Meta Gesture Music CD: Embodied Interaction, New Instruments and Sonic Experience


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Meta Gesture Music was a major research project spanning 2012-2017 made possible by a grant from the European Research Council. MGM set an ambitious agenda to look at gesture in musical performance and the engagement of the human body with sound. Our research has been published in books and scientific publications on topics of embodied human-computer interaction, social participation, and sound art. The project enabled us to bring to London the international conference, New Interfaces for Musical Expression (NIME) in 2014.

Live performance is an integral part of our work. We ran a bi-monthly club event, the EAVI Nights; have performed at Cafe Oto, Corsica Studios, the Wellcome Trust; and have been broadcast on BBC World Service and Radio 3. This concert and CD bring together some of the artists who have been instrumental in this work.

The MGM team was led by Atau Tanaka, and was made up of researchers Baptiste Caramiaux, Adam Parkinson, Miguel Ortiz, and Dee Harding; PhD students Alessandro Altavilla, Marco Donnarumma, Adriana Sá, and Reinhold Friedl; a production team of Pete Mackenzie and Steph Horak; visiting researchers and interns. We would like to thank the ERC (FP7-283771), colleagues in the Embodied Audiovisual Interaction (EAVI) research unit, and the broader community at Goldsmiths.

The CD is stocked in London at:
The Word, 314 New Cross Road, SE14 6AF
Iklectik, 20 Carlisle Lane, SE1 7LG

1) Suspensions for piano and EMG

A muscle sensing interface captures the pianist’s gesture, and uses granular synthesis to realise the dream of shaping pianistic timbre after striking a note, for it to sustain to infinity. Programming by Adam Parkinson, transcription by Daniel James Ross.

Atau Tanaka’s first inspirations came upon meeting John Cage during his Norton Lectures at Harvard. He did his doctorate at CCRMA with John Chowning and went on to conduct research at IRCAM and Sony CSL. He formed Sensorband in the 1990s and has presented his work at Ars Electronica, ZKM, Sonar, Transmediale, Eyebeam, SFMOMA.

Sarah Nicolls is pianist and inventor of the Inside-Out Piano. She played in the PRSF New Music Biennial in Matthew Herbert’s 20 Pianos project, with the London Sinfonietta and is regularly broadcast on BBC Radio 3.


Leafcutter John
2) Let’s Stick Together

A light sensitive grid enables fine gestural control over compositional elements and sound generation. Here, they are played using handheld cycle lights.

Leafcutter John’s Housebound Spirit won Honorary Mention at Ars Electronica and was one of The Wire’s Top 50 records (2003). He is member of Mercury Music Prize-nominated Polar Bear.


Spring Spyre
3) Breathing in Birds and Others

The Spring Spyre is comprised of a found object, hacked fader box and audio pick-ups from reverb tanks. Thin springs generate audio, analysed by Rebecca Fiebrink’s Wekinator, but are ultimately chaotic. The piece explores unpredictability and fluidity, akin to smoke volutes disturbed by air.

Laetitia Sonami studied with Eliane Radigue, Joel Chadabe, Robert Ashley and David Behrman. Her work, including 25 years performing with the lady’s glove, focuses on presence and participation, applying new technologies and appropriated media to an expression of immediacy through sound, place and objects. She has received the Herb Alpert Award in the Arts and a Foundation for Contemporary Performance Award.


Renik Bell Steph Horak
4) Renick Bell & Steph Horak

combine live coded beats with effects pedal-driven vocals. Their sound drifts to and fro between chaos and order as the beats and melodies stumble to coalesce.

Renick Bell performs live coding, improvisation, and algorithmic composition using open source software. He authored Conductive, a music library for the Haskell programming language.

Steph Horak experiments with systems for voice and composition in a style edging between experimental electronica, traditional songwriting, and conceptual.


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5) Field

uses solar panels, light dependent resistors (LDR) and Vivaldi Antennas in an investigation of electromagnetic fields to expand our understanding of natural forces by extending human perception. Mixed with Andrea Ruffino.

Xname’s work, cryptic, ritualistic and noisy, stimulates new forms of perception by questioning materiality and presence; the role of memory, experience and our ancestors in the formation of identity.


Meta Gesture
6) Unresolved Resolution

The infinitely morphable sounds of the Mini-Oramics dual wave-shaping synthesiser (based on a Daphne Oram design) are heard alongside modular envelope generators, VCAs and polyrhythmic electroacoustic drums.

Tom Richards walks the line between sonic art, sculpture and music. He has performed at Tate Britain, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Science Museum, Spike Island, Cafe Oto, MK Gallery, Bold Tendencies, Camden Arts Centre.


Dane Law

Dane Law surveys rave culture in an impressionistic crawl of hieroglyphic-like fragments of sound. Played through homebrewed algorithmic sound systems, he euphorically reconstitutes our collective musical past into something far noisier.

Adam Parkinson researches the history of UK experimental music, haptic interaction, and the nature of liveness in laptop music. He has digital, cassette, and VR releases on Quantum Natives and the Prague label Genot.


Meta Gesture
8) Myogram

sonifies electromyogram (EMG) signals from concentrated forearm gestures. We hear the neuron impulses of muscle exertion spatialised, first raw, th5) en filtered, exciting resonators. Composed and performed by Atau Tanaka. Programming by Miguel Ortiz.


Meta Gesture
9) oink

“If that plasmic energy is alive, and it is (or it carries) information, then we have living information. Logos? Information plasma which enters through the optic nerve primarily – or auditorily. Signals that control our brains, open GABA blocked circuits.” (Philip K. Dick: The Exegesis, 360)

Ewa Justka explores the materiality of objects, vibrant, ontological systems (human bodies, plant bodies, micro and macro environments) and modes of quasi-direct perception. She has performed at Loop, Sonic Acts, Supernormal, Transmediale, STEIM, Colour out of Space, Signal Culture.

Kaffe Matthews
10) One Plastic Bottle, 450 years.

An Extract is based on recordings from the Galapagos Islands where the artist dived with, recorded underwater and filmed hammerhead sharks. Traces of six sharks play 6 digital oscillators mixed with underwater recordings.

Kaffe Matthews makes music with things and places such as the violin, theremin, wild salmon, Scottish weather, NASA scientists, school children, desert stretched wires, sonic bikes and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.The Weightless Animals collaboration was awarded a BAFTA; and she has received a NESTA Dreamtime Fellowship and an Award of Distinction at Ars Electronica for Sonic Bed_London.


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