PhD Studentship: the human body as nexus for performing arts and medicine

The proposed project will investigate, through practice-based research, the reciprocal relationship between the life sciences/medicine and contemporary visual/performing arts as it is constructed, perceived, negotiated or performed at the nexus of physical and conceptual human bodies.

At the heart of the project will be innovative forms of interdisciplinary (possibly collaborative) research, where the body in its’ real or imagined state – from cell sample to living patient or cadaver – is the central focus. The project will negotiate the creative possibilities of the intersection between activities and persons in different fields. Practice-based research, which utilises the participatory, interactive approach theorised, as ‘relational aesthetics’ by Bourriaud may be most relevant here, though no particular media is prescribed.

Research proposals with collaborators/collaborating institutions in place are welcomed, or can be built as part of the project. Every effort will be made to facilitate relationships with appropriate Departments across the University and beyond, utilising the networks of the supervisory team.

The research will be situated within emergent Fine Art research group ‘The Cultural Negotiation of Science’ which includes staff working with experts in Fundamental and Biomedical Science, Genetics and Physical Geography, whose common concerns include the foregrounding of practice and performativity across the disciplines, challenging the instrumentalisation of art in cross-disciplinary collaboration, and exploring the perceived ethical ‘values’ guiding both art and science.

The wider contemporary visual art context includes the existing field of art/science collaboration, which the project should aim to extend/challenge.
Relevant also are cross-disciplinary networks in Arts & Health, the second wave of “Critical Medical Humanities”, the interdisciplinary fields of Death Studies and Collections – based research.

The researcher will benefit from a base amongst the Fine Art, Post Graduate community at BALTIC 39 ( established through the partnership between Northumbria University and the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art.

Enquiries regarding this studentship should be made to:

Applicants should hold a first or upper second class honours degree (in a relevant subject) from a British higher education institution, or equivalent. Students who are not UK/EU residents are eligible to apply, provided they hold the relevant academic qualifications, together with an IELTS score of at least 6.5.

To apply, contact Andrea Percival to request the appropriate application form, quoting the advert reference above, via email to or by using the application link on this page.

Deadline for applications: 14 April 2014
Start Date: 7 October 2014

More info at

Listening to traffic with guts and antennae

Soundwalking Interactions

“Listening to traffic with guts and antennae” is a paper that I presented at the symposium Resonant Bodies: Landscapes of Acoustic Tension, held at the International Cultural Institute in Berlin, Germany in June 2013, and organized by Zeynep Bulut and Brandon LaBelle. It accompanies the piece Spectral Traffic, which can be found on the andrasound channel of youtube.


“Listening to traffic with guts and antennae” est le titre d’une communication donnée dans le cadre du symposium “Resonant Bodies: Landscape of Acoustic Tension” à l’International Cultural Institute de Berlin en juin 2013. Ce symposium était organisé par Zeynep Bulut et Brandon LaBelle. Cette présentation est accompagnée par la pièce Spectral Traffic, qu’on peut retrouver sur ma châine youTube.

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new videos: Metabody on TVE2 and my talk in Madrid

Fresh from Metabody Madrid . . .

steven r. hammer

This summer, I participated in the Metabody project in Madrid, presenting my own research, collaborating with some outstanding international artists and thinkers, and learning so much from so many.

Earlier today, the Spanish television station TVE2 featured the Metabody project in the program “La Aventura del Saber.”

Watch it here.

You can also watch a number of presentations and performances from the conference here.

Finally, you can watch my presentation @ Metabody below:::::

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[Event] TEI’13

Seventh International Conference on
Tangible, Embedded and Embodied Interaction
February 10-13, 2013. Barcelona, Spain
Papers, performances and workshops.


Norbert Schnell & Frederic Bevilacqua: Body and Sound – Tangible Interfaces in Music Listening and Performance

Monday, February 11th

The recent availability of both affordable motion capture technology and mobile platforms, allows for creating a new generation of musical instruments and interactive audio applications. These systems are currently redefining the boundaries between music listening and music performance. On one hand, new devices and applications, enable music listening as an active participation in musical interpretation and composition. On the other hand, new digital musical instruments integrate notions of perception, generativity, and collaboration, questioning the performance practices and functions of traditional instruments.

