Astonishing Insights into the Art of Conducting Using Cutting-Edge Eye-Tracking Technology
What lies behind the art of conducting? Researchers from the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich and the University of London, in collaboration with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and Sir Simon Rattle, have employed revolutionary eye-tracking technology to gain insights into the art of conducting. Insights from this breakthrough recording, taken during the rehearsal of Wagner's opera Siegfried, reveals the complex process of conducting, where the conductor's gaze operates at a faster tempo than the music and hand gestures.
The glasses worn by Sir Simon Rattle contain nano-cameras that track his eye movements with great precision. By combining this technology with machine learning, researchers could quantitatively analyze the conductor's gaze, determining where his eyes focus, how long they rest, and the speed of his visual transitions. This combination of art, science and technology highlights the conductor's ability to inspire and coordinate actions within the ensemble.
"We couldn't have asked for a more perfect starting point for this project" says Ophelia Deroy, director of the CREATE Center at the School of Advanced Study, University of London, also a professor at the LMU in Munich." While some believe the eye reflects the soul, it is truly a window into the mind and the brain. Our challenge lies in comprehending the multifaceted dimensions of the conductor's gaze: its swift traversal through space and time—moving ahead of the music yet effortlessly connecting with the musicians, just at the right time. We witness their engagement, as well as moments of introspection where the conductor seems to retreat into his own realm."
Dr Bahador Bahrami with Sir Simon Rattle wearing the eye-tracking glasses
"Eye-tracking studies have been conducted on musicians before, but implementing this technology during a rehearsal, on such a grand scale, is a groundbreaking achievement", adds Dr. Bahador Bahrami, a cognitive neuroscientist also involved in the study "What makes it truly revolutionary is that we can also analyze and visualize these fast eye paths on the performers or the score during a performance, to provide a whole new way of understanding but also of experiencing the art of conducting."
Sir Simon Rattle, who became Music Director of the London Symphony Orchestra in 2017, is the new chief conductor of the Bavarian Radio Symphonic Orchestra, as of the 2023/2024 season. He is known for his love of experimentation, a commitment to contemporary music, great social and pedagogical engagement, and unreserved artistic seriousness – all this making him one of the most fascinating conducting personalities of our time.