK

Research blog:


TaCEM: Technology and Creativity in Electroacoustic Music
A collaboration between the University of Huddersfield and Durham University

Principle Investigator: Prof. Michael Clarke (CeReNeM, University of Huddersfield)
Co-Investigator: Prof. Peter Manning (Durham University)
Post Doctoral Research Assistant: Dr Frédéric Dufeu (CeReNeM, University of Huddersfield)

This AHRC funded research project (2012-15) is investigating “the impact of technology on the creative processes of composing electroacoustic music.” The following research questions are central to the project:

  • How far has new technology affected the ways in which particular musical works are shaped and structured?
  • To what extent has the use of technology been guided by particular aesthetic or creative principles?
  • How and to what extent has technology informed the development of the compositional language of electroacoustic music?
  • How can the technical and the musical outcomes of such investigations be most meaningfully communicated both to the academic community and a wider audience?

The TaCEM project is examining these issues through a series of eight case studies. Each case study involves the detailed investigation of a particular work, looking at the technical means employed in its creation, analyzing its musical structure and examining the place of the work within the composer’s oeuvre and the broader historical context. A range of works has been chosen to reflect different aspects of the genre.

The outcomes of the TaCEM project involve written materials (including a book), integrated with software designed to help readers gain a deeper understanding of both the technical and analytical issues surrounding each work. The software will extend the Interactive Aural Analysis techniques previously developed by Michael Clarke and will be freely available. Users will have the chance to try out the techniques used in particular works for themselves and be able to explore the music interactively in sound.

The TaCEM team would like to acknowledge the following for their invaluable contributions to the project:

- Project Associate: Dr Alex Harker (University of Huddersfield);
- Project Advisors: Prof. Roger Dannenberg (Carnegie Mellon University), Prof. Simon Emmerson (De Montfort University), Dr Évelyne Gayou (Ina-GRM), Prof. Xavier Rodet (Ircam).

In addition to the software dedicated to the individual case studies, a generic software is being developed within the TaCEM project: TIAALS (Tools for Interactive Aural Analysis) enables the user to develop his own interactive aural analyses from the sound contents of any piece, in an environment integrating a sonogram and a chart maker. A beta version of this software is publically available for individuals to study and provide user feedback.

Fuller details can be obtained from the project’s website which is managed by the University of Huddersfield: