Music as the Interface: the interaction of conceptual metaphors of movement and materiality in music performance systems, sound design and sonification

Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talk


Considering the broad field of music (for the present purposes, defining ‘music’ as including experimental and exploratory sonic arts practices) as an interface akin to a technology may allow us to rethink some of our assumptions about music’s relationship with technology itself. The idea of music as a highly technical artform in dialogue with scientific, formal, or other technical principles is nothing new within various traditions of music theory. It is also no surprise that as music and sound technologies have become key areas of academic research and innovation, they are becoming increasingly dependent on an understanding of other technical principles, sometimes finding common ground, or even becoming inextricably linked with contemporary technology-centric fields such as human-computer interaction and machine learning.

In the context of a growing apparatus of technological ecosystems and processes by which we experience and share music in contemporary society (no matter where our particular preferences lie on the unmediated-to-mediated continuum), considering how music interacts with technology is, to some extent, unavoidable. It is here, at the intersection between music creation, our listening, and our relating of these aesthetic experiences together and within themselves, that how we conceptualise music as a general type of activity may provide a point of connection which is key to our understanding of how music manifests within a range of contemporary spheres. In his provocative monograph Natural-Born Cyborgs (Clark, 2003), cognitive scientist Andy Clark has proposed that language is a type of ‘cognitive technology’ and part of the cognitive architecture which connects us to our environment and tools. Is music another such technology?

This presentation will address this question with particular reference to the author’s previous research within the spheres of musical interaction design and sound design, examining how certain aspects of music theory may parallel contemporary embodied theories of mind (what is often termed 4E embodied cognition: embodied, embedded, enactive, and extended) and how music may be conceptualised via gestures and embodied materiality which morph and blend with technological elements in various contexts within which they are deployed.
Period23 Mar 2023
Held atMaynooth University, Ireland
Degree of RecognitionInternational