Recording Gestural Traces
After performing ensemble and solo versions of the work, Intangible Spaces at the Sound and Music Computing Conference in Limassol Cyprus; Soma Sonic at the Bondi Feast Festival, and Sydney’s Vivid Festival, I am currently addressing the challenge of fixing the transient and temporal world of improvised gesture-controlled musical performance into recorded form. An album is planned for release in 2019 through Endgame Records. I am sifting through several years of recorded materials, crafting arrangements aimed at preserving the spontaneity of the vocal and movement-based improvisations I have been collecting and archiving. As Laetitia Sonami previously mentioned, it’s difficult to capture the process of generating and transforming sounds through movement. Perhaps that’s why she has gravitated more towards live performance than recorded formats.
Intangible Spaces performance, 107 Projects Redfern, photo: Rhiannon Hopley
More about these sonic experiments, Intangible Spaces and the intersection between voice and movement can be found in an article I wrote called ‘Gestural systems for the voice: Performance approaches and repertoire’, recently published in Digital Creativity. In it I explore the transformative effects of combining the intangible aspects of voice and movement to develop a new type of hybrid instrument.
I am currently developing the work Intangible Spaces, which will premiere at Vivid Sydney on June the 8th, 2018. The performance piece is composed for voice and custom-designed gestural instrument, the etherstring. Much like the theremin, sounds are plucked from the ether using touchless gesture control, merging with the voice to create a hybrid sonic signature. Visuals depicting the sonic processes behind the instrument are projected onto the body, creating a shifting canvas of movement and sound controlled light beams. The dimensions of the instrument and body are projected alongside a subtly shifting visual backdrop by Sydney-based video artist, JD Young and complemented by hypnotic rhythm section featuring Robbie Mudrazija on electronic drums, samples and percussion and bassist Meeghan Oliver.
The work will be performed at Intangible Instruments, an event presented by 107 Projects: In Frequency, alongside performances by Donna Hewitt and Julian Knowles that explore the intangible aspects of voice and movement. Donna Hewitt, whose pioneering instrument designs, compositions and performances have uncovered new ways of interfacing the voice with electronic media, will perform a set with her eMic, a sensor enhanced microphone stand, and her newly devised wireless wearable interface. These interfaces allow the performer to manipulate electronic, acoustic sounds and her voice in real time by capturing bodily movements via sensing mounted on her body and on the microphone stand. She will also present a composition for two wearable interfaces and intelligent lighting.
An improvised, solo version of the work will be performed at the 2018 Sound and Music Computing Conference in Limassol, Cyprus.
Gestural interfaces broaden musicians’ scope for physical expression and possibilities for creating more engaging and dynamic performances with digital technology. Increasing affordability and accessibility of motion-based sensing hardware has prompted a recent rise in the use of gestural interfaces and multimodal interfaces for musical performance. Despite this, few performers adopt these systems as their main instrument. The lack of widespread adoption outside academic and research contexts raises questions about the relevance and viability of existing systems.
This research identifies and addresses key challenges that musicians face when navigating technological developments in the field of gestural performance. Through a series of performances utilising a customised gestural system and an expert user case study, I have combined autoethnographic insights as a performer/designer with feedback from professional musicians to gain a deeper understanding of how musicians engage with gestural interfaces. Interviews and video recordings have been analysed within a phenomenological framework, resulting in a set of design criteria and strategies informed by creative practitioner perspectives.
This thesis argues that developing the sensorimotor skills of musicians is integral to enhancing the potential of current gestural systems. Refined proprioceptive skills and kinaesthetic awareness are particularly important when controlling non-tactile gestural interfaces, which lack the haptic feedback afforded by traditional acoustic instruments. However, approaches in the field of gestural system design for music tend to favour technical and functional imperatives over the development of the kinaesthetic sense.
This research builds on a growing body of gestural interface design and human–computer interaction (HCI) literature, offering practice-based insights that acknowledge the changing face of musicianship in response to interaction with gestural sensing technologies. To encourage enhanced physical aptitude and more nuanced movement control amongst musicians, I have applied embodied interaction design and dance-based perspectives to musical contexts. The result is a design approach that accentuates the physical fit between performer and instrument by prioritising aspects of bodily feel while nurturing and strengthening musicians’ awareness of their own movement potential.
This section contains links to videos, audio recordings and code for performances dating from 2012 to 2014. The audio-visual documentation presented here provides illustrative examples of performance-based research activities and events undertaken to investigate the influence of gestural systems on my performances and compositional process.
Supplementary Material (Appendix A)
Chapter 4: Exploratory Works
Chapter 5: Gestate System
Chapter 7: Bodyscapes