at first glance, McMaster University’s LIVELab
looks like a typical concert hall with seating
for 100 and a performance stage complete with
grand piano. But looks are deceiving.
LIVE stands for Large Interactive Virtual
Environment. Opened last fall, the $8-million
research facility has sensors that can be used
on 32 audience members and four musicians to
measure the electrical activity in their brains
as well as their heart rate, breathing and other
physiological changes in response to what’s
happening on stage. The lab also features a
motion-capture system with infrared cameras
to study how performers move relative to each
other. Even the grand piano is equipped with
electronics to record and study the characteris-
tics of every key stroke.
As well, researchers can alter the acoustics
and ambience of the performing hall. “We can
make it sound like you’re in a cathedral … or a
Mind and music
Interactive research lab is much more
than a concert hall
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subway station,” says Laurel Trainor, director of
the McMaster Institute for Music and the Mind.
Or, “we can add in restaurant noises or create
other environments that are very realistic.”
A wide variety of groups and companies have
shown an interest in the lab, including Parkin-
son’s researchers studying music and movement.
The lab can also serve as a recording studio and
of course as a performance hall. “Almost every-
body that comes through here thinks up a new
way they want to use the lab,” says Dr. Trainor.
– léo charbonneau
McMaster’s LIVELab designed to investigate the experience of music, dance and human interaction
responses are displayed live
while they play.