Gesture-technology interactions in contemporary music

Kanga, Zubin (2016) Gesture-technology interactions in contemporary music. Contemporary Music Review, 35 (4-5). pp. 375-378. ISSN 0749-4467


Although gesture has always been an essential component of music, the study of musical gesture, particularly in its literal interpretation as bodily gesture and movement, has only emerged as a significant field of research in the last decade. Drawing on a wide variety of disciplines, including dance, performance studies, human–computer interaction, semiotics, collaborative creativity, and compositional analysis, this field has highlighted the importance of embodiment, choreography, and the theatre of musical performance and shed new light on existing musical scores by looking beyond traditional analytic methods to examine their visual dimension.

Although there have been several significant collections of articles, including Gritten and King's Music and Gesture and New Perspectives on Music and Gesture (Ashgate, 2006, 2011), as well as Godøy and Leman's Musical Gestures: Sound, Movement, and Meaning (Routledge, 2010) there remain many avenues of research yet to be explored. The GEMME project (‘Musical Gesture: Models and Experiments’) has made a crucial contribution, focusing on the use of gesture by composers in contemporary music. The project, funded by the Agence Nationale de la Recherche (The French National Agency of Research) and featuring researchers based at IRCAM and the University of the Côte d'Azur, led by principal investigators Dr Nicolas Donin and Professor Jean-François Trubert, has examined the history of gesture in composition throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, with a particular focus on how gestural practices emerge out of the creative process. The GEMME team has hosted multiple symposia at IRCAM and the University of the Côte d'Azur, convened the International Conference Tracking the Creative Process in 2015, and also produced a wide variety of published outputs, including an upcoming book, Composing Gesture.

The study of gesture is particularly relevant when looking at contemporary music that explores new technologies, creating electro-acoustic and multimedia performances. As the computing power and range of interactive technologies has increased exponentially over the past three decades, gesture has increasingly become a major site of exploration and experimentation in computer-generated music.

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