Ian Colley

Ian ColleyResearch Student

Research Program: Music Cognition and Action

Thesis Title

Visual and Somatic Cues in Musical Ensemble Synchronization

Research Project

As a longtime ensemble musician I have frequently marveled at the ability of performers to play in synchrony, especially during rhythmically complex passages being played by dozens of musicians. Although large ensembles typically have the benefit of a conductor to indicate upcoming tempo changes and provide structural information throughout a piece, there are likely other visual inputs that facilitate synchronization, even at a subconscious level. Multiple sources of information would be particularly useful when musicians have an obscured view of the conductor, or are visually focused on unfamiliar music. Specifically, I will be looking at inputs from the ancillary motions (e.g. body sway) of co-performers that, when coupled with conductor cues, enable optimal synchronization.

I will test this by first identifying properties of conductor kinematics that are most informative to musicians. Next, I will test the extent to which musicians receive temporal information from the movements of other people. Lastly, I hope to show that optimal conductor cues can be transferred through a "leader" to a "follower," the latter of which cannot directly see the conductor. This will be tested using a manipulated virtual conductor, and a highly controlled tapping task that allows measurements how synchronous the leader and follower are, and how well they each match the conductor.


  • 2013 - B.A.  Music, Allegheny College
  • 2013 - B.S. Psychology (Hons.), Allegheny College
  • 2015 - M.S. Psychology, Bucknell University

Contact Ian

Phone+61 2 9772 6107
LocationWestern Sydney University Bankstown campus (Bullecourt Ave, Milperra)