In this context, the design of novel instruments and interactive audio applications becomes the exploration of infinite possibilities to create relationships between bodily action, physical objects, sound, and musical structures.

Design, here may relay on existing – musical and extra-musical – metaphors and bodily knowledge as well as on abstract concepts and topologies.

The musical interaction scenarios and playing techniques that we have developed over the past years involve everyday objects and games as well as free gestures that have been created by listeners in response to sound and music. Our presentation will include numerous examples, such as the MO, Modular Musical Objects, and Urban Musical Game featuring playful collaborative interaction scenarios.

Bill Verplanck: Metaphors, Haptics and Celebration

Closing keynote on Wednesday, February 13th

I will discuss METAPHORS for interaction and how HAPTICS is involved. Reflecting on Monday’s TEI Student Design Challenge I will review what a CELEBRATION of tangibility might be.

More info here.

Sounding Out!

PercussiveThoughts is giving me a facial. The voice tells me about the “little scrubbies” in the exfoliant, and I begin to hear their delicate sibilance on my temples. If I’m lucky, a pleasurable, tingling sensation might begin somewhere on the back of my head and travel down my spine, turning my facial into something closer to a massage. The sole caveat is that I’m not really being touched at all.

This is ASMR, “Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response,” a pseudo-medical designation whose native soil is YouTube. The term pulls together a range of physiological and affective states: goosebumps, chills, relaxation, melting, tingles, and so forth. PercussiveThoughts and her fellow vloggers (I call them “Whisperers” here and explain why below) aim to trigger these frissons through a cornucopia of techniques. Sound is paramount; Whisperers scratch rough surfaces with their fingernails and percuss everyday objects with fingertip drum-rolls. And, of course, they whisper…

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Biblioblography #2

Confession #1: I’m fascinated by developments in digital humanities. From database projects (such as MuseData or DIAMM) to tools for searching and analysing the material held in them (such as Music21, for example). I love crowd-sourced and citizen science, although – Confession #2 – I’m much more interested in than the more obviously humanistic Ancient Lives project. But I think one of the simplest pleasures offered by digital humanities (very broadly conceived) is to connect with, and share discussions with, other researchers without being in the same physical space. This is particularly important to me now that I’ve finished my PhD and I’m no longer based on a university campus.*

With all this in mind (not that we have any of those pesky mind/body dualisms over here at bodies|sounds|technologies, of course) I have migrated the b|s|t bibliography over to Zotero. The CiteULike page will stay, but I won’t be updating it. I hope that the new Zotero group will double as a discussion forum, as well as allowing members to add to the pool of reference materials (you’re more than welcome to cite your own research, btw). As I’m still figuring out the finer points of how it all works, feel free to email me if you discover that the group settings somehow stop you from joining in.


* Confession #3: I work in a university but not, at present, in a research role. I love my job, but sadly it’s in a very small university that doesn’t have a music department.

Remote Encounters: Programme Announced

The programme for April’s Remote Encounters conference has just been announced. With paper sessions on embodiment and identity in networked performances, augmented and mediated bodies, and performances themed around ‘impossible bodies’, there should be plenty for us body-technology-musicologists (body-sound-technologists? techno-sono-somatists?) to get our teeth into. That said, I’m not sure I can make it due to a prior committment on those dates . . . telepresence is somewhat more difficult outside of the black box. Go for me. Please send postcards.

Sounding Out!

Editor’s Note: July 18th, 2012  has been designated as World Listening Day by the World Listening Project, a nonprofit organization founded in 2008 “devoted to understanding the world and its natural environment, societies and cultures through the practices of listening and field recording.”  World Listening Day is a time to think about the impacts we have on our auditory environments and, in turn, its affects on us.  This year, Sounding Out! has decided to observe World Listening Day by planning a month-long special forum of posts exploring several different facets of listening such today’s offering by SO!‘s Multimedia Editor Aaron Trammell on listening’s relationship to the body and next week’s discussion by novelist Bridget Hoida on the impact of listening on her writing process.  We will also explore questions that we need to remember when we celebrate listening as a cultural, embodied act.  What happens when listening is interrupted?…

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Sounding Out!

