About Action Sound

Action//Sound: The Brief
Performance strategies in computer music take many different forms. However, as different as the outcome is all successful strategies engage with common ideals and address similar practical questions.

As a group you will work together to explore these musical strategies. You will collaborate towards a final performance using digital technology in some form. The important element in this project is group communication within this performance. This could take many forms – perhaps an improvisational system or a scored composition – though the piece will be created by collaboratively forming methods of musical communication. The instrument you use to do this will shape these systems, and the core of this project lies in the methods you devise to work together on stage, which are necessarily rooted in the technology you use. There is also a strong role for the visually inclined in this project in the form of multimedia performance or the design of spontaneous notation.

You will produce a project that engages with the many facets of digital performance. What are you performing with? How can gesture be effectively mapped to sound? Is sound itself your most effective means of gathering information? How can you work collaboratively and what are the modes of communication – in performance as a group (open strategies, spontaneous notation) or for an individual instrument (aural scores, graphic notation)? Where is your performance space and what are the practical implications of this?

In order to achieve this you will need to:
1. Examine and understand key practises in digital performance.
a) Analyse and perform an open work (Christian Wolff – For 1, 2 or 3 people)
b) Collaboratively develop your own work, possibly using existing instruments, or one(s) that you have designed specifically for the project. In particular you must take into account time constraints regarding the need for practise and refinement – effective simplicity trumps muddy complexity. If working as a group on individual instruments it is important the the project is driven collectively towards a collaborative work, with clear and united aesthetic aims. This project is not just about the technology, it is about negotiating approaches to group performances that feature digital media.
3. Shape and create a short performance in your chosen space, aware of technical practicalities and the performance environment.
4. Document your work, with particular focus on either your achievement of a common musical goal (how the work was structured, improvising systems, the main aim of the work) or demonstrating how others may use your collaboratively designed musical system and/or instrument (a manual, score or aural feedback guide).

As part of this project, you will:
– Examine existing performance strategies, particularly regarding group communication.
– Carry out practical explorations of instrument design or augmentation and collaborative
– Work collaboratively to produce a united performance based on these explorations. The
key to this project being the final collaborative system rather than a collection of soloists
performing individually.


Project participants will:
– Develop an advanced awareness of the realities behind digital performance.
– Engage equally with the technical demands and musical approaches of forming a digital
– Develop an understanding of different methods of musical communication in digital
– Explore potential interactions afforded by the computer, learning software programming
such as Max, Jitter, PD.
– Gain an informed knowledge of existing work in the field of digital performance, as well
as practical experience of presenting a musical product.
The ideal group number is 3 – 4.
Advantageous (though not essential) skills in this group include some knowledge of Max MSP, visual programming (for production of graphic or spontaneous scores) or performance experience.
However, all of these skills can be quickly developed through research of existing works.

References and examples:
Bregman A. “Auditory Scene analysis: The perceptual organisation of sound”. 1994 MIT Press.
Clarke, E. “Ways of Listening”. 2005. Oxford University Press.
Small, C. “Musicking: The Meanings of Performing and Listening” 1998. Wesleyan University
Gesture Mapping:
Fels, S. Gadd, A. “Mapping Transparency through Metaphor: Towards More Expressive Musical
Instruments” Human Communication Technologies Laboratory. Department of Electrical and
Computer Engineering. 2008
Hunt, A. et al. “The Importance of Parameter Mapping in Electronic Instrument Design” Journal of
New Music Research, Vol. 32, No. 4, 2003 pp. 429–440
Jensensius, A. F. “ACTION — SOUND: Developing methods and Tools to Study Music-Related
Body Movement” Department of Musicology. University of Oslo. 2007
Augmented Instruments:
Croft, J. “Theses on Liveness” Organised Sound. 2007, Vol. 12, No. 1, pp 59-66.
Emmerson, S. “Acoustic/Electroacoustic: The Relationship with Instruments.” Journal of New
Music Research 1998, Vol. 27, No. 1, pp 146 – 164
Compositional strategies, communication in music:
Collins, N. “Beyond Notation: Communicating Music” Leonardo Music Journal. 2011. Vol. 21, pp
5 – 6
Edwards, M. “The Electric Cowboy Cacophony: A Project for Cross – genre Free Improvisation”
The International Journal of the Arts in Society. 2010, Vol. 4, No. 5, pp 51 – 60
Lopez, F. “Against the Stage” www.franciscolopez.net/stage.html. 2004.
Moroni, A et al. “ArTbitration: Human-Machine Interaction in Artistic Domains”. Leonardo Music
Journal. 2002, Vol. 35, No. 2, pp 185 – 188.
Schwarz, D. “The Caterpillar System for Data Driven Concatenative Sound Synthesis” International
Conference on Digital Audio Effects. IRCAM, 2003.
NIME (New Interfaces for Musical Expression)

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