Res, a matter.

Essence of a car by Andy Melton on Flickr

Here it comes, it’s that moment when you have to write your PhD thesis in less than 300 words. You know, it’s one of those awkward yet incredibly helpful challenges that, as a PhD candidate, you better face sometime sooner than later.

You want your research to be understood by anybody with any background in the shortest amount of time possible (I’m talking about seconds here), and you want them to understand it in detail. You want that the exact meaning of each (precious) term you use is enforced by the context you provide. You want to express clearly what is your concern or subject matter and how you will go about it, and that’s all; you don’t want to mention anything you won’t do. You want to preempt any question that may arise in the mind of your readers. You want those readers not to feel the need to check their Facebook timeline for at least a couple of minutes after reading your abstract because they are actually still thinking about what you wrote. Be clear, rigorous, engaging and a little visionary.

As we all know, any advice is more easily suggested than put into practice, you will be my proofreader. So, after two years of research, here it goes. On a second attempt I made it at 247 words.

“The subject of the research is the human body in the live performance of electronic music. By using notions selected from the field of body theory, I discuss the practice of established performers in the field. I look at how they combined human bodies and technological ones and what aesthetic and technical results their practice has led to. In so doing, I develop an argument for the importance to elaborate a model of human-machine interaction that goes beyond a notion of control. A model where the performer’s physical engagement with the instrument is paramount and the relation between the performer and the instrument is one of mutual dependence.

In order to build such a model, I use an interdisciplinary methodology which investigates the physiological and physical qualities of a perfomer’s motion. Namely, I look at the ways in which those qualities can affect the functioning of a digital musical instrument, and vice versa, how the functioning of a digital musical instrument can affect the physiological and physical qualities of a performer’s motion. This theoretical and technical knowledge will be used to develop performances to be exhibited publicly and evaluated through peer-review, so as to feed back into the research process.

This work, it is hoped, will contribute a methodology and a set of computational tools, which on one hand, produce novel ways to understand and design musical expression with body technologies, and on the other, encourage performance practices where human and technological bodies complement each other’s capabilities.”

The core research questions are:

Q1: Can notions from body theory inform the design of digital musical instruments?
Q2: If so, does the performance of live electronic music change and how?
Q3: Can physiological sensing provide an entry point to a performance model that goes beyond control?

If you have comments, please don’t hesitate to write me, I’m eager to discuss things and thoughts.