For all the interfaces that involve turning knobs or waving your hands in the air, artist Marco Donnarumma wanted to go deeper. His work pulses with his flesh, listening deep inside muscles for every slight impulse. And in Marco’s hands, it seems the air itself can be molded into sound – not with ethereal hand flapping, but as though the ether itself is made of dense clay.
It’s been nearly two years since we spoke with Marco about his work, and the wwirord he coined for this kind of art: “biophysical music.”
In that time, he’s been on the road endlessly, touring his performances and teaching anyone who will listen about the techniques behind it. His interfaces are portable, simple, and cost just a few dollars, backed by free software, so they’ve spread along with his workshops as he trots around the globe, Johnny Appleseed style.
Equally important, though, for a man-cyborg who uses muscle interfaces to make music, Marco has evolved alongside his machines. The latest video is evolved musically, and Marco melds dance theater ritual with the musical work that has grown more rigorous and mesmerizing.
Marco describes his latest creation as “incarnated sound sculpture” – he is, in other words, the sculpture. Befitting his angular, extended gestures, he has dedicated the work to sculptor Alberto Giacometti and his lanky, stylized men.
(Xth Sense Biosensing Wearable Technology)
Similarly to a mime, I model malleable sonic matter produced by my body. By using the wearable biotech instrument “Xth Sense”, the bioacoustic sound of muscle contractions is amplified, digitally processed, and played back through eight loudspeakers and subwoofers. The natural sound of my muscles and its virtual counterpart blend together into an unstable sonic object.
This oscillates between a state of high density and one of violent release. As the listeners imagine the object’s shape by following the gesture, the sonic stimuli induce a perceptual coupling. The listeners see through sound the sculpture which their sight cannot perceive.
In other work by the artist, a visitor can experience their inner biology, mirrored to them in sound:
Nigredo is a private 8 minute artwork to be experienced by one visitor at a time. Awarded 2nd Prize in the TransitioMX, International New Media Art Competition, Mexico, 2013.
The work repurposes biofeedback methods and custom wearable bioacoustic technology to investigate how perceptual deprivation can affect the aware distinction between self and not-self.
The visitor’s heart and blood pulsation sounds are sampled and manipulated to produce new stimuli. These are intense surround audio, high power vibration induced through skull and bones, and pulsating light that are fed back to the visitor’s body. Typical effects are blurred vision, loss of equilibrium, and a sense of falling or being touched, amongst others.
The work is completely safe, although it might not be suitable for all kind of audiences.
Developed during an artistic residency at STEIM, Studio for Electro Instrumental Music, Amsterdam, NL.
Concept, composition, realisation, sensing technology: Marco Donnarumma
Hardware engineering and artistic support: Marije Baalman
Tech support: Lucas Norer
Visitors’ assistant: Ida Toft
Videography: Tanja Busking
See also, in a larger stage ensemble, the dance/multimedia work [radical] Signs of Life
Xth Sense, says Marco, has big plans in store, setting up shop in New York City and soon to unveil two wireless versions. The project is a partnership between Marco and Heidi Boisvert, Future Perfect Lab. We’ll have that news, of course.
Wireless prototype photos:
In the meantime, you can find out and order his kit now. And if you haven’t been to the CDM Forums lately, our rebuild of that system means you can far more easily chat with Marco and others interested in experimenting with the tech: