23. October 2023

In Sync With the Music

In the foreground screens, in the background a string ensemble

The concert as experiment (Picture: MPI for Empirical Aesthetics/F. Bernoully)

As part of the multi-year research project ECR—Experimental Concert Research, researchers have demonstrated in detail for the first time that the heart, breathing rate, and movements of concertgoers synchronize during a concert. The researchers from the University of Bern, Switzerland, the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, and the Zeppelin University in Friedrichshafen, Germany, have published their findings in the journal Scientific Reports.

“When people listen to music together at a concert, a physical connection is created between them; synchronization is part of the concert experience,”

says Wolfgang Tschacher, professor emeritus at the University Clinic for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy in Bern, Switzerland, and lead author of the study. The researchers also found that personality traits can predict an individual's contribution to group synchrony, and that stronger synchrony is associated with a more immersive music experience.

“We have long suspected that the experience of music, including classical music, is not only mental but also physical. Now we have been able to show this in a concert setting,”

says Martin Tröndle, professor at Zeppelin University and scientific director of the research project which is funded by the Volkswagen Foundation's “Open—to the Extraordinary” program. One of the most extraordinary aspects of the research project is that, for the first time, extensive data was collected at real concerts—and not in the laboratory.

The researchers also examined the motivations, expectations, and actual experiences of concertgoers. The results showed not only that there are clearly different types of concertgoers and listeners, but also that they attend concerts with different motivations and listen in different ways. These findings are relevant to concert organizers around the world to understand how to engage their audiences in the future and what they will need to provide for a fulfilling concert experience.

The results on synchronicity show that the classical concert, as a place of shared listening in the presence of the musicians, continues to have great potential for community building. The results on expectations and experiences show that the concert can be further developed to enhance these community effects and to make the classical concert more attractive.

These and many other findings from the ECR project will be presented at the two-day conference The Future of the Classical Concert, to be held on November 29 and 30 at Zeppelin University in Friedrichshafen, Germany. Highlights include keynote speeches by Alex Ross, music critic for The New Yorker and textbook author, and Peter Peters, professor for innovation in classical music at Maastricht University, the Netherlands.


Additional Information:

More information on the conference and registration: www.future-of-the-concert.org
The ECR research project: www.experimental-concert-research.org

Article in Scientific Reports:
2023: www.nature.com/articles/s41598-023-41960-2
2021: www.nature.com/articles/s41598-021-00492-3


Melanie Wald-Fuhrmann