SMQB AIR Blog – A Study in How Mind and Body Coordinate Rhythms

This is an ongoing project. On this page, you will find blog posts that elucidate my research, development, and progress. The work will continue to evolve and develop over the coming months.

As work is resolved, I am publishing it on a separate page here [DJ Beatmatching].


In August 2023, I was accepted into a six-month artist residency program at the Centre for Systems Modelling & Quantitative Biomedicine (SMQB) at the University of Birmingham. SMQB was looking for artists to collaborate with their researchers on interdisciplinary projects, and I was paired with a DJ beatmatching project.

As a photographer, I am interested in how art and science can intersect to create new perspectives and understanding. I am also drawn to the idea of collaboration, and I am excited to work with the researchers at SMQB to develop creative outputs that respond to their work.

My DJ experience has given me a deep understanding of beatmatching, which is the process of synchronizing two tempos.

I am interested in exploring how the principles of beatmatching can be applied to other fields, such as science and medicine. For example, researchers at SMQB are using computer modeling to study the complex rhythms of the human brain. It maybe that beatmatching can be used to explore these rhythms in new ways.

The potential for the research to move beyond DJ Beatmatching analysis is limitless.

During my residency at SMQB, I plan to develop a series of creative outputs that will explore the intersection of beatmatching, music, and science.

I am particularly interested in using this project to create new ways of visualising and understanding complex data. Art can be a powerful tool for communicating bewildering ideas, it can bridge gaps and help make science more accessible and engaging to the public.


This is a radically interdisciplinary project about the art and science of DJ beatmatching, spanning a number of different disciplines, including electronic music studies, digital music analysis, music psychology, disability studies, participatory action research, cognitive philosophy, performance, movement, cognitive and neuroscience, dynamic systems modeling, time-series analytics, and biophysiological analysis. 

There are 6 members in our team, namely:

  • Dr Maria A. G. Witek, Associate Professor, Department of Music, School of Languages, Cultures, Art History and Music, University of Birmingham
  • Dr Patti Nijhuis, Research Fellow, Department of Music, School of Languages, Cultures, Art History and Music, University of Birmingham
  • Dr Rob Sturman, Associate Professor, School of Mathematics, Pro-Dean International, Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences, University of Leeds
  • Dr Daniel Galvis, SMQB Centre Research Fellow, Institute of Metabolism and Systems, University of Birmingham
  • Dr Diar Abdlkarim, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, School of Psychology, University of Birmingham
  • Simon Peter Green, Artist Practitioner, CAS Associate

L to R – Dr Daniel Galvis, Dr Patti Nijhuis, Dr Maria A. G. Witek, Dr Rob Sturman, Simon Peter Green – missing from photo Dr Diar Abdikarim

Birmingham, September 2023 – Photographer Heley Salter

Research Question

DJing is a sophisticated musical skill that involves complex temporal perception and active manipulation of multiple, often polyrhythmic patterns at the same time.

In a process known as beat-matching, DJs need to synchronise two different records playing at different speeds on the turntables.

This is an embodied and dynamic activity that relies on a coordinated system of processes in the body, the brain, the turntables, and the sonic patterns in the music. 

How do these movement, brain, and sound dynamics interact continuously during the process of beatmatching to make the skill possible? And how are these dynamic interactions impacted by disability?

Why is it important?

By studying the dynamics of these physiological signals, we can understand the complex interaction between humans and their environment.

This has broad relevance in understanding how we coordinate movements within our own bodies and with others.

Coordinating movement with musical rhythm yields numerous additional benefits, such as increased social bonding, pro-social behaviour, and pleasure.

Furthermore, understanding the barriers faced by disabled DJs can help inform the development of more accessible DJ technologies and practices.

Dance music practices, such as DJing, have been largely ignored in academic research, but are ideally suited to explore these benefits.

What are the outputs?

The project team will develop methods for analysing three-way coupling between three time series (movement, EEG, and audio).

This will be published as a peer-reviewed paper on the method and outcome.

A peer-reviewed paper modeling the DJ as a dynamic system will be prepared.

We will organise an outreach event, where we will present the model in an accessible and engaging way to help demonstrate how the mind is like a mind/body dynamic system of oscillators.

The event will feature disabled and non-disabled DJs.

The event will act as a showcase pilot, which we will subsequently tour at music festivals in the summer of 2024.


As an interdisciplinary project, we are combining methods from several distinct fields.

This includes quantitative and qualitative methods.

We are using interviews to gain insight into disabled DJs’ experiences, whilst designing quantitative studies using experimental methods from (neuro)psychology, using a variety of measures to capture behaviour in DJing, including (temporal) brain activity (EEG), body movement (motion capture), the produced audio, and the physical interaction with the turntables.

We use a dynamical systems approach to model the DJing process as synchronising oscillators, adopting measures like phase and frequency coupling to analyse the interaction between the brain, body, and sound.

The study uses a five-stage representation of beatmatching to understand the DJing process:

1) listening to track A

2) listening to track B

3) listening to track A&B simultaneously

4) match track B to track A

5) monitor the mix. Prior to the beatmatching, DJs’ general capacity for beat perception was also tested with the Beat Alignment Test (BAT).

During all five stages, continuous time series data is collected from the brain (EEG), body (motion capture), and turntables (audio).

EEG and motion capture data have been cleaned and processed using MATLAB and Python.


During a team meeting, we engaged in a collective discussion regarding the artistic direction, and we collectively committed to pursuing the following strategies:

  1. The creation of content aimed at enhancing the public’s understanding of the research’s intricacies and findings.
  2. Utilising a wide array of mediums, including photography, animation, film, and text, to craft this informative material.
  3. The compilation of this diverse material into an engaging audiovisual film that can be hosted on the internet and readily shared across social platforms.
  4. The development of an enticing and immersive multimedia social event featuring both DJs and captivating visuals.

Making Visuals

My primary goal is to find a way to “visualise the beats.”

While there maybe numerous ways of achieving this, I’ve opted for a more organic and analog approach by experimenting with a laser beam.

The process involves a loudspeaker playing the audio track. I’ve affixed a mirror to the loudspeaker and directed a laser beam onto it, resulting in a reflection.

This reflection is then projected onto an adjacent wall, syncing with the rhythm of the beat. The motion is initiated by the harmonics and resonance present in the audio, giving rise to a distinct pattern.

I’m currently engaged in experiments aimed at capturing a photograph of this pattern. I’m adjusting parameters such as power, aperture, ISO, and shutter speed in a quest to find the perfect visual balance.


I have reconfigured the speaker setup to incorporate a sub-bass woofer box.

When audio is channeled through the subwoofer, it results in the mirror reflecting a projected pattern.

Sub-bass frequencies are responsible for the most significant displacement of the speaker cone, consequently imparting more energy to the laser projection.

I switched the laser color from red to green, primarily because a green laser is approximately 15 times brighter than a red laser with the same power.

My decision to acquire a brighter green laser serves two main purposes.

Firstly, it enhances visibility for audiences, particularly under various ambient lighting conditions.

Secondly, it addresses the challenge of capturing photographic images. With the lower light output of the red laser and the rapid movements of its reflected beam, the camera often pushes its technical limits. By using a brighter laser, I can create brighter photographs and film footage.

Now, onto the process…

Utilising the software Reaper, I isolated the kick drum track, zooming in to focus on the core of the beat. I then fashioned a “loop” from this small section of the kick drum track. As I gradually extended the length of the loop, the projected pattern transformed from flat to circular, kidney-shaped, figure-eight, and even random squiggles.

I believe these patterns represent some form of harmonics.

Through a series of experimental photographs, I tinkered with camera positioning, aspect ratios, lens choices, exposure times, ISO settings, and aperture adjustments.

You can find a selection of these photographic experiments in the image gallery on the right.

For the record, the laser projection corresponds to the kick drum track “A” for a fraction of a second.

I am pleased with the direction the images are taking, although there’s still work to be done in terms of context and quality. It feels like I’ve reached a breakthrough, as the photographs have evolved into a clear representation—a visual glimpse of the beat.

This was my initial intention. Phew.


From the outset, we recognised the utmost importance of maintaining communication within our geographically dispersed team, spanning locations in Finland, Birmingham, Leeds, and Andover. The significance of ongoing dialogue cannot be overstated, as without it, cohesion becomes elusive.

To facilitate communication, we utilise various channels such as email and Zoom, allocating a portion of our budget for periodic face-to-face gatherings. Our inaugural in-person meeting took place in Leeds on October 23rd and 24th.

During two intensive days, we collaboratively navigated the path forward and delved into the substantial body of data materials already gathered. The intricacies of interpreting and utilising this data fall squarely within the domain of our academic colleagues, guiding the direction and purpose of our endeavors.

