Reinventing the body in musical performance. From biosignals sonification to wetware
Session:Art and Science
Venue:Stockholm School of Economics, Soros Auditorium
Key words: biosignals-driven music, biophisical music, biomedical technology, biofeedback paradigm, biocontrol, bio interface, wetware, sound art.
The history of biosignals-driven music dates back to the 60-ties, however the past decade brought a significant increase of interest in such an art practice. As much as the technological and factographic depiction of bio-music seems relatively precise, there is a visible insufficiency of aesthetic and cultural reflection over the meaning of the „physiological turn“ in music. The point of this paper is an interpretation of the evolution of biosignals-driven music, as a manifestation of changes of the understanding of the body and the relationship between the body and technology in the new media art, reflected in concepts such as moist media, biomedia and wetware.
First I make a historical draft of bio-music pointing out to the significance of the biomedical technology development for its formal evolution. Further I present three approaches to the use of the bio- signals: biofeedback paradigm, which is a sonification of physiological signals, the concept of biocontrol where the biological signals are used to steer the production of sound, and a cognitive approach in which the emphasis is shifted from the instrumental usage of bio-signals to the exploration of the body as a complex expressive system – wetware. In the last part I move on to a critical analysis of these approaches, arguing that the differences between them are not only of a technological or formal kind. On the one hand they can be seen as separate aesthetic positions, and on the other as manifestations of the changing cultural forms of body conceptualization.