Thesis Info

Thesis Title
Effortful Interaction: A New Paradigm for the Design of Digital Musical Instruments
Nicholas Ward
2nd Author
3rd Author
Number of Pages
Queen's University Belfast
Thesis Supervisor
Dr. Gascia Ouzounian
Supervisor e-mail
Other Supervisor(s)
Dr. Sile O’Modhrain
Language(s) of Thesis
Department / Discipline
Sonic Arts
Languages Familiar to Author
URL where full thesis can be found
Digital Instrument design, human movement, design methodology
Abstract: 200-500 words
Human movement is central to instrumental musical performance. Beyond the ap- parent connection between sound-producing actions and the sounds themselves, move- ment can communicate emotion, musical intention and structure. In designing an acoustic instrument, the requirements to support the vibration and manipulation of strings or membranes constrain the possibilities for action that facilitate performance. In Digital Musical Instrument (DMI) design, however, no specific physical require- ments for movements exist. Electronic sound production and sensing systems expand the possibilities for performance movement far beyond that typically associated with acoustic instruments. This is indicated by the DMI design community’s focus on sound synthesis and sound-gesture mapping; little attention is given to movement qualities of the performance interaction. This thesis seeks to redress this imbalance, by developing and testing a coherent method for installing bodily movement in DMI designs. Upon considering existing frameworks for description of human movement, both generally and in musical performance specifically, Laban Movement Analysis (LMA) was identified as a suitable method for exploring and designing for movement. Laban’s theory of Effort was selected to observe and analyse existing Theremin performances, and, from this analysis, tested in a novel DMI, the Damper. Following this, further re-iterations of LMA observation and analysis were carried out to strengthen this de- scriptive method. From these initial studies, and existing design theory, a formal movement-based iiiDMI design process was constructed, and implemented in the design of another novel DMI interface, the Twister. This interface was designed to the specific quality of movement, Carving, as defined by LMA. An observational analysis showed that naïve users did respond to the device with the intended movement qualities. This thesis therefore provides a procedural framework with which to design for movement in DMIs, and initial testing indicates that it is indeed possible to design DMI interfaces that invite desired movement qualities.