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Bridging Abstract Sound and Dance Ideas with Technology Interactive Dance Composition as Practice-Based Research


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In this paper, I review recent interactive music and dance collaborations and discuss my composition interest in mapping sound to bodily movement in the field of computer music. I argue that the engineering perspective of this field of research should be broadened to include, in particular, creative composition processes in collaboration with professionally trained contemporary dancers. I then introduce my investigation into using the Game-trak controller to create choregraphic stimuli via the choreographic methods of the contemporary dance choreographers William Forsythe and Wayne McGregor, and set up a compositional model based on that proposed by the composer Simon Emmerson. Finally, I demonstrate how my research is articulated through a presentation of my original works. Keywords Interactive dance Composition Practice-based research Methodology Gametrak Restriction Open-access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
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Bridging Abstract
Sound and Dance
Ideas with
Interactive Dance
Composition as
Jung In Jung
Centre for Research in New Music,
University of Hudderseld,
Hudderseld, UK
In this paper, I review recent interac-
tive music and dance collaborations
and discuss my composition interest in
mapping sound to bodily movement
in the field of computer music. I argue
that the engineering perspective of
this field of research should be broad-
ened to include, in particular, creative
composition processes in collabora-
tion with professionally trained con-
temporary dancers. I then introduce
my investigation into using the Game-
trak controller to create choregraphic
stimuli via the choreographic methods
of the contemporary dance choreogra-
phers William Forsythe and Wayne
McGregor, and set up a compositional
model based on that proposed by the
composer Simon Emmerson. Finally,
I demonstrate how my research is
articulated through a presentation
of my original works.
Interactive dance
Practice-based research
Open-access article distributed under the Creative Commons
Attribution 3.0 Unported License, which permit s unrestricted
use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided
the original author and source are credited.
As a sound artist and a researcher who creates
interactive sound and dance collaborations,
I have sought a methodology for my prac-
tice-based research. This paper presents my
thoughts on this topic and an inquiry into a
possible way to make this research valuable.
I should emphasise that what drives me to
create interactive systems is the facilitation of
a dialogue between the sound system and the
dancer so as to devise choreography and sound
compositions together. I find that in the field
of computer music this type of work focuses
on technological development in terms of new
interfaces or mapping strategies for generat-
ing music, but lacks a choreographic concern
based on dance practice. Since interface tech-
nology seeks a use in corporeal dance perfor-
mance and is of an interdisciplinary collabora-
tive nature, I propose another perspective from
which to conduct this field of research, giving
as an example my own original works with con-
temporary dancers.
1.Background research to raise
The term interactive dance typically refers to
dance works created with an interactive system
that perceives movement data from the dancer
in real-time to produce other events in other
media such as sound or visuals. In turn, the
sonic or visual results affect the creation of the
choreography. The term has been in frequent
use since the genre of dance and technology or
dance tech emerged at the end of the 1990s as
seeking the usage of newly developed tools “to
reinvent the perceptual and ontological role of
dance in the context of a digital zeitgeist” (Salter
2010, 261). Although the origin of interactive
dance can be traced back to John Cage and
Merce Cunningham’s collaboration Variations
V in 1965, the active research on developing
wearable or camera-based motion-tracking
sensors has been conducted since the 1990s by
composers. For instance, Todd Winkler created
interactive dance works in Max1 using analysis
of gestural movement and musicality (Winkler
1995a), and published a pedagogical book in
interactive composition (Winkler 1998). Wayne
Siegel developed wearable motion-tracking
interface using flex sensors in collaboration with
contemporary dancers (Siegel and Jacobsen
1998). Because of its use of technology, inter-
active dance has also attracted scientific, engi-
neering and computing research centres looking
for artistic and real-world applications (Salter
2010, 262–263). One example is the EyesWeb
system, using gestural analysis of emotional
and expressive values and developed by Anto-
nio Camurri and his research team from Info-
Mus, University of Genoa, within the European
Union-sponsored MEGA project (Camurri 1997).
The fever for the genre became obvious as the
entire Dialogue section of the 1998’s spring
volume of Dance Research Journal was dedi-
cated to discussion about dance and technology,
with both Richard Povall and Robert Wechsler
writing about the subject.
As a consequence, debates and criticisms fol-
lowed regarding the usage of technology. How
it could “enlarge dance as a historical and cul-
tural practice” and what kind of aesthetics
could be aroused with gesture-driven com-
puter music in dance (Salter 2010, 263)?
Scott deLahunta (2001) expresses the irony
of considering the new musical instrument
learning process as dance training in the field
of computer music. Julie Wilson-Bokowiec and
Mark Alexander Bokowiec (2006, 48) point out
that mapping sound to bodily movement has
been described in utilitarian terms: “what the
technology is doing and not what the body is
experiencing”. According to Johannes Birringer
(2008), developing interactive systems with
this utilitarian perspective creates “disjunc-
ture” between movement data and the outcome
media whether that is image or sound. This is
because the system requires performers to
learn “specific physical techniques to play the
instruments of the medium”, which dancers
find hard to think of as an “intuitive vocabulary”
that they have gained through their physical
and kinaesthetic practice (Birringer 2008, 119).
ICLI PORTO 2018 162
Discussions about creating musical instruments
are still valuable to the development of inter-
active systems. However, I find that this narrow
focus on the gestural or postural articulation
of technology misses the aesthetic concerns in
creating choreography with dancers.
Wilson-Bokowiec and Bokowiec (2006) pro-
vide honest insights about their Bodycoder
System, a musical interface with sixteen bend
sensors that can be placed on any flexing area
of the body and a pair of gloves designed as
switches. Similar glove-based interface designs
have been used previously in Mattel’s Nin-
tendo PowerGlove (1989) and the Lady’s Glove
(1994) by the composer Laetitia Sonami to
capture sophisticated finger movement. Winkler
(1995a) also began his research in movement
by observing hand and finger gestures to help
design musical instruments. Wilson-Bokowiec
and Bokowiec (2006, 50) write that their ini-
tial idea to adopt physical techniques from
contemporary dance seemed logical, but they
stopped soon after realising that the system
was associated with “specific economic move-
ments” like playing an instrument. In interactive
dance and music collaboration the dominant
compositional approach has been to translate
gestures into sonic results. This process of
translation is usually initiated by composers
and computer scientists with their interpreta-
tions of movement qualities, and then realised
by dancers. Unfortunately, due to the limits of
time and budgets, it is not easy to collaborate
with dancers throughout the entire composi-
tion process to find out which sounds feel most
suitable for controlling the synthesis with their
diverse range of movements. Thus composers
have mostly sought ways to capture the most
natural and precise movements by preserving
dancers’ free motion for movement analysis.
However, I believe this effort ironically caused a
disjuncture in the sonification of movement for
some dancers because the assumed mapping
scenarios and interpretations were not directly
related to their dance vocabularies, but rather
to an engineering perspective.
Here, two research questions arise: 1) How
can my interactive sound system aid collab-
oration by encouraging dancers to use their
intuitive vocabulary, not just demand that they
learn the technological and musical functions
of the interface? 2) Once I have considered
the sounds to be used in a piece, how should
I direct dancers to create choreography as
well as sound composition with my interactive
system? I decided to adopt a more rigorous
approach to integrating interactive system into
the creative processes in sound and dance, and
their resulting performances investigate ways
to carefully structure the relationship between
music and dance when involving interactive
systems in the creative and performance pro-
cesses. To situate my work within a research
perspective, I undertook a survey of papers
focusing on dance or choreography from The
International Conference on New Interfaces for
Musical Expression (NIME), The International
Computer Music Conferences (ICMC), and Sound
and Music Computing (SMC) from 2001 to 2016
to find what other approaches have evolved
since the 1990s interactive dance scene. The
reason that I chose this period was because
the survey was done in 2016, and I decided
to search the papers published from the 21st
century strictly. When I found interesting
approaches from these conference proceed-
ings, I looked up other related publications.
Based on his research on the choreographer
Doris Humphrey’s classification of rhythms
in dance, Carlos Guedes (2007) created Max
objects that can extract rhythmic information
from dance movement captured with a video
camera. Capturing data and analysing pat-
terns to create art became a method when
art research combined with Human Computer
Interaction (HCI) (Polotti 2011). With this rather
scientific approach to human movement, I
noticed that some researchers tried to capture
even more sophisticated data from dancers
using physiological data capturing facilities. For
example, Jeong-seob Lee and Woon Seung Yeo
(2012) captured dancers’ respiration patterns
to improve the correspondence between music
and dance, and Javier Jaimovich (2016) used
electrocardiography and electromyography to
reflect the biology of emotion in music. Never-
theless, these analytical approaches to evaluat-
ing the relationships between music and dance
still caused me to ask where choreographers
might put their aesthetical decisions during the
compositional process.
The research I found interesting was the
empirical research done by Anna Källblad et al.
(2008) for their interactive dance installation
for children. They developed their installation
in several steps: First, they observed children’s
movement in a free space with different types
of music. Second, the dancers looked at the
video recordings of the first step and created
a choreography. Third, the composer cre-
ated an interactive sound composition for the
choreographed movements and installed this
interactive system in areas occupied by the
children. The interesting part of this research
was that the analysis of the children’s move-
ment became the choreographic challenge;
the researchers found that there was “no
expression of anticipation, planning or judg-
ing” in the children’s movement, whereas the
adult dancers found it very hard to have the
same intent (Källblad et al., 2008). Another
interesting work is the prosthetic instruments
designed by Ian Hattwick and Joseph Malloch
(2014). Although the dominant perspective
of Malloch’s (2013) thesis was an engineering
one, as its purpose was to design instruments
that were usable by professional dancers, the
design process was done in conjunction with
frequent workshops with the choreographer
Isabelle Van Grimde and her dance troupe Van
Grimde Corps Secrets. They were aware of
how the dancers predominantly create move-
ment within a visual domain, as opposed to
musicians, and took advice from the dancers
when deciding on the appearance and material
of their instruments (Malloch 2013). I found
their Spine instrument for the performance Les
Gestes (2011–2013) remarkable because it
provoked the dancers to create choreography
in terms of the relational movement between
their head and lower back, which in turn played
the instrument. This way of triggering an inter-
active system with wearable motion-tracking
sensors is not common as usually the sensors
are placed on limbs or the joints of limbs to
receive more natural movement of dancers.
Amongst works outside of NIME, ICMC, and
SMC communities, I find the collaboration
Eidos: Telos (1995) by the choreographer Wil-
liam Forsythe and the Studio for Electro-Instru-
mental Music (STEIM) composer Joel Ryan the
most interesting, even though it was developed
at the very beginning of the period of experi-
mentation in interactive musical synthesis with
computer in the 1990s. Across the stage, a net
of massive steel cables are set to be amplified
by contact microphones and in turn become
a large-scale sonic instrument when plucked
by the dancers. The instrument was “audio
scenography: the replacement of visual sce-
nography with a continually transforming audio
landscape” and showed “the shifting of dance
music composition in Forsythe’s work towards
the design of total acoustic environments”
(Salter 2011, 57–58). Unfortunately, Ryan’s
initial idea of using wearable acceleration sen-
sors to control the signal processing techniques
applied to a violin and the lights in the Frank-
furt Opera House auditorium did not happen
because of unstable communication between
the STEIM-built sensor device and the house
lighting console (Salter 2011, 71). However, the
instrument created simple and modern-looking
scenography without superfluous technological
aesthetic, which Forsythe usually seeks in his
other works too, and acted as work’s core com-
positional as well as dramaturgical strategy.
2.Integrating choreographic method
with technology
To answer my first research question, I decided
to study first how choreographers and dancers
create choreography and seek ways to integrate
motion-sensing devices as primarily a choreo-
graphic tool. Some criticisms have arisen in the
dance technology community towards artists
who were “eager to work with newly arising
ICLI PORTO 2018 164
digital tools”, but who had “little understan-
ding of the inner workings of electronics or
computer code”, which in turn created trivial
works that were mere demonstrations of the
technology (Salter 2010, 263–264). Although
this is a critical point of view, I found it not
entirely fair towards the artists. The graphical
interface of Max (Winkler 1995b), as well as
flexible and user-friendly tools like Isadora
developed by Mark Coniglio (Dixon 2007, 198),
were made to help composers and artists who
were not necessarily software developers. I
thought the problem was not lack of knowledge
of how to adapt the technology effectively, but
a lack of investigation and observation required
to comprehend artistic media that the art-
ists did not primarily practise. For instance,
Winkler’s research into gestural composition
(1995a) neglected dance practice or tech-
niques, but assumed that their interactive
syntheses could be used effectively for dance
composition. Marcelo M. Wanderley (2001)
thoroughly analyses the gestural qualities of
expert instrumentalists during performance,
but does not explain how this movement anal-
ysis is valuable for dance creation.
What, then, is choreography? Can the instru-
mentalist’s movement be assumed to be danc-
ing? “The term choreography has gone viral”,
says Susan Leigh Foster (2010). She writes
that since the mid-2000s the word has been
used as “general referent for any structuring
of movement, not necessarily the movement
of human beings” (Foster 2010, 32). I saw a
good example for Foster’s statement when
I recently attended the conference Moving
Matter(s): On Code, Choreography and Dance
Data in 2017. The artist Ruairi Glynn presented
his choreographic idea in his work Fearful
Symmetry (2012), but the work did not include
a human figure. It was a kinetic sculpture that
encouraged the audience to react and move
along with it. Perhaps the reason this kind of
movement from non-dancers and also non-hu-
man movement has come to be recognised as
“choreographic” is because dance has changed
dramatically since the mid-twentieth century
to eliminate virtuosic postures. For example,
choreographers such as Paul Taylor and the
Judson Dance Theater deliberately incorporated
everyday movements such as walking, running,
and sitting into their work (Au 2002, 161, 168).
Also, as shown at the 2011 exhibition Move:
Choreographing You: Art and Dance since the
1960s at the Hayward Gallery, the term has
been used to describe the process of paintings,
sculptures, and installations by artists such as
Allan Kaprow’s movement score 18 Happenings
in 6 parts (1959), Bruce Nauman’s Green Light
Corridor (1970), and Pablo Bronstein’s Magnifi-
cent Triumphal Arch (2010). These works were
focused on certain movements of the artists
or the viewers, and were, therefore, choreo-
graphed. In his essay Notes on Music and Dance,
Steve Reich (1974, 41) writes that the Judson
group choreographers have embraced “any
movement as dance”, equivalent to Cage’s
statement that “any sound is music”. It seems
that dance has become a more approachable
place for laypeople to propose ideas.
Yet, what I have learnt from my previous
collaborations with dancers is that I should
be aware that dancers and musicians have
acquired different physical practices2. I there-
fore felt the need to understand what choreog-
raphy means in dance first. I investigated the
dance movement theory by Rodulf Laban as
well as some studies in which this analysis was
used. These included the sonification of dance
movement research from InfoMus based on
the emotional quality of movement and music
from choreutic theory, the dance movement
archive project by Royce Neagle et al. (2002),
and the movement library Topos for dance
and music gesture control by Luiz Naveda and
Ivani Santana (2014). However, what I found
the most interesting from Laban’s analysis was
that he sees choreography as a “continuous
flux” of movement that should be understood
alongside both “the preceding and the following
phases” (Ullmann 2011, 4). Laban’s dance nota-
tion shows movement “trace-forms” through
directional symbols inside the kinesphere rather
than specific postures, and it inspired me to
2 In case more scientific proof is needed about how musi-
cians and dancers perceive movement differently, ongoing
research is being conducted by Hanna Poikonen at the
University of Helsinki into how musicians and dancers
use their brains. Poikonen explains that musicians have a
tendency to seek precision in certain acts whereas danc-
ers see the entire flow of a movement that uses the whole
body. See her article at
think about what principally stimulates which
movement, beyond fragments of gestures. The
common way of using motion-sensing devices
in interactive music and dance collaborations
is to use the technology as a mere interface for
preserving the freedom of the dancer’s move-
ment, and to connect the presupposed musi-
cality of movement data to the output result
(Figure 1). Instead, to actively stimulate and
engage dancers to create choreography with
the interactive system, I decided to provide a
physical and tactile motion-sensing device – the
Gametrak controller – that primarily challenged
performers to ‘dance’, and to let these move-
ments create the sounding results.
Gametrak was developed as a pre-wireless
motion-tracking technology and disappeared
quickly after the introduction of Nintendo Wii
Remote controllers or Kinect cameras. In com-
parison with wireless motion sensors, Game-
trak’s motion tracking system is simple and
limited. Each unit has a pair of potentiometers
tethered by red cables that users can extend to
direct the controller through 360˚; the control-
ler tracks the movement direction and length of
the cable. Originally the controller comes with
a pair of gloves that let users play a golf game.
However, I removed the gloves so as to prevent
the dancers from using the controllers only with
their hands. Instead, I connected carabiner clips
to the end of the controllers so that they could
be hooked onto belts and bracelets. The kinetic
characteristics of the Gametrak invite dancers to
move in certain intuitive ways by playing with the
cables – pulling and twisting them, for example.
However, the dancers soon understand that
they can only reach a limited distance with the
tethered controllers. As a consequence, the
difference from wearable sensors is that I am
‘restricting’ the dancers’ bodies instead of letting
them dance freely.
Gametraks were used by the musician Yann
Seznec for the live performance of the composer
Matthew Herbert’s album One Pig, and the artist
Di Mainstone developed Gametrak-inspired
controllers with her research team from Queen
Mary University of London for large-scale instal-
lations (Meckin et al., 2012) such as Whimsichord
(2012) at the Barbican and Human Harp (2013)
on Brooklyn Bridge. Seznec created The StyHarp,
using the cables of Gametrak controllers to mimic
a pigsty as well as a new musical instrument.
