Body As Instrument: Performing with Gestural Interfaces

Mainsbridge, Mary and Beilharz, Kirsty

Proceedings of the International Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression

This paper explores the challenge of achieving nuanced control and physical engagement with gestural interfaces in performance. Performances with a prototype gestural performance system, Gestate, provide the basis for insights into the application of gestural systems in live contexts. These reflections stem from a performer’s perspective, outlining the experience of prototyping and performing with augmented instruments that extend vocal or instrumental technique through ancillary gestures. Successful implementation of rapidly evolving gestural technologies in real-time performance calls for new approaches to performing and musicianship, centred around a growing understanding of the body’s physical and creative potential. For musicians hoping to incorporate gestural control seamlessly into their performance practice a balance of technical mastery and kinaesthetic awareness is needed to adapt existing systems to their own purposes. Within non-tactile systems, visual feedback mechanisms can support this process by providing explicit visual cues that compensate for the absence of haptic or tangible feedback. Experience gained through prototyping and performance can yield a deeper understanding of the broader nature of gestural control and the way in which performers inhabit their own bodies.