Music and Thinking.

“Movement and Timing: Exploring the relationship between musical training, rhythm perception, and sensorimotor integration” 

Michael Schutz (MAPLE Lab, McMaster University)

Where: MUSC 403/533F: “Cognition of Musical Rhythm,” School of Music, room 400B

When: Tuesday, September 20, 2:30-3:15pm

Abstract: Movement and music share a tight relationship – head bobbing and foot tapping are ubiquitous when listening, and many performers routinely employ gestures more excessive than is necessary for sound production. Does this movement offer any benefits to performers and listeners?  Some teachers instruct students to tap their feet while playing in order to improve their sense of rhythm, while others caution against this as musically distracting and/or unhelpful.   Previous research in my lab has shown that movement can not only change, but actually improve our perception of rhythm.  To extend this work we later began testing rhythm experts – percussionists at different Ontario universities (including Western).  in my talk I will review results from our recent publications, as well as new data exploring how musical training affects rhythm perception in both percussionists and non-percussionists. I will then discuss implications of these findings for theories of perception, as well as practical implications related to musical education and performance. 

Michael Schutz (MAPLE Lab, McMaster University): “Music’s emotion power: Exploring the use of cues for emotion through the music of JS Bach”

Where: Graduate Colloquium Series, School of Music, room 400B

When: Friday, September 23, 3:30-5pm

A reception will follow!

AbstractMusic’s emotional power has fascinated great thinkers from Plato to Darwin.  Rigorous experiments manipulating melodies demonstrate that that alterations to pitch height, timing, and modality (major/minor) produce consequent changes in emotional messages. Yet it is not clear whether these manipulations capture the full richness of musical communication as it occurs naturally in concert halls and coffee shops.  Here I will overview recent developments in my team’s work on musical emotions as conveyed in widely performed pieces by historically significant composers. We will also discuss new findings on how these cues predict listeners’ emotional responses, and the degree to which certain instruments have been “typecast” into conveying only a limited set of emotions.  We will discuss how understanding composers’ use of cues such as rhythm is complicated by performers’ differing interpretations of tempo.  We are now exploring the complex relationship between composers structural choices, performers interpretive decisions, and audiences’ perceptual responses.

For more information please visit us online at, read our latest publication on this topic at, or explore the online tool to visualize different tempo interpretations of Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier

Bio: Michael Schutz recently received tenure at McMaster University, where he is now Associate Professor of Music Cognition/Percussion.  His duties include conducting the percussion ensemble, supervising graduate students, and directing the MAPLE (Music, Acoustics, Perception, & LEarning) Lab – Michael’s research is featured prominently in multiple textbooks including Psychology of Music and Cognitive Psychology, and is supported by a variety of federal and international funding agencies including SSHRC, NSERC, and NIH.  He has been honoured with the Petro Canada “Young Innovator” award (2014), and the Ontario Early Researcher Award (2011), and serves on the Board of Directors for the Society for Music Perception and Cognition (SMPC). Additionally, he remains active as a percussionist, appearing on the title track of Judith Shatin’s album Time to Burn (Innova Records), and serving on the percussion faculty of the Honors Music Institute in Pennsylvania.  Prior to joining the McMaster Institute for Music and the Mind, Michael spent five years as Director of Percussion Studies at Longwood University, performing frequently with the Roanoke and Lynchburg Symphonies and serving as principal percussionist with Opera On the James. He holds percussion degrees from Penn State (BMA) and Northwestern (MM), as well as degrees in Cognitive Psychology and Computer Science.   For more information, please visit

You can watch a recent presentation he did at the University of California, Davis here: