Physical Composition: The Musicality of Body Movement on Digital Musical Instruments

Author: ORCID icon
Bellona, Jon, Music - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Coffey, Edward, Department of Music, University of Virginia
Burtner, Christopher, Department of Music, University of Virginia
Dahl, Luke, Department of Music, University of Virginia
Sherman, William, Department of Architecture, University of Virginia

Advancements in digital computing have allowed the amplification of the organic body as musical instrument. This dissertation explores human-computer musical interfaces (i.e., alternate controllers) through the view of the body and describes music composition using digital technology through physical movement. The dissertation aims to 1) develop a framework for body–digital technology–sound discourse and 2) describe a collection of software tools, digital musical instruments, and music that demonstrates this framework.

Chapter 1 frames alternate controller digital musical instruments around the body, and Chapter 2 looks at physical movement through its numerical representation inside the computer, discussing how the digital byproducts of movement help shape our musical choices. Chapter 3 describes software tools for aiding digital sound composition on digital musical instruments. Chapter 4 outlines a digital musical instrument composition and performance practice, and Chapter 5 builds from Baruch Spinoza, Shaun Gallagher, and Mark Johnson to dissolve mind and body divides in the act of composition on digital musical instruments. Chapter 6 further explores how the rich palette of body movement can become a musical voice with a report on a new musical instrument, Distance-X. The final chapter revisits a concept central to digital musical instruments, the movement of data, in order to describe how pre-existing digital information can be set into musical motion.

Working from the embrace of physical bodies inside our digital lens can help acknowledge the complex and different stories that make-up our musical communities. Physical Composition strives to address the concerns and the capacities of these bodies and endeavors to stand as a model for achieving symbiosis between performer and digital sound. This dissertation seeks to affirm physical resistance in a digital music practice and depict how Physical Composition is both an art of the moving body and an art of composing sound.

The dissertation is intended for PDF format and should be read from a digital device/software capable of accessing embedded links. Internal references to chapters, sections, subsections, and citations contain embedded links that jump to the appropriate section. All audio and video examples include a clickable icon that points to its online content. A complete list of audio and video example links is provided in the Appendix.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Physical Composition, Digital Musical Instrument, Alternate Controller, Computer Music, Body Movement, Music Composition, Distance-X, DMI, Expression Toolkit, Digital Performance Practice, Data into Movement, Movement into Data, Kyma, Max/MSP, Physical Effort, Paradigms of Control, Parametric Kinesphere, Situational Kinesphere, Key Frame Anatomy, Organology
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