Manuscript in preparation

Ever since I finished my dissertation in 2007, I have thought about writing it up as a book. Parts of the dissertation were translated and extended in the Norwegian-language textbook Musikk og bevegelse (which, by the way, is out of print but freely available as an ebook). That book focused primarily on music-related body motion and was written for the course MUS2006 at the University of Oslo. However, my action-sound theory was only partially mentioned and never properly presented in a book format.

I started on a book manuscript around ten years ago, but it has taken a long time to get it finalized. Family life, a period as Head of Department, and building up RITMO have taken up much of my time over the last decade. Last summer, I managed to complete the first draft of a book manuscript.

I am thrilled to announce that The MIT Press has accepted to publish the book. As an Open Research advocate, I am equally thrilled that the book will be published Open Access. The plan is to submit the final manuscript in August. So over the last month, I have been polishing up the text. What is the book’s content? Well, quite a lot, but here is a short summary:

What is an instrument? How is it used? How do new technologies change the way we perform and perceive music? This is a theoretical music technology book, informed by new research in embodied music cognition. The author argues that there are some fundamental differences between acoustic and electroacoustic instruments. Instruments have traditionally been sound-makers. New electroacoustic instruments are often music-makers. The book explores current and future approaches to music-making by analysing instruments. This is done through four distinctive themesmusicking, embodiment, interaction, and affectionthat all tap into different academic disciplines: music sociology, music psychology, music technology, and music aesthetics. The aim is to combine some influential existing theories from each of these domains with the author’s thinking about the future of musical engagement.

And here is a sneak peek at the table of contents:

Although I think the main structure and content are in place, there will surely be some more changes. The challenge is that as I am reading through and checking citations and references, I come across new exciting things that I want to include. But at some point, I realize that I will have to say that enough is enough…

Presentation at Mobile Music Workshop

Last week I presented the paper Some Challenges Related to Music and Movement in Mobile Music Technology at the Mobile Music Workshop in Vienna. A PDF of the paper is available here. Not sure if the abstract justifies the fairly dense paper, but at least it is compact.

Mobile music technology opens many new opportunities in terms of location-aware systems, social interaction etc., but we should not forget that many challenges faced in ”immobile” music technology research are also apparent in mobile computing. This paper presents an overview of some challenges related to the design of action-sound relationships and music-movement correspondences, and suggests how these can be studied and tested in mobile devices.

Musical Objects, Action Sound Couplings and Open Form

From the Open Form workshop
My setup at the Open Form workshop

Participating in the Open Form rehearsals and workshops has been very interesting (as previously mentioned here). One thing has puzzled me over the last few days: the lack of focusing on the musical objects. I use musical object to denote a coherent entity consisting of sounding objects (in a Schaefferian sense) but also all the other modalities (in my case particularly visual and haptic features). The musical object is a rather short entity, typically in the range between 1-5 seconds, but sometimes shorter or longer. After reading Schaeffer, Stern, Godøy and others, and my own work on short term music recognition, I have come to believe that this is both the most interesting unit in terms of performance and perception of music.

This is one of the reasons I find the ideals in the open form movement fascinating. In one way, open form is all about allowing for controlled improvisation with a focus on space and listening. The scores often lay out a palette of effects and musical qualities to be used. As such, each of these entities can be thought of as a musical object. This is also often how the musicians conceptualise musical improvisation. What I have found, though, is that still people tend to focus more on the form than the object. This surprises me, because of any musical style, I would assume that the form aspects would be the least important in open form.

Another thing I have been puzzled about is the breakdown of action-sound couplings. Such couplings can range from natural (as we are used to from acoustical properties of all objects surrounding us in nature) to abstract (as we often find in electronic devices). Every object has a certain action-sound characteristic a palette of possible interaction modes and sounds. This is what governs our listening. However, in experimental music, performers increasingly tend to extend the palette of their instruments. This could be done either acoustically, e.g. prepared piano, but also electronically, e.g. using various sound effects. In many cases such extensions become standard, the most obvious example being electric guitars where distortion pedals and other types of effects have long become part of the standard action-sound repertoire. This also makes it is easy for everyone to understand what is happening when a distorted sound appear. Typically, the guitarist will also step on the pedal so that everyone will be prepared for the new sound to appear.

However, in electronic instruments there are few, or no, action-sound characteristics to choose from, leaving both the performer(s) and perceivers trying to look for couplings that work. This is demanding for everyone since it requires a lot of mental effort to continuously organise new action-sound couplings.