While I initially anticipated assuming a passive observational role in the academic process, the team has graciously embraced me as an active participant in the research. The scientific complexities often transcend my understanding, yet the team’s patience and clear explanations have been instrumental. Although I occasionally find myself adrift, the project is gradually emerging in my consciousness and taking shape.

Face-to-face meetings play a pivotal role in this process. They not only provide a forum for comprehending the intricacies of the project but also contribute significantly to building trust and strengthening our working relationships.

As we invest in these interpersonal foundations, the ultimate outcome promises to be more profound and robust.

Further Refinement

Following the initial research, my focus shifted towards refining the production process. In order to amplify the wind pressure generated by the sounds, I selected lycra, a more elastic material, to cover the sub-bass speaker. Additionally, I applied a small mirror tile to the stretched membrane, aiming to achieve a sharper reflection from the laser.

The choice of a white surface for the screen was deliberate, aimed at maximising reflective efficacy. Systematic experimentation ensued with various materials, including a rigid wooden sheet, a pliable cotton bed sheet, a reflective solid gloss door, and a matte emulsion-painted wall.

The findings indicated that a soft projection screen yielded the most compelling results. This surface not only echoed the main projection with multiple gradual fading lines but also imparted a soft and organic aesthetic, which I found visually appealing. Consequently, the decision was made to integrate the soft projection screen into the final design.

My production setup was primed, awaiting the cover of darkness to commence image creation. Operating in low light maximizes the brightness of the final photographs.

From prior research, I identified a shutter speed of 1/30 as the optimal camera setting, striking a balance that yielded the most captivating images. This choice was informed by the duration required for the laser to complete a projection loop. Opting for minimalist loops, as opposed to busier chaotic patterns produced with a longer shutter speed, proved aesthetically superior.

I meticulously isolated 0:00:00:010 of each instrument’s beat, adjusting the volume to achieve a standardized 60 dB at a distance of 1 meter. The camera was configured to capture a sequence of 15 images with a 2-second interval between each. Subsequently, the images were meticulously crafted and I curated one image per instrument.

Post-production involved fine-tuning using Lightroom editing software, with basic adjustments to exposure, contrast, and other key parameters. The images were cropped to a 10×8 aspect ratio, a deliberate choice to evoke a subconscious sense of scientific gravitas. Historically, 10×8 plate cameras were employed to document early scientific experiments.

You can view the results here: DJ Beatmatching

Captioning Images

I have been refining the caption protocol to provide images with a sense of narrative and scientific documentation, while also incorporating a slightly deconstructed approach. Additionally, I aim to conflate the audio and visual aspects of the data.

Here’s an example of an early caption:

0.02 of kick 16 epoch 1 track “A” ISO 100 f1.7 1/30 sec


  • 0.02 represents two-hundredths of a second on the software timeline.
  • kick 16 refers to the sampled instrument.
  • epoch 1 indicates that the audio soundtrack is divided into epochs for data analysis reference.
  • track “A” signifies one of two tracks used in the research, designated as “A” and “B”.
  • ISO 100 f1.7 1/30 sec represents the camera settings.

To provide a sense of scale, I included loudness as additional descriptive information, expressed in decibels at a distance of one meter. Loudness directly influences the size of the laser projection, making it larger or smaller based on the decibel level.

The refined caption is now:

0.02 sec of kick 16 epoch 1 track “A” ISO 60 dB 100 f1.7 1/30 sec

I incorporated Harvard referencing, to give the captions a stronger scientific feel:

Green, S. P. (2023). epoch 1 track “A” 0.02 sec kick 16 60 dB ISO 100 f1.7 1/30 sec [Photograph]. Andover, Hampshire.

I further, refined the caption incorporating details such as timing and the photographic file number. The current format, which emphasizes a balance between audio and visual information, resonates with me. I appreciate how it conveys information in a scientific manner – a straightforward and clear declaration of factual elements.

Green, S. P. (2023) DSCF8012 laser 2 Track A 130 BPM RIM22 Start: 0:00.000 End: 0:00.000 Duration: 0:00.010 60 dB 80 mm 1/30 sec f1.7 ISO 50. [Photograph]

Green, S. P. (2023) epoch 1 track “A” 0.02 sec kick 16 60 dB ISO 100 f1.7 1/30 sec [Photograph]. Andover, Hampshire

Multi-media Social Event

At our inaugural incubator meeting in October 2023, our team enthusiastically embraced the notion that an “event” could serve as an exceptional means of disseminating the discoveries of the DJ Beatmatching research project. The underlying concept was to impart the research findings in a captivating manner, within a social setting where individuals could unwind and absorb the information at their leisure.

