Music and the Body - Symposium - Sonorities Festival 2012

TheTwo Thousand + TWELVE <<< International symposium focusing on music and the body >>>  took place in SARC (the Sonic Arts Research Centre) at Queens University, Belfast on Saturday 24th March, 2012.  Running alongside the symposium was the annual week long Sonorities Festival of Contemporary Music, which again focused on the theme of music and the body.


Music and the Body Symposium

I attended the symposium and attended some of the 'open fader' concerts that were held in the SARC center on the sat (23rd) and sun (24th) March.  It was an incredibly interesting and exciting two days, at the cutting edge of technology, performance, music and the body.  Perhaps it gave me a glimpse into the future.

The idea that the body can emanate music through technology and to then use that body and in particular its inner workings to create musical material in a performance setting, is wondrous.  For me, it brings a mysterious element to the whole performance.  The speakers at the symposium all presented their way of accessing the inner workings of the body, the devices they build to transfer that information into musical material.  Even though the intervention is really very technological, its the ideas that were most fascinating.

Ben Knapp - The Ecosystem of Biosignal Interaction

Ben Knapp works with ways to measure emotion and empathy and that the data generated from these measurements drive the musical material.  He explained the artistic, engineering and scientific underpinnings of "the concept of an Integral Music Controller (a generic class of controllers that use the direct measurement of motion and emotion to augment traditional methods of musical instrument control" (source)

One performance video example he demonstrated of his performance with his Integral Music Controller was really fascinating.  The piece is called Stem Cells, with the music composed by Eric Lyon and Interaction Design and Performance by Ben Knapp.

As he sat on the stage and visibly displayed emotions and agitation and states of calm, which affected the data that was displayed on a projection screen beside him and affected the musical material.  Fascinating that the mysterious inner world of thought and emotion could provide such a variety of reactions that could be measured and used to control a music performance.   It is for the audience, like the 'invisible' controls the music.

Youtube Excerpt of Stem Cells Performance

Ben Knapp on body, signals, and energy

Ben Knapp on body, signals, and energy from STEIM Amsterdam on Vimeo.

All papers were really integrated and followed similar and related themes.


Open Fader Concerts

I went to the two Open Fader Concerts in SARC on the sat 23rd and sun 24th March, 2012.  Each concert was fascinating.  However, the two highlights for me were two performances that took place at the sunday concert, The Biomuse Concert (full programme link: )

BioMusic Concert (Sonic LAB: 1.10pm)

Miguel Ortiz - Dentro

Marco Donnarumma - Music for Flesh II

Conor Barry - BeatBack

Samson Young - I am thinking in a room

Miguel Ortiz - Dentro was an brilliant and exhilirating performance, but all he did was sit on the stage, with subtle controllers attached, a darkened room, and the odd interjection of a video projection of the inner body on his torso.  Fully dressed in black, eyes closed for the full performance.

Miguel emanated a presence, a kind of expectation and performance presence, and yet all he did was sit on a stool with hands on knees, nearly in a meditative pose.  From these poses he performed himself and his inner emotions and physical body into states of calm, repose to states of agitation where you could see his shoulders move up and down.  He was generating these states himself, for an audience the changes were subtle but very perceivable and from these states, he was able to gather the data to generate musical material and wow how powerful that muscial material was as his states moved from calm to agititation, greatly helped by the power of the mutliple speakers  in the auditorium and the sheer physicality of some of the low frequencies, at times, I thought the cage that holds the sarc auditorium together might come apart, so powerful were the sounds.  Yet, Miguel was in the same pose.  This was one of the most thrilling performances I have seen in a long time and the potential for this, is immense.  The idea that ones inner bodies workings can emanate such sounds.

Website: I hope the Sonorities team put a video of this performance on the web soon and that this piece gets to have lots of performances, though Miguel looked visibily exhausted after the performance.

For details about the symposium, here is a link to follow:

Ben Knapp was the keynote speaker - and what a truly fascinating presentation he gave on his Music, Sensors, and Emotion research group work and performances.

Futurism - Movement and Sensation


FUTURISM - MOVEMENT AND SENSATION Futurism praised and glorified the energy, speed and danger of machines in art.  The futurists had disgust for and rebelled against the 'relics of the past' (interestingly these relics in museums were ok for the old, the disabled and prisoners - people with no future?).  The new beauty was not the old art of the past, such as the sculptor piece 'Victory of Samothrace', but the beauty of speed.

How was something so ephemeral and invisible to the eye as speed to be rendered in painting?  Something invisible but felt?

