Research seminar: Professor Atau Tanaka ‘The Body as Musical Instrument’

Wednesday 22 November 2017, 4.00PM

Speaker: Professor Atau Tanaka (Goldsmiths, University of London)

The talk considers the human body as musical instrument. To do so, we look at the use of physiological signals, notably the electromyogram, as a way to capture the gestural intention and effort of the performer. The use of biomedical technologies as computer interfaces, however, do not automatically comprise a musical instrument. To imagine a system that affords expressive musical performance, we will think about the notion of the “instrument”, and contrast it with concepts of the “tool” predominant in our technoculture. We will also consider the word, “performance” and its various artistic, technical, and social meanings. Through this extended vision of musical instruments, we will consider how biosignals provide a virtual instrument, or perhaps even turn performer into instrument.


Professor Atau Tanaka conducts research in embodied musical interaction. This work takes place at the intersection of human computer interaction and gestural computer music performance. He studies our encounters with sound, be they in music or in the everyday, as a form of phenomenological experience. This includes the use of physiological sensing technologies, notably muscle tension in the electromyogram signal, and machine learning analysis of this complex, organic data. Atau is a member of the EAVI (Embodied AudioVisual Interaction) research group at Goldsmiths, University of London, which focuses on embodied interaction with sound and image. He has previously been Artistic Ambassador at Apple, researcher at Sony Computer Science Laboratory, and professor and guest professor in Japan, France, and northeast England. His work has been supported by the European Research Council (ERC), Horizon2020, and both science and humanities sections of Research Councils UK (RCUK).

Location: Music Research Centre: Rymer Auditorium