Aesthetics of Technology-Based Performance


—the philosophy and critical reflection on art (read more)

  • On the substance of a performance:
  • On the elements of a performance:
    • Stage presence—the ability to engage an audience from the stage (read more); Examples—three performances using a Monome: (1) a demo of the product; (2) Edison; (3) Deadalus
    • Mise en scène—the way in which all design elements actively contribute to the aesthetic impact of the performance (read more); Example: Nine Inch Nails, “Hurt” Album version and Live version (skim beginning and then 3:52)
    • Semiotics—the way in which things contain/express meaning, e.g., associations from nature (clouds mean rain), conventional associations (red means stop), resemblance (drooping lines mean sadness or weakness), or a representative portion of something larger (Washington means the US government) (read more with examples)
    • Synaesthesia—a psychological condition in which senses are inextricably linked, a phenomenon which is inspiring in art (read more); Example: Terri Timely, Synaesthesia
    • Intermedia—art that inextricably links multiple modes of expression or experience (read more); Example: TERMINALBEACH, Heart Chamber Orchestra (through 3:00)
    • Counterpoint—the interactions among elements in a work that establishes a balance between coordination and independence (read more and more); Example, J. S. Bach Fugue in D Minor

Technology-Native Performance Techniques that Exploit these Concepts

  • Appropriation—creating art using “readymade” or “found” materials or from other works of art. Examples: John Oswald’s activist Plunderphonics (recordings are hidden on his site)/Martin Arnold’s films/Christian Marclay’s live turntablism (3:10–4:00)
  • Live sampling—a performance practice starting without any pre-made/pre-recorded materials, only tools that capture material live in during the performance and transform them into new material that makes up the performance. Example: Shankcraft (TAMU)
  • Feedback—creating visual, sonic, or other material by connecting a system’s output to its own input, allowing complex, unpredictable material to emerge. Example: Rodrigo Guinski’s live cinema (TAMU)
  • Circuit bending—creative rewiring of commercial electronic devices to achieve sounds and images beyond what was intended by the manufacturer (read more); Example: Greater Sirens, BEND: A Circuit Bending Documentary
  • Glitch (in visual art and music)—creating art primarily from (or mimicking) technological artifacts usually considered to be flaws, mistakes, or garbage. Examples: MerzbowGlitch Art documentary
  • Generative (or algorithmic) art—creating art by setting a (usually simple) system into motion without knowing the what the outcome will be. It’s often a computer program, but it needn’t be. Examples: Ferin Martino (TAMU)Philip Galanter (TAMU), Mozart’s minuet dice game (he wasn’t alone)
  • Live coding—a performance practice in which a computer is programmed on stage in the moment of performance (read more); Example: Glitch Lich—TEDx talk and performing at TAMU
  • Another performance to consider: Loud Objects. This performance practice isn’t widely adopted enough to have a label worth learning, but it’s somewhat a combination of circuit bending, live coding, and generative art, and it could also be made to incorporate appropriation, feedback, and glitch if the artists desired.

How to begin analyzing a work of audiovisual art

Ultimately, you’ll be considering what decisions each artist made in creating his or her work. We call these principles of composition. For example, you could discuss:

  • Contrast/harmony/indifference
  • Pattern/rhythm/progression
  • Stability/change
  • Density/space/balance

But what does an artist work with to make these compositional decisions? You first need to identify basic elements of design, so we can see how the artist used them. Elements of design include:

  • Color
  • Texture
  • Gesture
  • Motive
  • Form
  • Representation

So: Examine each element of design, and consider what principles of composition are at work in each element.

These terms are carefully chosen so they can apply to sonic and visual elements and help illuminate relationships across media.

Classical Electroacoustic Performance Practice

Controllers and Synthesizers

I’ll be travelling during all of week 5, so we won’t meet in person. Use class time strategically. You might:

  • to start developing, investigating, and experimenting with ideas for your final project
  • get ahead in other classes to make more time for this class when we resume meetings, or
  • work on that week’s assignment, which is optional, but which will be very helpful in making full and expressive performances in future assignments. The assignment is on eCampus, and the following videos walk you through the new material:


WaveDrag Example Performance

This video will give you some ideas of the musical ideas you can create with WaveDrag. This particular version uses two channels, controlled by Wiimotes instead of the mouse and keyboard, and it’s meant to be one part in a 4-piece ensemble, so it’s a bit fuller than you’ll be able to achieve at a times and too sparse at other times, but you might still find some licks you can borrow for your assignment—I’m using one of the same sounds you are!

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