Royal Society Journal

Friday 27 September 2013


An article written by RCM Professor of Performance Science Aaron Williamon has been published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.

The article, entitled Complexity of physiological responses decreases in high-stress musical performance focuses on a project that Professor Williamon undertook with RCM alumnus Melvyn Tan at the 2012 Cheltenham Festival: a pioneering new study to examine the physiological response of a concert pianist during low- and high-stress performance conditions.

Pianist Melvyn Tan performed Bach’s English Suite in A minor (BWV 807) once with three people present (low stress) and again for an audience of 400 people at the Cheltenham Music Festival (high stress). In both cases heart rate was recorded using wireless sensor technology, and standard and state-of-the-art tools from complexity science were used to examine variations in heart function due to high stress. The results offer promising new avenues for identifying stress responses in a wide range of performance situations, both in music and in other performance domains.

Professor Williamon collaborated on the journal with Lisa Aufegger, a PhD candidate in the RCM’s Centre for Performance Science, as well as David Wasley from Cardiff Metropolitan University, and David Looney and Danilo Mandic from Imperial College London.

For questions about the research, please contact Aaron Williamon on The report in full is available to read on the Journal of the Royal Society website.

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