Professor Renee Timmers
MA, PhD, PGCERT
Department of Music
Personal Chair, Music Psychology
Director of research centre Music, Mind, Machine
Director of postgraduate research
Full contact details
Department of Music
My first degree was in Musicology (MA), which I studied in Amsterdam. Thereafter, I pursued a PhD in Psychology (Social Sciences) at the Radboud University Nijmegen. I was involved in collaborative research combining perspectives and methods from psychology, computer science and music theory to investigate perception and cognition of music. My main focus was on (cognitive) rules that underlie the expressive timing of music, but also the freedom that performers have to perform music expressively and creatively within these rules.
After my PhD, I was a postdoctoral researcher for six years at institutes in Italy (University of Genoa), Austria (OEFAI), the UK (Kings College London), the Netherlands (Radboud University Nijmegen) and the USA (Northwestern University). I worked at departments of music, psychology and computer science gaining relevant cross-disciplinary experience. My research focused on the communication of emotions through music performance, including a comparison of emotional expression in early and later recordings of Schubert songs, and the development of automated visual feedback on expressive performance.
In Sheffield, I teach Psychology of Music at UG and PG level, direct the MAs in Psychology of Music, and direct the research centre ‘Music Mind Machine in Sheffield’. The centre promotes collaboration and exchange across disciplines and between people with shared interests in music cognition, including students and staff. I regularly organise events within the context of the research centre and beyond, including conferences, seminars and workshops.
With my colleagues, I am exploring new conference formats that promote geographical inclusivity of people at a lower financial and ecological cost, by combining live and virtual participation. I have been co-editor of Empirical Musicology Review, associate editor of Psychomusicology: Music, Mind & Brain, and served on the editorial board of several journals including Psychology of Music and Journal of New Music Research. I have interrupted these editorial duties to serve as president of ESCOM from 2019-2021.
- Research interests
My current research projects investigate ensemble performance, in particular what visual and auditory nonverbal cues musicians use to coordinate and communicate with each other during performance. I am interested in finding out what neurocognitive processes are involved in joint music performance and how performers develop and learn these skills.
I also investigate how multiple sense-modalities play a role and interact in the perception and performance of music, and in our affective responses to music. When listening to music, we may visually imagine the sounds, ‘feel’ the sounds or move along in reality or imagery. With research students and collaborators, I investigate what the origin may be of cross-sensory correspondences, what role they play in performance and musical learning, and how we may need to adapt our understanding of ‘music’ as multimodal and actively enacted.
My aim is to work towards applications of research findings and investigate music perception and performance in a variety of contexts and purposes. To realise these aims, I collaborate with external partners, including collaborators at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital and at the Sheffield based company SleepCogni.
- Learning Music From Each Other: Synchronization, Turn-taking, or Imitation?. Music Perception, 37(5), 403-422.
- Analyzing relationships between color, emotion and music using Bayes' rule in Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier Book 1. International Journal of Music Science, Technology and Art, 2(1), 40-47.
- Young musicians' learning of expressive performance : the importance of dialogic teaching and modeling. Frontiers in Education, 5. View this article in WRRO
- Neural multimodal integration underlying synchronization with a co-performer in music: influences of motor expertise and visual information. Neuroscience Letters. View this article in WRRO
- Foreword. Musicae Scientiae, 23(3), 279-280.
- Comparison of beliefs about teaching and learning of emotional expression in music performance between Spanish and English Higher Education students of music. Psychology of Music. View this article in WRRO
- Music for Relaxation: A Comparison Across Two Age Groups. Journal of Music Therapy, 55(4), 439-462. View this article in WRRO
- Perception of isolated chords: Examining frequency of occurrence, instrumental timbre, acoustic descriptors and musical training. Psychology of Music, 46(5), 662-681. View this article in WRRO
- Teaching young musicians expressive performance: an experimental study. Music Education Research. View this article in WRRO
- Relationships between everyday music listening habits and involuntary musical imagery: Does music listening condition musical imagery?. Psychomusicology: Music, Mind and Brain, 27(4), 312-326.
- When the Sound Becomes the Goal. 4E Cognition and Teleomusicality in Early Infancy. Frontiers in Psychology, 8. View this article in WRRO
- View this article in WRRO The case of ensemble performance In Thompson WF & Olson KN (Ed.), The Science and Psychology of Music: From Mozart at the Office to Metallica at the Gym
- Cross-modal correspondences and affect in a Schubert song In Leech-Wilkinson D & Prior H (Ed.), Music and shape (pp. 58-86). Oxford University Press
- Research group
The research projects that I supervise investigate aspects of music cognition using experimental and quantitative, but sometimes also qualitative approaches to improve our understanding of the processes underlying the perception and performance of music. The projects may be conducted in the lab or in real-life, and often a combination of the two within a single project. I regularly co-supervise projects with colleagues from other departments, who have expertise in e.g. linguistics, computational modelling or neuropsychology.
Current PhD supervision
- Jonathan Ayerst. The psychology of improvisation. Charles Bryar Scholarship
- Caroline Curwen. Perception of music in music-colour synaesthetes
- Rory Kirk. A musical biofeedback loop to facilitate sleep. Funded by EPSRC
- Shen Li. Conceptions of piano timbre in a music performance and pedagogy context. Funded by Chinese Scholarship Council
- Alexander Stamatiades. Well-formedness and expectation in musical melodies
Past PhD project supervision
- Yuko Arthurs (2016). The creation of consonance: How musical context influences chord perception
- Marilyn Blank (2013). Communication and coordination in piano duos
- Ioanna Filippidi (2018). Involuntary musical imagery as conditioned by everyday musical listening
- Henrique Meissner (2018). Teaching expressive performance to children. AHRC funded
- Tim Metcalfe (2017). Communicating with the environment through artificial ears: Perception of emotion in music and speech by cochlear implant users. Funded by White Rose College of Arts and Humanities
- Nicola Pennill (2019). Teaching and learning of ensemble communication. Funded by White Rose College of Arts and Humanities
- Andrea Schiavio (2014). Music in (en)action: Sense-making and neurophenomenology of musical experience
- 2020 EOI-QR UKRI funding (£24,589) for survey and conference on Mapping music for health and wellbeing in Sheffield.
- 2016 Leverhulme Trust International Academic Fellowship (£21,703) for research visit to MARCS Institute, University of Western Sydney. The role of cross-modal information in inter-performer musical communication.
- 2015 WRoCAH PhD network, 3 PhD positions at Sheffield, York and Leeds.
- 2012 British Academy International Partnership and Mobility Scheme (£27,230) with Zohar Eitan – Cross-modal perception of music.
- Professional activities
Several of the events and workshops that I have been involved with have been open to the general public, with a focus on musicians, musical learners and educators, but also music lovers more generally. In workshop settings, attendees participate in activities and share their insights and experiences in addition to hearing about research findings and knowledge.
- March 2020: Mapping music for wellbeing in Sheffield. One-day conference for academic and non-academic audiences.
- June 2019: Families & music. A one-day conference in Mexico City.
- Oct 2018 & Oct 2019: Sound Teaching. One-day interactive conference for instrumental teachers and musicians
- Sept 2018 Colourama: A synaesthesia experience. Festival of the Mind.