Rediscovering Mozart at SAW

in Blog

28 March 2010


JG and Tychonas Michailidis present a paper entitled “Rediscovering Mozart: motion capture technology in contemporary music practice” at the Sonic Arts in Wales Electroacoustic Symposium 2010.


New music with motion capture apparatus in performance is similar in many ways to the late-18th Century concert culture of Vienna: unconventional venues, new developments in instrument design, improvisation and social rituals are not as dissimilar between the two periods as they might first appear.

The advent of affordable, accurate motion capture technologies present the composer of today with a number of challenges. Firstly, the composer must construct a conceptual system for the flow of motion capture data that is comprehensible to an audience. Secondly, such a system is inevitably a one-off and as such often requires the composer himself to operate the apparatus. And thirdly, there no satisfactory system of notation for physical gestures.

This presentation will address the above issues by proposing a new model of contemporary music practice utilising new technologies. We will argue that the existing compositional approach often employed in western art music can no longer support works that incorporate new technologies. We suggest an experimental-historical approach in which the performer interprets the bespoke electronic instruments as the prescriptive musical score and that a performance is merely a navigation through the composed sonic possibilities of a particular instrument design. Thus composition becomes instrument design, and performance becomes improvisation. This paradigm shift dissolves traditional role allocation in such a way that we hope can sustain musical works that incorporate contemporary technologies more effectively.

We give practical examples of existing motion-capture-based works and offer observations and suggestions addressing the above issues of sustainability, performance practice and notation with reference to works of previous periods of technological change.

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