Although Mainstone’s works were performed by
dancers, her primary focus was on the use of the
controllers as a visual element with the surround-
ing architecture while triggering sound simulta-
neously in an interactive installation. It is appar-
ent that the appearance of the Gametrak has
attracted artists to its visual characteristics, but I
have not yet found any work primarily integrated
with choreographic composition technique.
I found Forsythe’s choreographic approach was
interesting because he extended Laban’s notion
of the kinesphere, as shown in his lecture video
Improvisation Technologies published with ZKM
in 2011 (cited in Clark and Ando, 2014: 182).
In the video, Forsythe demonstrates possible
movement variations depending on a newly
given axis without stepping away from the first
Figure 1. Motion-sensing device as interface to preserve the dancer’s freedom of movement.
ICLI PORTO 2018 166
position. Furthermore, Forsythe asks his dancers
to imagine objects or geometric lines to create
movement with or around. Re-orientating phys-
ical perception with these imaginary space and
objects is Forsythe’s core movement creation
technique. Similar to Forsythe, choreographer
Wayne McGregor proposes his dancers to
imagine an object as well as some other sensa-
tions to compose choreography. Another tech-
nique he uses is to provide dancers with a phys-
ical problem, which they have to solve through
movement. For example, dancers are asked to
“picture a rod connected to their shoulder, which
is then pushed or pulled by a partner some dis-
tance away” (Clark and Ando 2014, 187). McGre-
gor describes these ways of creating movement
phrases with specific physical conditions as a
“physical thinking process” (McGregor 2012).
Both Forsythe and McGregor use mental imagery
as a choreographic stimulus. Instead of freely
improvising, they restrict their physical condition
with the imagined objects and space. Inspired
by this method, I decided to replace the mental
imagery with actual physical restriction using
the cables of the Gametrak controllers. In this
way, the Gametrak provides a technological
restriction that governs my sound composition
and movement creation as both an interface and
a physical limitation that has to be accounted for
by the dancers. This intrinsic physicality of the
Gametrak made it possible to provide concrete
movement tasks to the dancers, who could then
play sound naturally as a result of executing
these tasks. This process is explained in Figure
2, which shows the transition between different
media from body (dance) to sound via visible and
tactile technology.
3.Proposing a methodology:
physical thinking and action
My background research indicates that the pri-
mary concern in research so far into new inter-
face design for dance has focused on the kinds
of motion that can be captured to control musi-
cal parameters, either in one-to-one or more
complex interactions. However, this prevalent
concern in mapping body movement to sound
is limited to musicians and computer scientists
(Wilson-Bokowiec and Bokowiec 2006, 48), and
rarely takes account of a purely choreographic
perspective. My purpose in this research is not
necessarily to hand over control of the music to
the dancers. Rather, my main interest is in what
kind of dialogue can be created between music
and dance as a stimulus to collaborative compo-
sition, not necessarily that one medium has to
determine the other.
Figure 2. A diagram between dance and sound through
Gametrak controllers.
To answer my second research question, and
also in order to create a dialogue between
music and dance it was essential to look at how
they have served as impetuses for each other
both historically and more recently. Tradi-
tionally choreographers made choreography
for already written music, and dance had to
be organised to synchronise with music that
had been composed for it (Percival 1971, 17).
However, since the twentieth century, there
have been huge changes in this traditional rela-
tionship. Vaslav Nijinsky premiered the ballet
Afternoon of a Faun in 1912, using Claude
Debussy’s music “purely as an accompani-
ment”, to demonstrate that the music and the
stage design were “equally important in setting
a mood” and “equally irrelevant to the move-
ments being performed by the dancers, except
that the total length of the action was deter-
mined by that of the music” (Percival 1971, 16).
Around the same time, Laban choreographed
to a very minimalistic use of percussive musi-
cal instruments or sometimes even in silence
so as to preserve dance as an independent art
form, as seen in his works The Deluded (1921)
and The Swinging Temple (1922) (Laban 1975,
89, 96). Laban did not agree with the dance
theatre tradition of that time, according to
which dance had to be organised as a literal
translation of music (Laban 1975, 175–179).