Our envisioned event was to be a dynamic showcase, incorporating essential elements to ensure an immersive experience:


Live DJ Performances: We decided that featuring live DJ performances would not only entertain but also effectively illustrate the essence of DJ Beatmatching in a social context. This would provide the audience with a firsthand understanding of the intricacies involved.

Media Wall Presentation: To augment the live performances, we planned to present the research through a cutting-edge media wall. This dynamic setup would incorporate video projections, laser displays, and analogue slide projections, creating a visually stimulating backdrop for the event.

In pursuit of these ideas, I have crafted a preliminary production plan for the multi-media social event. This plan outlines the logistical details and technical aspects essential for bringing our vision to life.

I am excited about the prospect of materializing this innovative event and sharing the compelling world of DJ Beatmatching with the public in a truly engaging manner.

Mirror Ball

A mirror ball stands as an iconic symbol, and it is a staple in every respectable club, gracefully suspended above the dance floor. Over time, it has evolved into a historical and traditional element within any club environment.

Recognising the significance of this tradition, I felt compelled to incorporate a mirror ball into our planned multi-media social event. Initially considering a conventional round mirror ball, a more intriguing idea struck me – creating a feature mirror ball that harmonises with our research.

Inspired by the essence of our DJ beat matching project, I conceived the notion of enhancing the mirror ball by incorporating elements representing both the music and visual components. Deliberating on recognisable icons, a camera and a loudspeaker came to mind.

However, finding mirror ball versions of a camera and a loudspeaker proved elusive. and even if I could find such items our budget wouldn’t stand for it.

Undeterred, I resolved to craft them myself, a task I had never undertaken before.

A cost-effective plastic camera, resembling a typical SLR with an attached flash, was procured from eBay. Its unmistakable appearance from a distance made it an ideal choice. Armed with small mirror tiles, glue, and an eye bolt for suspension, I transformed the plastic camera into a reflective masterpiece.

The final product exceeded expectations, and I plan to capture its essence through photography, incorporating these images into the culmination of our project.

I found a cheap unservicable 10 inch loud speaker on eBay. When it arrives I will convert it into a mirror ball too.

The DJ workstation will feature a table draped in black theater cloth, creating an unobtrusive and sleek setup.

Upon the table, you’ll find a DJ controller, a laptop stationed on a stand, and a 13-amp 4-way trailing power socket, ensuring all necessary equipment is readily available.

The sound system will comprise active speaker cabinets placed on tripods, delivering high-quality audio throughout the event.

In addition, a tripod equipped with a T-bar will be utilized, carrying two or three purple-gelled wash lights complete with dimmer controls. These wash lights serve a dual purpose by providing ample illumination for the DJ’s workspace and enhancing the overall environmental ambiance.

The media workstation will be constructed using lightweight aluminum scaffolding, featuring a broad shelf positioned approximately 6 feet above the ground. This shelf serves the crucial purpose of ensuring an unobstructed projection path above the heads of the audience.

On this shelf, the setup will include a 13-amp 8-way trailing socket, two laser units on stands synchronised with the music beats, a primary video projector for displaying main visuals, and two Kodak carousel projectors equipped with timers.

Additionally, a mirror ball mounted on a rotary motor will hang beneath the shelf, and two pin spotlights, meticulously focused on the mirror ball, will generate a dynamic multiple-star pattern that gracefully traverses the room’s walls.

Beneath this shelf structure, there will be a table, which will support a laptop loaded with software for controlling the video projection.

A goalpost structure will be employed for mounting the media wall. This setup will involve two tripods supporting a crossbar, from which a custom-made white screen will be suspended.

The white screen is designated for showcasing the primary video content.

Additionally, two Kodak carousel projections will display supplementary ephemeral visuals, while two laser projections will be utilised to visualise the beats.

In its entirety, the media wall will serve as a platform for presenting a montage of both moving and static visual materials.

The floor plan illustrates the event production layout:

  1. The DJ workstation and sound system occupy one end.
  2. Positioned at a 90-degree angle to the DJ workstation is the media wall, with the media workstation located opposite it.
  3. All equipment will be PAT tested, and cables will be secured with gaffer tape where required to ensure safety.
  4. Laser devices will not exceed Class 2, ensuring their suitability and safety for use in this specific context.