Tele-touch embodied controllers; posthuman gestural interaction in music performance

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Journal Article
Social Semiotics, 2011, 21 (4), pp. 547 - 568
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This article looks at the use of embodied music controllers for gestural interaction with sound. The technology for embodied interaction involves microchip 'enhancement' of the human body, enabling the body as the music controller or musical actuator and connecting the performer with a networked (wireless) sonic performance environment. To examine the ways that the audience and performer respond to this new performance paradigm, this article first looks at some interpretations and understandings of posthumanisim and cyborgism and its effects for the music performer and audience. The influential body modifying and skin boundary cultures that colour audience perception and motivate cyborg processes, the body as expressive canvas and politicising cyborgism are considered in relation to alterity, community, marking and anthropology. The further social implications of radiofrequency identification tag technology and computing technologies that transfigure our body-limits and sense of self, privacy and human machine integration are considered, particularly as contemporary posthuman tele-tactile technologies challenge conventional notions of touch and control. The Virtual Gamelan performance environment is presented as a test-bed for precision gestural interaction with sound, and to gauge audience feedback about these contentious contemporary issues that bleed into other pervasive technologies of the imminent future. This research was developed from the perspective of the music composer/performer and the motivation to explore posthuman cyborg notions through the embodiment of sensors in the disciplines of music, human computer interaction, and design in a technological cyborg discussion that positions it differently to 'mythological' cyborg discourse. The embodiment and permeation of the body are integral to the research goal of altering music performance paradigms.
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