In an initial series of experiments, we examined temporal relationality of heart rate with breath, for which we used both ECG and respiration belt sensors. During sessions with two different performers, we identified reproducible patterns of variation in the heart, which relate to holding the breath, deep or shallow panting, slow inhales and exhales, and various other combinations of duration and amplitude in respiration. Importantly, we repeated the breathing structures with each dancer lying supine, sitting up, standing, walking, and eventually improvising movement, and still observed familiar patterns of relation between ECG and respiration data throughout, but with a base increase or decrease in heart rate related to the level of the dancer’s physical exertion.
Below are a series of graphs based on one session of the breathing structure outlined above, during which the performer was lying in supine position on her back. The breathing structure was also recorded with a second dancer, and many shorter tests were conducted with additional volunteers, all of which rendered consistent results.
RESULTS FROM THE RESPIRATION SENSOR
Both respiration sensors measure the expansion and contraction of the rib cage.
Pink line = Biopic Respiration Belt Transducer
Blue Line = Fabric Respiration Sensor
RESULTS FROM THE ECG SENSOR
RESULTS OF RESPIRATION & ECG SENSOR SCALED FOR OVERLAY
A CLOSER LOOK AT BREATH & HEART ACTIVITY DURING:
Observations: During the initial two minutes of “normal breathing”, the heart rate remained around 80bmp, with minimal variability between 65-80bpm.
Observations: During two minutes of fast, deep panting the heart rate ascended steadily from 65bpm to 120bmp over the course of the first 30seconds, and sustained this high rate with minimal variability for the remaining duration.
HOLD BREATH & RECOVER
Observations: With a breath hold for two minutes, the heart rate dropped from 120bpm down to 70bpm over the course of the initial 20 seconds, and sustained this low with extremely minimal variability for 90 more seconds. Near the end of this graph, there is a gradual rise in heart rate, before a sudden release, and gasp for air.
Observations: During two minutes of slow, deep breathing, the heart rate presented a wave-like pattern of variability, rising and falling between 80bpm and 60bpm with each inhale and exhale.
FAST INHALE – SLOW EXHALE
Observations: During two minutes of fast, deep inhales followed by long, full exhales the heart rate presented variability between 85bpm and 60bmp with each breath. In this pattern, the rise and drop of the heart rate happens very quickly, followed by a sustained low rate during the exhale.
The results in the graphs above demonstrate temporal patterns of correlation between breath and heart activity that have been observed consistently during the outlined experiment. These patterns will guide the choreographer, composer, and performers to craft intentional arcs in heart activity – and therefore musical tempo – over the course of a performance.
Variations for further exploration
- Lying down on back – eyes closed
- Sitting down cross-legged – eyes closed
- Standing, neutral – eyes open
- Walking (continuous, even pace) – eyes open
- Movement improvisations – experiment with eyes open and closed
- Standing, upper body gestures only
- Standing, lower body gestures only
- Full body movement on spo
- Full body movement, travelling (all vertical)
- Full body movement, level change
- Full body movement on floor