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Music and the Body - Symposium - Sonorities Festival 2012

The  Two Thousand + TWELVE
<<< International symposium focusing on music and the body >>>  took place in SARC (the Sonic Arts Research Centre) at Queens University, Belfast on Saturday 24th March, 2012.  Running alongside the symposium was the annual week long Sonorities Festival of Contemporary Music, which again focused on the theme of music and the body.
Link: http://www.qub.ac.uk/sonorities/symposium.html



Music and the Body Symposium
I attended the symposium and attended some of the 'open fader' concerts that were held in the SARC center on the sat (23rd) and sun (24th) March.  It was an incredibly interesting and exciting two days, at the cutting edge of technology, performance, music and the body.  Perhaps it gave me a glimpse into the future. 

The idea that the body can emanate music through technology and to then use that body and in particular its inner workings to create musical material in a performance setting, is wondrous.  For me, it brings a mysterious element to the whole performance.  The speakers at the symposium all presented their way of accessing the inner workings of the body, the devices they build to transfer that information into musical material.  Even though the intervention is really very technological, its the ideas that were most fascinating.

Ben Knapp - The Ecosystem of Biosignal Interaction
Ben Knapp works with ways to measure emotion and empathy and that the data generated from these measurements drive the musical material.  He explained the artistic, engineering and scientific underpinnings of "the concept of an Integral Music Controller (a generic class of controllers that use the direct measurement of motion and emotion to augment traditional methods of musical instrument control" (source)

One performance video example he demonstrated of his performance with his Integral Music Controller was really fascinating.  The piece is called Stem Cells, with the music composed by Eric Lyon and Interaction Design and Performance by Ben Knapp.
As he sat on the stage and visibly displayed emotions and agitation and states of calm, which affected the data that was displayed on a projection screen beside him and affected the musical material.  Fascinating that the mysterious inner world of thought and emotion could provide such a variety of reactions that could be measured and used to control a music performance.   It is for the audience, like the 'invisible' controls the music.

Youtube Excerpt of Stem Cells Performance



Ben Knapp on body, signals, and energy

Ben Knapp on body, signals, and energy from STEIM Amsterdam on Vimeo.

All papers were really integrated and followed similar and related themes.
Link: http://www.qub.ac.uk/sonorities/symposium.html

Open Fader Concerts
I went to the two Open Fader Concerts in SARC on the sat 23rd and sun 24th March, 2012.  Each concert was fascinating.  However, the two highlights for me were two performances that took place at the sunday concert, The Biomuse Concert (full programme link: http://www.qub.ac.uk/sonorities/full-schedule.html )
BioMusic Concert (Sonic LAB: 1.10pm)
Miguel Ortiz - Dentro
Marco Donnarumma - Music for Flesh II
Conor Barry - BeatBack
Samson Young - I am thinking in a room

Miguel Ortiz - Dentro was an brilliant and exhilirating performance, but all he did was sit on the stage, with subtle controllers attached, a darkened room, and the odd interjection of a video projection of the inner body on his torso.  Fully dressed in black, eyes closed for the full performance.

Miguel emanated a presence, a kind of expectation and performance presence, and yet all he did was sit on a stool with hands on knees, nearly in a meditative pose.  From these poses he performed himself and his inner emotions and physical body into states of calm, repose to states of agitation where you could see his shoulders move up and down.  He was generating these states himself, for an audience the changes were subtle but very perceivable and from these states, he was able to gather the data to generate musical material and wow how powerful that muscial material was as his states moved from calm to agititation, greatly helped by the power of the mutliple speakers  in the auditorium and the sheer physicality of some of the low frequencies, at times, I thought the cage that holds the sarc auditorium together might come apart, so powerful were the sounds.  Yet, Miguel was in the same pose.  This was one of the most thrilling performances I have seen in a long time and the potential for this, is immense.  The idea that ones inner bodies workings can emanate such sounds.
Website: http://www.miguel-ortiz.com/ I hope the Sonorities team put a video of this performance on the web soon and that this piece gets to have lots of performances, though Miguel looked visibily exhausted after the performance.

For details about the symposium, here is a link to follow:
http://www.qub.ac.uk/sonorities/symposium.html

Ben Knapp was the keynote speaker - and what a truly fascinating presentation he gave on his Music, Sensors, and Emotion research group work and performances. 

http://www.qub.ac.uk/sonorities/ben-knapp.html

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