In the two painting manifestos and in particular the Technical Manifesto of Futurist Painting, added to the futurist list of statements is the celebration of science - 'victorious science'.  Science could reveal what was hidden in nature and to our vision, x-rays had penetrated the 'opacity' and materiality of the body.  Chronophotography and the time-lapse photography of Eadweard Muybridge and Étienne-Jules Marey had provided a means of analysing and seeing movement viaan image by breaking down movement into a sequence of superimposed images, emulated then in futurist painting.

Invisible phenomenon to the eye such as motion, speed, movement could be revealed through photography and painting and therefore simulated in painting creating a sensation of movement.

Science also provided artists with new knowledge at the time about colour theory and how our eye mixed light.  These related to how the eye responded to light and vibrancy, in particular Michel Chevreul's theory of simultaneous contrast which influenced the divisionist technique in painting and as such divisionism was promoted by the futurists.  Divisionism a form of additive colour mixing, was considered to assist in creating vibrancy and luminosity in a painting.  Here, contrasting colours laid side by side create a new colour and one that is more vibrant than traditional colour mixing.

With such ephemeral, vibrant sensation sought in their paintings, more statements from their manifesto sum up their ideas.  'Movement and light destroy the materiality of bodies' and 'Our bodies penetrate the sofas upon which we sit, and the sofas penetrate our bodies. The motor bus rushes into the houses which it passes, and in their turn the houses throw themselves upon the motor bus and are blended with it'. It is then to this incredible painting that I end my presentation -  The Street Enters The House by Umberto Boccioni.

This very short writing on Futurism was prepared for a presentation on the History and Theory of Digital Arts Seminar on Thursday 8th February 2012, where Mathew asked us to prepare a short presentation on one of a number of topics.  I chose Futurism as I have always been fascinated with the emphasis painters put on motion and sensation in their works.  This short presentation is based on three pieces of art work and based on reading the following futurist manifestos.

The Futurist Manifesto by F. T. Marinetti, 1909

Manifesto of the Futurist Painters by Umberto Boccioni, Carlo Carrà, Luigi Russolo, Giacomo Balla, Gino Severini

Technical Manifesto of Futurist Painting by Umberto Boccioni, Carlo Carrà, Luigi Russolo, Giacomo Balla, Gino Severini

Abstract Audiovisual Compositions/Videos


Stan Brakhage - Black Ice (1994)

Peter Gidal -Key (1968)

A clip is usually available on luxonline

Dan Sanding - Wandawega Waters (1979)

Dan Sandin created using Dan Sandin’s own video synthesizer

Rutt-etra video synthesizer demonstration

Dean Winkler and Chris Lambiase - Modulated Horizontal Lines (1976) Dean Winkler and Chris Lambiase using the Bill/Etra video synthesizer.  Music Terry Riley

Maura McDonnell and Linda Buckley - Silk Chroma (2010)

Nick Cope and Tim Howle - Sons et Lumieres (2006)

Jaroslaw Kapuscinski  - Juicy (2010)

Larry Cuba - Calculated Movements (1985)

Jean Piché - Océanes (2010/2011)

Bret Battey - Sinus Aestrum (2008)

Chris Cassady - Puddle Jumper

Ewa Trebacz - Errai (2009)

Quicktime video clips at:

Jean Detheux - Liasons

Quicktime video clip to download at:

Eva Trebacz - Errai Immersive audiovisual space

Quicktime video clip to download at:

Semi-conductor - 200 Nanowebbers

Contemporary Analog Video Synthesis Channel - Vimeo

Jean Detheux - Rupture Quicktime video clip to download at:

Jean Detheux - Daydream Mechanics

COMMENT - Capturing Time

An idea/topic has been left with me, since the two day DAH institute in TCD and its the idea of capturing time.  Many art forms, only really exist in time, you have to watch them - view the film or video, visit the music concert, play the CD recording to hear the music, watch the actor, watch the dancer.  In digital arts in particular this time aspect is taking very interesting turns, visuals exist only in their appearance in the installation, sounds too.  What was interesting for me, was that in the humanities, there also is a desire to capture time, capture patterns of knowledge discovery, and knowledge access, yet access this time in a non-linear fashion through interesting and relevant information visualisations and information presentations. This time thing, can it be defined  Can one ever catch the present moment.  Catch in a sense the very moment, an idea was found or documented or achived.  Time in this sense, seems very different to the time aspect of art work.  But maybe this grapple with time in both arts and humanities is not so poles apart.  Artists mould time in the creation of new media artworks and objects that exist only in time.  Humanity scholars document time in the accurate archiving of its knowledge objects.


Great two days at the first DAH Institute.  Thanks to all the presenters and organisers.  What a wonderful opportunity.  It feels like a utopia of sorts.  Great mix of structure and freedom - (I hope I got that right about the freedom part!) and an incredible mix of lecturers, students, ideas and possibilities. PHOTOGRAPH of TCD DAH PhD Students