Later, from the late 1940s, Cunningham and
Cage started collaborating using methods of
indeterminacy and chance, treating music and
dance as independent entities (Au 2002, 155–
156). From my research the most frequently
referenced example as the origin of interactive
music and dance collaboration is Cage and
Cunningham’s Variations V (1965), yet notori-
ously they did not seek to connect expressive
musicality and movement. In contrast to these
movements, music and dance had a close
relationship in Philip Glass’s opera Einstein on
the Beach (1976), with Lucinda Childs juxta-
posing slow and almost static movements to
Glass’s fast and repetitive music (Obenhaus
1985). Similarly, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker
was deeply influenced by Steve Reich’s music
structure, and choreographed repeated and
contrapuntal movement variations for her
work Fase, Four Movements to The Music of
Steve Reich (1982). However, De Keersmaeker
explains that although Reich’s music “supplied
a number of principles of construction”, her
work “did not copy the musical structure” (De
Keersmaeker and Cvejić 2012, 25–27). As
a more recent example, at the 2012 Dance
Biennale, Forsythe explained that his dance
company uses music like “film music”; music
can “colour the perception of the event”, but it
is not necessary to organise a dance according
to the structure of the music (Forsythe 2012).
It seems natural to have these constant changes
in dance from the twentieth century in particu-
lar, since music has also actively changed into
various unconventional and uncountable forms
through the use of new materials and sound
(Cunningham 1968; Percival 1971: 15). However,
in gesture-driven music and dance research I
feel these kinds of dialogues between music
and dance have been neglected because ‘inter-
activity’ is considered a crucial element that has
to be demonstrated to the audience. This view
can easily restrict interactive dance to the folly
of mere demonstrations of technology, and fail
to make use of it as choreographic tool. Further-
more, what I could see from the dance notations
from the seventeenth century (see Weaver
1706) and De Keersmaeker’s score for Reich’s
music was how these two media have changed
from rather absolute and common code to
abstract ideas. The dance notation from the
seventeenth century indicates positions of feet
and limbs related precisely to the musical notes,
whereas De Keersmaeker’s score is drawn with
more abstract shapes, directional marks, and
numbers. In my previous collaboration with
contemporary dancers, I mostly sought ways to
orientate the dancers towards the interactive
system to help them perform better ‘sound’.
However, I was aware of the irony in teaching
the abstract ideas of music composition to
dancers. Instead, I thought these abstract ideas
could be bridged through a concrete medium –
for me, it was what the restrictive motion-track-
ing technology could serve – to successfully
conduct this interdisciplinary collaborative
I proposed using the Gametrak controllers as
a visual stimulus and physical restriction to
my main collaborating dancer Katerina Foti.
As she was aware of Forsythe’s approach she
was interested in the method. Yet, this was my
first time composing an interactive music with
physical restriction, and I thought the best way
to find out the most suitable compositional
method was simply to try them out. Locus
was my first composition, using four different
sections of sound variations throughout time. I
planned several steps to guide Foti and another
dancer Natasha Pandermali to gradually con-
struct a choreographic composition with my
interactive sound synthesis. Video 1 demon-
strates the composition process: First, I asked
the two dancers to tether four cables each to
ICLI PORTO 2018 168
their bodies and to improvise to find out how to
move within the restrictive conditions without
sound. Second, once they got used to moving
within the conditions, I then provided more
specific choreographic tasks section by section
depending on the structure of the sound compo-
sition. During this process, the dancers proposed
how they would create choreography with my
movement tasks and I selected good materials.
Finally, we repeated the proposing, selecting,
and modifying process several times until we
completed the composition.
Video 1. The demonstration of composition process of
Locus (2015). See:
My dancers quickly adapted my composition
process as they were trained with similar chore-
ographic techniques. This way of proposing and
selecting choreographic materials is the common
approach in contemporary dance nowadays, as
exemplified by the choreographers Forsythe
and McGregor. While I was searching for the
origin of this choreographic method, I found that
some contemporary dance choreographers in
the 1960s used the so-called “problem-solv-
ing” concept as research in information theory
and artificial intelligence awakened around that
time (Rosenberg 2017, 185–186). This tech-
nique adopted improvisation as a choreographic
compositional method. For example, the Judson
Church group choreographer Trisha Brown first
provides movement tasks to her dancers and the
dancers create movement in response to them.
Second, Brown “intervenes as a composer to
select, edit, and reorganize this raw material as
choreography” (Rosenberg 2017, 185). The con-
sulting historical scholar at Trisha Brown Dance
Company, Susan Rosenberg, writes that “Brown
cast her dancers into what problem-solving
theorists call a ‘problem space’ defined by an
‘initial state, a goal state, and a set of operators
that can be applied that will move the solver
from one state to another’” (Rosenberg 2017,
186). This algorithmic process is also apparent
in Forsythe’s choreographic procedure Alphabet
(Forsythe and Kaiser 1999) and McGregor’s “if,
then, if, then” process (McGregor 2012).
