• Disco2
Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT)
Projeto nº 029641, submetido no âmbito do Aviso de concurso nº 02/SAICT/2017
October 2018 to 2021
Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas (NOVA-FCSH)
Faculdade de Motricidade Humana (FMH)
NESC TEC - Instituto de Engenharia de Sistemas e Computadores, Tecnologia e Ciência
Can we explain the power of music and dance to prevent and even treat illness? In Western societies, this question is of great concern to cognitive scientists, who investigate the impact of music on basic human faculties such as memory, emotions and corporeal abilities in persons affected by different types of diseases (Alzheimer, autism, etc.). 
Ethnomusicologists, who focus on the cultural diversity of musical expressions, may offer an important contribution to this emerging field by describing how the relation among music, dance, and health is conceived of in other cultural contexts and performance settings. Although the scientific literature reports a large variety of these descriptions, no attempts have been made so far to compare data across cultures and musical genres, and to link qualitative field observations with quantitative laboratory experiments. By establishing an interdisciplinary team of scholars working on the fields of ethnomusicology, movement analysis, and music computing, this project aims to fill this gap.
The first objective is to develop an anthropological theory of the emotional and healing power of music. By comparing ethnographic accounts coming from various regions of the world, we will address the following central question: Can we find, in different musical and cultural contexts, similarities in the ways music is used for healing purposes?
Our hypothesis maintains that if music is widely associated with healing practices in many societies from around the world, this could be due to its potential to elicit and control emotions, whether this happens through symbolic associations or through aesthetic meanings attributed to musical forms.
The second objective is to develop an innovative methodological framework for exploring the relation among music, emotions and health regulation in a specific study-case, that of Maracatu de baque solto, a Carnival performance occurring in Pernambuco (Northeast Brazil). Previous field research conducted by the PI of the current project has led to the following hypothesis: in order to prevent spiritual and physical attacks that may result in illness and eventually death, Maracatu musicians and dancers struggle to achieve a high level of group cohesion locally known as consonância (consonance), a valorized human and aesthetic feature which is opposed to desmantelo (fracture, breaking up). While field-research in Brazil will explore the symbolic, religious and emotional meanings of Maracatu, laboratory experiments in Lisbon will be held in order to understand, at a more formal level, how "consonance" is achieved through music and dance. More precisely, by using motion-capture techniques and multi-track recordings, our goal is to analyze: (1) the rhythmical micro-variations related to expressive qualities such as groove or swing; (2) dancers movements and their relation to the musical patterns; and (3) the complex collective choreographies, involving up to two hundred dancers.
The HELP-MD team members will operate in order to ensure a wide dissemination of the project's results, both in the academic and non-academic milieu. Participation in international conferences will be a privileged means for discussing our research with colleagues. We will give preference to the most important ones in the area of ethnomusicology (ICTM biannual conference, SFE annual conference, SEM annual meeting, the AAWM biannual conference), music computing (ISMIR or CMMR World conferences) and dance and movement analysis (ICDSPA conference). Since the nature of the project is highly interdisciplinary, we will encourage the joint participation in conferences of team members working in different scientific fields. Several researchers in the HELP-MD team are members of the advisory and scientific boards of the above-cited international conferences, and might therefore foster collaborative round tables and workshops on the project's themes. Submitting papers in international reviews with high impact factors (Ethnomusicology, Music Perception, Journal of New Music Research, etc.) is a required condition for being part of the HELP-MD team. Although English is the privileged language for scientific writing, we will also encourage researchers and students to submit papers in journals edited in the countries where field-research is undertaken (Brazil, Portugal). This strategy will assure that the "protagonists" of our research (people in the field) will have access to our results as well. Open access journals fees are included in the project budget in order to ensure a wide dissemination of our research. Toward the end of the project, we will work on a collective book or special issue journal, with the aim of bringing together the research of all team members. The manuscript will be submitted to important editors in the field of music research, such as Oxford University Press, Routledge, or Ashgate Publishing. We believe that the dissemination of research to a large, non-academic public plays a fundamental role in bridging the gap still existing among higher institutions and society. We believe that the results of the HELP-MD project will particularly benefit musicians, music therapists and more generally, professionals of the health sector. The project website, in both English and Portuguese, will describe our research tasks and results to a non-specialist public. Furthermore, the interactive interface that will be realized in the HELP-MD project is intended as an assistive tool to illustrate the results of our research to a large public, in a user-friendly fashion. This interface will be inspired by previous work by the PI of the current project. (see: http://www.ethnomusicologie.fr/tsiganes-bonini-baraldi/)