Beyond the record: new roles for the live musician?

Ferguson, John Robert (2009) Beyond the record: new roles for the live musician? In: The Musical Body: Gesture, Representation and Ergonomics in Musical Performance; 22 - 24 Apr 2009, London, U.K.. (Unpublished)


Notions of Virtuosity in Electronic Music? This paper will utilise a reflexive methodology to reflect on practice-led PhD research (which I am currently writing up), and will focus more specifically on a recent project developed at the Studio for Electro-Instrumental Music (STEIM) in The Netherlands. As an electronic musician my work is inspired by notions of instability, and focuses on tactile approaches to the live manipulation of audio/visual materials. Predicated on listening and real-time (re)negotiation, my combination of wireless gaming controllers and custom software/mechanical systems is frequently loud and exuberant. But the resistance inherent within these instrumental ecologies significantly affects the performance process, raising issues of causality, agency, legibility and authorship. My aesthetic preference for both intentional and unintended activity incorporates hacked electronic toys, performing with shadows via light sensors and the hardware appropriation of Nintendo’s Wiimote. This apparatus can be used to tap into movement complexity beyond simple trigger recognition, magnifying accidental/unintended action, and resulting in highly tactile yet challenging systems where gesture transmission is often inverted, or manipulated ‘on the fly’. My relationship with technology highlights systems as situations and ambiguity as an alternative to functionalism, in serving up moments of resistance to direct causal action, interfaces that foster unpredictability can allude to a perception of autonomy that is essentially dialogic. Although specific causality may not be entirely legible to an audience, the sense that a sound is being caused (live) is apparent. Any ambiguities must be considered an accurate reflection of the musical interaction. So although no causal link is inherent, through performance I can imbue meaning into a system that remains essentially ‘playable’, but offers enough sense of agency to facilitate challenging modes of engagement. Drawing on my own research and previous work in this field, I will attempt to locate a notion of ‘virtuosity’ within the practice of electronic musicians today.

Actions (Repository Editors)

Item Control Page Item Control Page