I also find similar algorithmic thinking in the
composer Simon Emmerson’s model of compo-
sitional process. In seeking a methodology by
which to conduct my practice-based research
it was helpful to look at it. Since electroacoustic
music does not use traditional musical nota-
tion systems and materials, Emmerson (1989)
writes about composing strategies and ped-
agogy, and proposes a compositional model
for contemporary music. The model consists
of a cycle of actions: the composer does an
action drawn from an action repertoire, which
then has to be tested. After testing, accepted
materials reinforce the action repertoire and
rejected ones can be modified for the action or
not. Emmerson explains that research begins
when one “tests” the action, and new actions
need to be fed into the action repertoire to
evolve the research further (Emmerson 1989,
136). Similar to Brown’s technique, John Young
(2015, 159) describes the process after testing
in Emmerson’s model, in which the composer
decides whether to accept or reject materials,
as a “problem-defining and problem-solving
The unique compositional feature of Emmer-
son’s model is that there is the test procedure.
Emmerson explains this in “the composer/
listener chain”: the test has to be done with
a group of listeners – not any listeners, but a
“community of interest whose views we trust
4 See the video demonstration here:
and value” – since there is no common code for
building the same expectation as there used to
be in traditional (Western) music (Emmerson
1989, 142). In my composition process my col-
laborating dancers are not only the performers,
but also the primary listeners as they devise
choreography that interacts with my sound
system. We try a certain condition, explore our
experience, and reflect on the next phase. My
compositional cycle of actions as an adaptation
of Emmerson’s model of composition process
is: I provide choreographic tasks (new action)
and the dancers devise choreography with
restriction and rules (action) drawn from their
movement repertoire. And then I examine (test)
the materials created through this process to
accept or reject. Therefore, one composition
is completed with multiple iterations of these
actions; furthermore, my entire research is
structured within this action cycle.
4.My original works
Here, I offer some examples to demonstrate
how I mapped movement and my sound synthe-
sis. To prevent the dancers from being too busy
dealing with just the musical functions of the
technology, I first reduced the number of sound
parameters to be performed by the dancers.
Mostly only the z (length) values of the Game-
trak controllers were used to control the sound
parameters; sometimes the x and y values
were used to in support to detect more specific
locations of the dancers in the performance
space. Although I simplified the number of
sound parameters each controller could control,
I provided different choreographic tasks strictly
in order of the allocated time frames. I also
wanted to have both direct and indirect interac-
tions between movement and sound so that the
dancers could have various conditions within
which to devise choreography with differing
amounts of freedom.
In Pen-Y-Pass (2016)3 I provided various cho-
reographic tasks throughout time: For the first
section of the composition the dancers were
asked to tether cables onto their limbs, moving
only one arm at first and then gradually use all
their limbs. Movement and sound had a direct
one-to-one relationship here, and the dancers
had to be careful not to move their other limbs
from the beginning. As a result, the silent space
gradually filled with more and more sounds.
For the second part, the dancers were asked
to attach one part of their body as though their
limbs were extended diagonal lines tethered
like the cables as well as the projected visual
work behind them. Then the dancers tried to
extend their limbs towards the gaps between
their bodies. In this section, the dancers’ limbs
only affected the volume of the sound files,
allowing the dancers to focus more on devising
choreography. For the third part, they were
asked to detach the cables, leaving only one
cable each. In this section, there were only two
different sounds, one for each dancer, with
one-to-one interaction. The dancers were
asked to create a circle with their movements
and then pause for a while, and repeat this
movement. As a result, some silence was
created in between. For the fourth section, the
dancers were asked to attach one more cable
to their limbs, making two for each dancer. One
dancer was asked to perform solo, and then the
other, and then duet until the end. For this sec-
tion I programmed different sounds depending
on the length of the cables. In return, the more
the dancers moved towards the other side and
crossed with each other, the louder and more
dynamic became the sound.
For other works, I created more game-like tasks
between movement and dance. For example, I
attached the cables of Gametraks to two chairs in
Temporal (2016).4 For the second section of the
piece I mapped sounds to be randomly triggered
at various locations in the performance space.
The dancers were asked to move in response
to what they heard. As a result, they moved
around the room holding chairs and sometimes
even dragging them to make a scratching noise.
Depending on the triggered sound, the dancers
created dynamic movements from fast to slow.
Another example is The Music Room (2017),
and here sound worked also as a restriction
3 See the video demonstration here:
ICLI PORTO 2018 170
to control the dancer’s movement (Video 2). I
programmed some piano notes to be triggered
when the cables were pulled to a certain length.
The dancers were asked to stop moving once
the piano notes were triggered, and to wait until
the note had finished playing. As a consequence,
the dancer moved very carefully and created
cautious and slow movement variations.
