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Human Motion Lab Pinpoints Conductor Pain

Conservatory Uses Data for Pilates Therapy

Philip Edelman works through the motions like a seasoned pro.

A doctoral student in the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Conservatory of Music and Dance, Edelman moves his conductor’s baton at a steady 80 beats per minute. He looks almost serene.

But Edelman isn’t in his element. The room is silent and the musicians he’s directing are nonexistent.

Cameras surround him from nearly every angle. Small, bulbous sensors stick to his skin. The four highly sensitive scales at his feet track his weight as he shifts and leans. Nearby, a mounted computer screen captures the scene: Edelman’s form, represented by bright white dots, swings and sways on an otherwise black screen.

Edelman is one of several doctoral-level Conservatory students who, in the fall semester, volunteered to be monitored in the School of Computing and Engineering’s (SCE) Human Motion Laboratory.

The reason? Conducting is a pain.

“If you’re conducting a 40-minute work and you have bad posture, you’ll be in pain when it’s over. Most of us have bad posture. We spend a lot of time with our heads in the score, so we get a habit of hunching over to watch the music and watch the kids too,” Edelman said.

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