OSPoM Seminar: Dr Maria Witek

‘Embodied Entrainment and DJing’

Dr Maria Witek, University of Birmingham, UK

We can explain how musicians, listeners and dancers synchronise their attention and movements to a musical beat by examining the process of entrainment. Entrainment can be modelled using two self-sustaining oscillators which gradually become synchronised as one oscillator drives the adaptations in phase and period of the other. In the normal understanding of rhythmic behaviour, these adaptations take the form of phase and period error corrections, allowing agents to adjust their periodic movements by moving faster or slower in order to reduce asynchrony. In DJing, this sensorimotor relationship between movement and timing is complicated. When mixing different records together, a DJ working without automated synchronisation has to manipulate the positions of the records and adjust the controllers on the turntables to align their phase and period – a process known as beatmatching. These movements are not periodic themselves, but rather exert second-order control over the synchrony of the moving records. What characterises the process of entrainment during beatmatching in DJing? What constraints are put on the mechanisms of temporal error correction, and what does it mean for our understanding of the mind that these corrections happen on the turntables, as opposed to inside the head of the DJ? Via the theory of Enactivism - in which the coupling between agents and their environments form the basis for embodied life and mind - I argue that beatmatching presents a form of entrainment that has yet to be considered in music psychology and philosophy of mind. In beatmatching, temporal error correction must be consciously controlled via the skilful manipulation of the records and the turntables, and the DJ embodies the driving force that synchronises the two records. In this way, the beatmatching DJ offers an unusually vivid example of the embodied distribution of rhythmic entrainment and its underlying temporal correction mechanisms.

Dr Maria Witek is Senior Birmingham Fellow at the Department of Music, School of Languages, Cultures, Art History and Music, University of Birmingham. Her research addresses the psychology, cognitive neuroscience and cognitive philosophy of musical rhythm, body-movement and affect, using methods such as brain imaging, motion-capture and music analysis.  She also writes about musical embodiment and dance music experience. Dr Witek is also a live coder, under the artist name mxwx. She performs and makes algorithmic dance music at algoraves and other live coding events, using TidalCycles.

Free to attend, register here.

About the series:
The Faculty of Music at the University of Oxford is pleased to announce this term’s seminars in the Oxford Seminar in the Psychology of Music (OSPoM) series. The broad theme of this year’s seminars is ‘Entrainment’, complementing the focus on ‘Rhythm’ for the Oxford Seminar in Music Theory and Analysis (OSiMTA). Details of this term’s seminars are provided below. Enjoying a position at a neglected part of the clock, seminars will start at 4.56pm GMT, and will last for 90 minutes - 45 minutes presentation followed by 45 minutes of discussion. The seminars take place on Zoom and are open to all. Those interested in attending should register via the links above. For any enquiries about OSPoM, please email: events@music.ox.ac.uk