I have introduced my compositional approach
in interactive dance focusing on integrating
interactive system into the creative processes
in both sound and dance. Throughout this
paper what I would like to draw out is not only
the technological development or mapping
interactive sound synthesis as a compositional
act, but also the holistic compositional cycle
in collaboration as a composition to support
interdisciplinary art research.
Video 2. The composition process of The Music Room with my collaborating dancer Katerina Foti.
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Full-text available
In this chapter we discuss human-computer-interfaces that translate bodily movements into sound and share expertise by introducing various concepts, case studies, practice-based research, and systems. Special attention is given to issues of accessibility and equity which are crucial when engaging in embodied practices.
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The dissemination of multimedia technologies in the information societies created an interesting scenario: the unprecedented access to a diverse combination of music, image, video and other media streams raised demands for more interactive and expressive multimodal experiences. How to support the demands for richer music-movement interactions? How to translate spatiotemporal qualities of human movement into relevant features for music making and sound design? In this paper we study the realtime interaction between choreographic movement in space and music, implemented by means of a collection of tools called Topos. The tools were developed in the Pure Data platform and provide a number of feature descriptions that help to map the quality of dance gestures in space to music and other media. The features are based concepts found in the literature of cognition and dance, which improves the computational representation of dance gestures in space. The concepts and techniques presented in the study introduce new problems and new possibilities for multimedia applications involving dance and music interaction.
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Moving new DMIs from the research lab to professional artistic contexts places new demands on both their design and manufacturing. Through a discussion of the Prosthetic Instruments, a family of digital musical instruments we designed for use in an interactive dance performance, we discuss four different approaches to manufacturing – artisanal, building block, rapid prototyping, and industrial. We dis- cuss our use of these different approaches as we strove to reconcile the many conflicting constraints placed upon the instruments’ design due to their use as hypothetical prosthetic extensions to dancers’ bodies, as aesthetic objects, and as instruments used in a professional touring context. Experiences and lessons learned during the design and manufacturing process are discussed in relation both to these manufacturing approaches as well as to Bill Buxton’s concept of artist-spec design.
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It started with an idea to create an empty space in which you activated music and light as you moved around. In responding to the music and lighting you would activate more or different sounds and thereby communicate with the space through your body. This led to an artistic research project in which children’s spontaneous movement was observed, a choreography made based on the children’s movements and music written and recorded for the choreography. This music was then decomposed and choreographed into an empty space at Botkyrka konsthall creating an interactive dance installation. It was realized using an interactive sound and light system in which 5 video cameras were detecting the motion in the room connected to a 4-channel sound system and a set of 14 light modules. During five weeks people of all ages came to dance and move around in the installation. The installation attracted a wide range of people of all ages and the tentative evaluation indicates that it was very positively received and that it encouraged free movement in the intended way. Besides observing the activity in the installation interviews were made with schoolchildren age 7 who had participated in the installation.
A common approach to movement creation amongst contemporary choreographers involves dancers being asked to create movement in response to instructions that require them to form mental images, and then to make decisions in response to the internal feedback loops these images generate. The formation of these images is also facilitated in many cases by the use of digital technologies, via data representation and visualisation. This article explores connections between technology, choreographic praxis, cognitive science and related topics in the philosophy of perception, all of which concern the content of mental imagery and the ways in which it is formed. In particular, we focus on how choreographers have exploited dancers' innate ability to form kinaesthetic images, which are derived from the qualitative dynamics of both actual and imagined bodily movement. We also propose that such images are historically classifiable in terms of their intrinsic geometries.
The following dialogue, recorded in 1998 between the American choreographer and artistic director of the Frankfurt Ballet, William Forsythe, and multimedia artist Paul Kaiser, focuses on Forsythe's use of geometric and algorithmic thinking to create new forms of choreography in ballet. Forsythe trains his dancers to picture the trajectories and trails either left behind or implied by their movements in space, and he insists that they learn how to manipulate and transform that invisible geometry. He propels his choreography in this fashion, with spatial transformations the key to his thinking. In 1994, Kaiser recommended that Forsythe use computer animation to render this geometry visible to the layman through the technique of rotoscoping. This idea was incorporated into Improvisation Technologies, an interactive work Forsythe created in collaboration with the Centre for Art and Media Technology (ZKM) in Karlsruhe, Germany, and recently published as a CD-ROM by Hatje/Cantz.1 Forsythe and Kaiser, together with Shelley Eshkar, are now collaborating on an artwork to premiere in Frankfurt in spring 2001.