In the two weeks prior to my drafting this piece, the world lost Adam “MCA” Yauch, Robin GibbDonna Summer, and Chuck Brown.  In their wake they leave a profound legacy of music, yes, but of dance music particularly. MCA declared your right to party while demonstrating that white MCs aren’t always gimmicks.  The BeeGees gave you a new strut courtesy of the bounce-funky soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever.  The goddess Donna Summer seduced your ears with her orgasmic whispers, then pumped up the pulsating synthetic beats that brought the discotech from its urban centers directly to you.  And go-go’s blaze, though not as far-reaching as disco’s, grew out of Chuck Brown’s musical sensibility, and burned deep in the hearts of Chocolate City natives.  For all of these artists, moving to the music isn’t merely a possibility or inclination, but a deeply irresistible impulse. …

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Studio at Dartington College of Arts

What I learnt at school . . .

Studio at Dartington College of Arts

This post is a bit off topic, but I wanted to respond to an article in today’s Guardian about the skills gained through doing a music degree. I was left wondering whether the (anonymous) author had studied music, or had bothered to speak to people who had. S/he lists the following marketable points of a musical education:

What will look good on the CV?
· The ability to express, interpret and discuss arguments and hypotheses
· Awareness of spiritual and emotional dimensions
· Financial and business awareness, and entrepreneurship.

Short list, isn’t it? One of the reasons why this feature annoyed me so much is because it reduced my own (complex, sometimes difficult and frustrating, but ultimately worthwhile) learning experience into three bullet points. Three bullet points that promote a narrow, rather stereotyped view of music education. I studied music at Dartington College of Arts* between 2001 and 2005. I’ve done various kinds of work since then, musical and otherwise.  My music degree has proved to be an invaluable preparation for almost all of these roles and for life in general. While I don’t support a view of higher education that sees it as little more than a tool for getting a job, Dartington, for all its flaws, struck a good balance between the vocational/practical and learning for its own sake. I learned a lot.

In no particular order:

I learnt to organise and publicise events.

I learnt how to live and work within a small community (a process that featured a lot of learning from mistakes).

I learnt the importance of practice and persistence.

I learnt to listen (in different ways at different times, and I learnt to think about how I’m listening).

I learnt how to research.

I learnt communication skills that go beyond the written or verbal.

I learnt how to go about making work, and making money from it, if the job you want isn’t advertised in the Guardian recruitment section.

I learnt how to fill in health and safety forms.

I learnt to be resourceful.

I learnt to be analytical (in a range of ways, not just in the formal analysis of music).

I learnt how to liaise and negotiate with outside agencies.

I learnt about transferring or transcribing something from one medium to another, and to think about what is gained, lost or changed.

I learnt to do things differently.

I learnt to explore.

I learnt about the benefits and limits of technical languages, how to use them, and how not to use them.

I learnt to be self-reliant.

I learnt to work in a group.

I learnt to change my mind (and other people’s).

I learnt how to put fear and nervousness aside in order to stand up in front of an audience and play or speak.

I learnt how to explain my ideas to people who were studying different subjects.

I learnt to think outside the box. And inside the box. And to think about where the box was, who had put it there, and why. (I once did a performance in a box, but I guess that’s another story.)

I learnt to take insights from other disciplines and apply them to my own work.

I learnt to take insights from other disciplines and misuse them in creative ways.

I learnt about other cultures.

I learnt to critique and evaluate my own work and its relationship to the context within which it took place.

I learnt to be myself.

I learnt to play a part.

I learnt how little I know.

Sadly DCA no longer exists. I learnt – a little too late – the importance of standing up for what you believe in.

This is just my experience of doing a very particular course in a very particular place. There are as many different music degrees as there are universities offering them; nonetheless,  I think these courses, and their graduates, all have a bit more to offer than can be communicated by a brief entry in a university guide.

* I struggled to find a suitable link. The college’s old URL redirects to the website of University College Falmouth, the institution with which DCA merged in 2008. The Wikipedia page I eventually linked to contains a number of inaccuracies, but hopefully people will continue to improve it. I have added it to my own ‘to do’ list. What I recommend you do, if you want to read more about Dartington College of Arts (from a point of view even more biased and rose-tinted than mine!) is to type the old web address ( into the Wayback Machine.