Keynote Lectures

Prof. Eckart Altenmüller, MD, MAAltenmüller

What determines our music appreciation? Neurobiology and Psychology of Music Evoked Emotions

Abstract: Although music is generally acknowledged as a powerful tool for eliciting emotions, little is known concerning the neurobiological basis of these emotions. We investigated the psychological and neurobiological basis of strong emotional responses to music (SEM), leading to shivers down the spine and changes in heart rate. From previous studies it is known that these SEMs are accompanied by the activation of a brain network that includes areas involved in reward, emotion and motivation.

In order to observe distinct acoustical and music structural elements related to chill reactions, in a series of experiments, on-line emotional self report was obtained while participants were listening to music inducing strong emotions. During the experiment skin conductance reaction (SCR), heart rate, and facial electromyography (EMG) were measured. After each piece of music, subjects filled in questionnaires regarding their knowledge and recalls connected to the music. Further questionnaires included various personality scales.

Despite of highly individual emotional reactions towards music, some inter-individually constant characteristics of music eliciting chill responses can be found. Chills were much more frequent in previously known music and in familiar music styles. Furthermore, listening conditions and room acoustics seem to play a major role. Finally, distinct musical events frequently caused strong emotional responses, especially when violating expectancies. Interestingly, when listening in a group setting together with friends, chill responses were less frequent than when listening alone.

These results demonstrate that strong emotional responses are not only related to the psychoacoustic properties of the respective pieces of music, but furthermore to biographical memories, environment, personality traits and social environments. Therefore, a simple stimulus-response type of reaction cannot be assumed, and strong emotional responses seem to be primarily linked to the individual’s auditory biography and its associative networks.


SvenssonProf. Peter Svensson, PhD, MSc

A potpourri of prediction methods in room acoustics

Abstract: Computerized prediction in room acoustics has for decades used methods from three very different categories: diffuse-field methods, geometrical acoustics in the form of ray tracing, and wave-based methods in terms of finite element modeling. Are there any methods that will challenge these three in the near future? We will look at developments in these three categories of methods and discuss what they have to offer compared to today’s state.  For diffuse-field methods, Barron’s revised formula has gained acceptance as a more accurate alternative to the classical diffuse-field formulas, and the diffusion equation can offer even more detailed variations in space.

For geometrical acoustics, the introduction of diffraction has overcome one of the most important limitations with geometrical acoustics. Another development is to solve the underlying radiosity equation, or even more generally, the room acoustil rendering equation, with other methods than the “Monte-Carlo” approach that we know as ray tracing.

Finally, the “exact” wave-based approach has at least four up-and-coming competitors: FDTD has been a researchers’ tool for several decades but is still not available in some commercial software. WIll that change? A second alternative is PSTD, which, like FDTD might be on the way from the research labs to be more generally available.
A third alternative to FEM is BEM, which is well-established but not widely used in room acoustics. Finally, the "adaptive rectangular decomposition” uses a  decomposition into shoebox subdomains, which can be solved analytically. Will that become a common tool? A last aspect that affects all these various methods will be discussed briefly: the uncertainty in the input data.


Pamela Clements, B.A. Dip. Ed, B.Sc., M.M ;  dr. ir. Martijn VercammenVercammenClements

History and acoustics of the Concertgebouw Amsterdam

Abstract: The Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, is regarded as one of the great concert halls of the world. But at the time it opened, in 1888, the hall experienced many difficulties, mainly due to its large volume and small audience. The site was undeveloped watery peatland beyond the city limits and there was no connection to public transportation, which posed great access challenges for the audience in the early days. It is hardly surprising, therefore that the room was experienced as "excessively resonant”, however there was also the comment that the brass overpowered the strings.

In 1899 the first (and only major) modification to the hall took place -  the stage was enlarged and the built-in risers were rebuilt to a much lower height. The balance between strings and brass improved significantly. The city of Amsterdam grew rapidly, public transportation was improved and the new conductor and more skilled orchestra attracted large audiences. Thus, in the first eleven years of its existence, the Concertgebouw went from near failure to outstanding musical success. Due to improvements in the building, the logistics and the musical performance practice, both the hall and Concertgebouw orchestra became immensely famous. But even today, conductors  and  musicians need to adjust their performance techniques to the room’s overwhelming acoustics.

As most buildings in Amsterdam, the Concertgebouw is built on a wooden pile foundation. At the end of the seventies the foundation appeared severely undermined. Unequal setting of parts of the foundations resulted in cracks in the Brickwork. A national rescue operation was set up, executed and finished in 1988. A new concrete pile foundation was made under the existing building and a new basement was created. The normal concert program continued during these works. The main goal during this first part of the renovation was to preserve the famous acoustics of the hall.

After the big renovation, the interior of the concert hall and the rest of the building was renovated stepwise. Modifications included the change of the ceiling, the replacement of the wooden floors, new seats and modified seating plan on the balcony. Preservation of the acoustics continued to be the prime target.