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17.3. Music and Cardiology: What’s Your Heart Got to Do With Music?


Elaine Chew
Pianist and Researcher, CNRS, STMS Lab (
Ircam), Paris, Frankreich

Music and the heart have been closely intertwined in the romantic imagination. The pulsating heart pumps blood through the body, producing the rhythm of life. Until it was replaced by the metronome, the heart’s pulsing also provided the unit of measure for musical time, making it indispensable for understanding performed music. Even when the coordinated electrical impulses of the heart go amiss, the rhythmic patterns produced by cardiac arrhythmias are still mirrored in the music, and thus can be modeled mathematically like music. We shall explore the ways in which electrical impulses of the heart result in musical behaviors, and how mappings between heartbeats and music can inspire new ways to view music and heart rhythm disorders, mediated by mathematics.

Music alters our physiological state. A languid or breathtaking pace, heightening tension and cathartic release, musical tipping points – each could evoke a gasp, a quickening heartbeat or longer breaths. Our recent work focuses on making musicians’ expressive devices visible, mathematically and graphically. We shall see how musicians’ expressive choices lead to largely unconscious but quantifiable autonomic changes for both players and listeners. These changes can be observed in the heart rate, heart rate variability, respiration, and blood pressure or by pacemaker patients’ activation recovery intervals (time between a heartbeat and when the heart can beat again). The illustrations will be accompanied by music and technology demonstrations.

Suggested readings:
How Music Can Literally Heal the Heart
Putting One’s Heart Into Music

Elaine Chew is a pianist and operations researcher working on the mathematical and computational modelling of musical structures with applications to the modelling of music performance, music-heart-brain interactions, computational arrhythmia research, and AI music generation. As a pianist, she integrates her research into concert-conversations that showcase scientific visualisations and lab-grown compositions. Her work has been recognised by PECASE and NSF CAREER awards, and Fellowships at Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. She is an alum (Fellow) of the NAS Kavli and NAE Frontiers of Science/Engineering Symposia.
She is presently a senior CNRS researcher in the STMS Lab at IRCAM, where she is principal investigator of the ERC ADG project COSMOS and POC project HEART.FM. She was Professor of Digital Media at QMUL, Assistant/Associate Professor at USC where she held the inaugural Viterbi Early Career Chair, and was Visiting Professor at Harvard and Lehigh. She received PhD and SM degrees in Operations Research at MIT, a BAS in Mathematical & Computational Sciences (honors) and Music (distinction) at Stanford, and FTCL and LTCL diplomas in Piano Performance from Trinity College, London.


Dieser Vortrag findet im Rahmen der neuen Reihe Musik & Mathematik statt, die sich sich mit den interdisziplinären Ansätzen und Perspektiven zwischen Musik und Mathematik beschäftigt . Die Durchführung und Gestaltung erfolgt gemeinsam mit internationalen Expertinnen und Experten aus den Bereichen Mathematik, Statistik, Computerwissenschaften, Komposition und Musikforschung und eröffnet Einblicke in die aktuellen Forschungen und Entwicklungen in den Grenzbereichen zwischen den Wissenschaftssparten. Die jeweiligen Vorträge sind auch Teil einer disziplinübergreifenden Lehrveranstaltung, in der an den Schnittstellen der Disziplinen jeweils Themen aus dem Forschungsumfeld der eingeladenen Vortragenden diskutiert werden.

Idee und Leitung Reihe „Musik & Mathematik“:

  • Arne Bathke (Statistiker, Data Scientist, Leiter PB (Inter)Mediation | FB Artificial Intelligence and Human Interfaces, Universität Salzburg)
  • Katarzyna Grebosz-Haring (Systematische Musikwissenschafterin| Department Musikpädagogik, PB (Inter)Mediation | Mozarteum Salzburg)
  • Martin Losert (Musikpädagoge, Saxophonist, Leiter Department Musikpädagogik, Leiter PB (Inter)Mediation | Mozarteum Salzburg)

Eine Zusammenarbeit von (Inter)Mediation mit dem Fachbereich Artificial Intelligence and Human Interfaces der Universität Salzburg und dem Eliette und Herbert von Karajan Institut

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