Author: Anna Xambó


This month Anna from MIDAS went to the New Interfaces for Musical Expression 2014 (NIME14) conference (30 June – 4 July 2014) in Goldsmiths, University of London. A busy and amazing week with a showroom of the latest in theory, methods and practice on novel interfaces for music making; including workshops, talks, demos, concerts and installations. The NIME conference started in 2001. Since then, NIME has been exploring the crossing of interdisciplinary boundaries with the aim of enhancing musical practices and experiences by using new technologies. Embodiment and methodological innovation are two transversal themes in this conference. Here we present a selection of works that speak to the MIDAS community in terms of body, digital, and methods.

Practice-based research. Within NIMEs, practice-based research demands a number of skills, ranging from designing novel musical interfaces, to creating and performing new musical pieces, to evaluating your own work, to reflecting about your results. A workshop on Practice-Based Research in New Interfaces for Musical Expression and the paper session Musicianship, practice-based research indicated the interest of the NIME community in discussing and moving forward the position of creative practice in research, and the position of research in creative practice. Some of the emerging questions were: how can we evaluate performances; whether we can detach practice-based research from personal experience; or how can we produce work relevant to both creative practice and research. These questions also speak to MIDAS, and to potential interdisciplinary work with social science disciplines.

Methodological innovation. Even though there was not a paper session on methods, per se methods and innovation are necessarily linked to the creation and evaluation of NIMEs. Novel interfaces tend to need novel methods for understanding them. Jordà and Mealla, for example, presented a methodological framework for teaching, evaluating and informing NIME design, focusing on mapping and expressiveness within a masters’ course. In this paper, research methods are explicitly important for NIME design and evaluation, which helped the authors (leaders of the course) and participants (students) in the creative and reflective processes. There were a few presentations with video recordings of various people interacting with the presented NIMEs. For example, Piers Titus van der Torren presented Striso, a DIY music instrument with an isomorphic keyboard layout; or Zappi and McPherson presented a study on constraints and musical style using a cube-shaped instrument. Both included video recordings, which turned out to be a direct strategy for the audience to get a quick sense of what the musical instrument was about, and its interaction possibilities. Christian Faubel exemplified another approach to methodological innovation, through a presentation of theory in practice by demonstrating what is embodiment using his Rhythm Apparatus on Overhead system.

Christian Faubel presenting what is embodiment using his Rhythm Apparatus on Overhead system.

Christian Faubel presenting what is embodiment using his Rhythm Apparatus on Overhead system.

Embodiment. There were performances every day, and a number of them reflected upon the body and the digital. For example, Mariska de Groot and Dieter Vandoren delighted us with Shadow Puppet, an embodied performance, in which the performer kept a dialogue between light and sound using analog technology. Tangible Scores performance by Enrique Tomás augmented gesture interaction into fantastic sonic waves from interactions on a wooden tabletop surface. Or Laetitia Sonami, who gave a keynote performance using for the last time her Lady’s Glove, in which words, music, gestures, control, and serendipity nicely intertwined together.

“Shadow Puppet” performance by Mariska de Groot and Dieter Vandoren.

“Shadow Puppet” performance by Mariska de Groot and Dieter Vandoren.

“Tangible Scores” performance by Enrique Tomás.

“Tangible Scores” performance by Enrique Tomás.

Keynote performance by Laetitia Sonami. Photo by @NIME2014.

Keynote performance by Laetitia Sonami. Photo by @NIME2014.

Cross-pollination. Hiroshi Ishii gave an inspiring keynote, Vision-Driven: from Tangible Bits to Radical Atoms. Ishii talked about the importance of having a long-term vision in contrast to the quick obsolescence of technology. There was a special emphasis on how important cross-pollination is, as well as trans-disciplinarity.

The richness of communities such as NIME with a long tradition on inter/cross/trans/disciplinary research, embodiment and technology, indeed resonates with the MIDAS project in our ongoing research on body, digital, and methods.

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