Organology Conference Porto

Posted by thor magnusson on August 30, 2017

Emute Lab members Thanos Polymeneas-Liontiris and Thor Magnusson presented work at the Organology Conference in Porto, Portugal. The conference consisted of a wide range of instrumental studies, from African and South-American instruments, Baroque flutes and organs, to the volume button in Onde Martenot or Spatial Immersive Instruments.

We took the opportunity to explore the city, as the biennial Live Interfaces Conference we ran at Sussex last summer will take place in Porto next summer. It promises to be an amazing event, involving Casa De Musica and many other interesting places in this beautiful city.

The abstracts from Thanos and Thor follw below:


Musical Organics: A Heterarchical Approach to Digital Organology

by: Thor Magnusson

An important pursuit of organology is the classification of musical instruments. The tree-metaphor has traditionally been the key organisational principle, most prominently applied by Hornbostel and Sachs in their classification from 1914. As Nietzsche, Foucault, and Eco demonstrated, the classification of a domain is an epistemic act; indeed, we find epistemic time periods, where cultures throw different “conceptual nets” over the “rabble of reality” (as Nietzsche put it). Hornbostel and Sachs acknowledged the problems of division in their classification, stating that instruments are alive and dynamic, whereas systems are static and delineating. This is even more true with new digital instruments, as their complex nature renders them hard to place into classificatory categories. A new analytical approach is required that engages with the repository of digital instruments from a multiplicity of perspectives: materials (e.g., plastic, metal, glass, fibre, cloth); sensors (e.g., ultrasound, bend, potentiometers); sound (e.g., physical models, subtractive, granular, sampling); mapping (e.g., one-to-one, one- to-many, many-to-one, convergent, learned, evolutionary); gestures (e.g., hit, stroke, pluck, shake, bow, blow); reuse of proprioceptive skills (such as the trained playing of keyboard, strings, wind, and percussion); manufacturer (e.g., of sensors, chips, motors), and many more, including cultural context, musical style, and other areas that have been, or indeed will be, called for as extensions to existing organological classifications.

This presentation will discuss the necessity of shifting our classificatory metaphors from the tree to the rhizome, from hierarchy to heterarchy, pointing to the digital as something that is essentially hard to define due to the lack of tradition, legacy, and institutional framework. The paper discusses the problems of classification of digital instruments and introduce some of the organological work done in the field, leading up to the author’s proposal of Musical Organics. As a theoretical method that applies modern search, machine information retrieval, and representation technologies, musical organics enable researchers to create ad-hoc classifications of instrumental spaces as a collaborative organological research.

Instrumented spaces: two immersive music theatre performances

by: Thanos Polymeneas-Liontiris

This presentation revolves around two performances / experiments presented as part of my research on instrumented/audience reactive sound spaces: Im•medea and the landscape may be a dead star. The works drew inspiration from processes and techniques used in interactive art installations, with the aim of designing and delivering generative Music Theatre.

Both performances were using the space as an instrument: a series of Infrared (IR) sensors (placed on the walls and ceilings of the spaces) were tracking the movement, position and density of the audience in the rooms. The digital information of these sensors was then analysed and processed by a custom- made algorithm, contributing to the performance in different ways. While in Im•medea it generated the electronic soundscape for the performance, in the landscape may be a dead star it produced the musical score that the performers had to interpret. The result in both cases was an ever-changing music theatre performance, which was evolving by handling the space as an invisible instrument that was played by the movement, position and amount of audience/bodies in space.

The processes in both performances can be observed as methods for scoring, composing, as well as instruments or performance ecosystems, cybernetic, trans-individual network systems linking audience, performers and technology with a transparent web. These two experiments were the first of a series of experiments of an on-going research on post-digital processes and notions of Posthumanism in Music Theatre.