Blanc SHS 3 - Blanc - SHS 3 - Cultures, arts, civilisations

Musical Gesture: Models and Experiences – GEMME





Submission summary

During the first decade of the 21st century, gesture became for the general public (especially through several well-known video games) as well as within the music community the preferred way for controlling technologies. While for the past 50 years musical writing has decomposed and rebuilt the body of the musician-performer, a particularly strong interdisciplinary convergence on this research subject is to be noted for the past 10 years. The intelligence of the body, the knowledge of how it works, human/machine interface in the context of performance arts, the musical understanding and exploitation of non-verbal expressive gestures rally composers, performers and computer scientists. In live performances, engineering sciences, psychology, physiology, biomechanics and cognitive sciences, capture and analysis of musical gesture gather together with gesture control and sound synthesis. However, this idea of "gesture", commonly used in a number of other domains, particularly performance arts (e.g. theater, dance, perfomrance) where its usage has been widespread for a long time, ha only scarcely been the subject of studies in musicology.

In this contexte, GEMME (Musical Gesture: Models and experiences) aims at carrying out a strict analysis of theoretical texts and musical works as well as their performance and reception. To grasp the idea of gesture from a musicological point of view, to graps consequently the relationship between music and gesture, presumes of a broader concept of the work, of its structures, of its writing, even of its style, a concept in the direction of an empirical musicology attentive to the production as much as to the performance. What theoretical possibilites and techniques are available to composers in order to formalize gestures? What gestural procedures can they test on paper and during the actual achievement of the work? What means of communicating the gestural information are being created, not only in the collaborative work of composers and performers, but also when teaching performance? These are some of the question that are addressed by this reserch program.

GEMME will therefore center around four major axes: 1. 'Tacit theories of gestures' aims at delineating the genealogy of the concept of gestures in avant-garde music from the 50s to current aesthetical trends. 2. 'Gesture and stage' will study Mauricio Kagel's music theater as it links musical idea and performative instrument playing within concert situations. 3. Contrastingly, 'Gesture and instrumental playing techniques' will focus upon Helmut Lachenmann's "instrumental concrète music" which articulates both a micro-analysis of organological possibilites and a social critique of german politics. 4. Finally 'Gesture and Technology' will provide a series of case studies: music analyses of major works from Time and Motion Study II by Brian Ferneyhough (1976) to Luna Park by Georges Aperghis (2011), displaying the wide range of creative uses of technology in order to formalize and transform musical gesture. An shared computer application will be specially developed to provide each participant tools for digitizing, analyze and disseminate his data (texts, scores, sounds, video recordings, images, etc.)

Project coordination

Nicolas DONIN (Institut de Recherche et de Coordination Acoustique/Musique)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


UNS Université de Nice - Sophia Antipolis / CTEL
IRCAM Institut de Recherche et de Coordination Acoustique/Musique

Help of the ANR 260,000 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: October 2012 - 36 Months

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