What if scores could be touched and felt instead of only read? We’ve just come from a deep, far-ranging discussion with artist Enrique Tomás, a researcher at the Interface Culture Lab in Linz. It’s part of Enrique’s residency with CTM Festival and ENCAC – European network for contemporary av creation, who also support some of our work. And it’s presented as part of another of our MusicMakers hacklabs at CTM Festival. It’s worth sharing some thoughts already.

One of his more compelling illustrations of this was his PhD project, tangible scores:

Credits: Enrique Tomás – PhD at Interface Culture Lab – Kunstuniversität Linz
Supervised by Prof. Martin Kaltenbrunner
November 2013
A “Tangible Score” is a tactile interface for musical expression that incorporates a score in its physical shape, surface structure or spatial configuration.
Using sound as a continuous input signal, both synthesis and control are available simultaneously through direct manipulation on the engraved patterns of the physical score.
Every interface is conceived from a different graphical score that still represents a musical idea but it has been also specially designed for providing a diverse palette of acoustic signals when touched. But more important, the tactile scores define and propose specific gestural behaviors due to the different affordances and constraints of the object in front.
Sound is generated through a polyphonic concatenative synthesis driven by a real-time analysis and classification of input signal spectra. Each of the scores is loaded with a specific sound corpus that defines its sonic identity.
Thus, “Tangible Score” provides a implicit visual and haptic feedback in addition to its sonic core functionality, making it intuitive and learnable but as well suitable as an interface for musical improvisation and sonic exploration.

Project page

There’s also a version of his talk from IRCAM; we’ll be sharing some more investigation here on CDM soon, I hope (and have audio of the Berlin session).


But some stand-out issues from me were his thoughts on rethinking representation in musical interfaces, and returning to the body as the integral part of expression and thought itself. (That included examples from the likes of choreographer William Forsythe – bringing us full circle to some other CDM connections, as Forsythe’s work has been deeply involved in investigations of dance and technology and embodiment work in that field. Oh – plus we all have bodies. So there’s that.)

It also says a lot about the fundamentals of performance interactions – whether you’re just practicing your finger drumming on pads or building an entirely new interface. It says that part of what we’re doing is exploring our thoughts and emotions through our body – and that challenge requires new collaborations, new experimentation, and very often modifying or constructing new interfaces and techniques. That cuts to the heart of why we’re here in Berlin for another hacklab.

If you have projects you’d like us to see, or questions you’re pondering, do share. And thanks to our hosts at CTM Festival and Native Instruments as we venture into unexplored territory yet again. (Come visit us if you’re in town.)

Finally, some of Enrique’s music — which lately has been turning radios into instruments:

In this album, Enrique Tomás appropiates of SDR devices (Software Defined Radios) and makes them use as electronic music instruments. Through the active exploration of the radio spectrum (1MHz – 3GHz) at various european locations, Tomás builds artificial soundscapes with extreme ranges of frequencies and amplitudes.
Originally composed for a multichannel setup, here we offer you the stereo version.

Original recordings take in Linz, Madrid and Cambridge (UK).
Mixed and mastered in Linz at Berisha´s Studios.
First Performed: Salzamt Linz (pre-release) and STWST Linz (release)

Recording released in October 2016.
All rights reserved – Enrique Tomás
released October 18, 2016