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The physics of drumming


April 4, 2019

Tampere University

The University of Nottingham

To Professor Esa Räsänen from Tampere University, visiting another scientist is the best way to boost a collaboration. In October 2018, he made use of the ECIU Research Mobility Fund and visited his colleague, Professor Philip Moriarty, at the University of Nottingham. As both scientists and avid musicians, they’ve started working together on researching the science of drumming.

What was the reason for your visit to Nottingham?

‘I’ve got to know Professor Philip Moriarty three years ago, when he posted a YouTube video about the science of drumming. In that video, he was also praising our work in Tampere. Since then, we stayed in touch and I was planning to visit him in Nottingham.’

And you thought the ECIU Research Mobility Fund was the right tool for that?

‘Indeed! The possibility was advertised at my university last year. And from a meeting in Brussels, I was already familiar with the ECIU network. To me, this looked like the most optimal tool to meet up with Philip. Applying to this fund was very straightforward and easy, by the way.’

How was your experience in Nottingham?

‘It was one of my personal highlights of last year. I was there for one week in October. In such a short amount of time, we had to make it a very efficient week. Now, we have many ideas for joint publications on the science of music that are likely to get a lot of media attention.’

Sounds interesting, the physics of drumming…

‘It is! One of our main findings was that an audience likes it when drummers make
“mistakes”. So, fractal fluctuations in the beats of musical rhythms make the music sound more “human”. Now, we’re taking that idea a bit further and are studying what happens in the brain someone is drumming. So, the question is: how does information travel from the brain to the hands? What’s fascinating is that Notting-ham has a very cool and “hands free” MRI tool – a sort of a hat that still allows you to move around, and is able to measure the electronic pulses in the brain. While we in Tampere are strong in numerical and data analysis. That way, we can combine our respective strengths.’

So, 1+1=3?

‘Exactly. I love the multidisciplinary approach.’

What are your plans for the future?

‘We have already started to involve students in our project and we hope we can also start sending students to Nottingham. Vice versa, that’s already happening, as the first group of students from Nottingham is visiting us in Tampere already in April. So there’s a clear educational gain that we’re working on. And we also hope that our collaboration leads to more joint publications. In the end, one week in October was a great start, which reminded me that the old school way of visiting someone is great.’

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Tampere University

In autumn 2016, TUT climbed the renowned QS university ranking for top young universities, now at no. 30. Last year, TUT ranked 48th on the same ‘QS Top 50 Under 50’ list.

The University of Nottingham

The University of Nottingham shares many of the characteristics of the world’s great universities.