Papers and workshop at NIME 2020

I have a few contributions accepted for the upcoming NIME 2020, congratulations to all my co-authors! The conference is moving online due to the circumstances, but I am sure that the creativity and the dedication of the organisers and of all members of our community are going to make it a memorable experience!

A NIME Of The Times: Developing an Outward-Looking Political Agenda For This Community
Fabio Morreale, Astrid Bin, Andrew McPherson, Paul Stapleton, Marcelo Wanderley
Download the paper here.

So far, NIME research has been mostly inward-looking, dedicated to divulging and studying our own work and having limited engagement with trends outside our community. Though musical instruments as cultural artefacts are inherently political, we have so far not sufficiently engaged with confronting these themes in our own research. In this paper, we explore the recent trend in music technology of “democratising music”, which carries implicit political ideologies grounded in techno-solutionism. We argue that we should consider how our work is also political, and begin to develop a clear political agenda that includes social, ethical, and cultural considerations through which to consider not only our own musical instruments, but also those not created by us. Failing to do so would result in an unintentional but tacit acceptance and support of such ideologies. We conclude with a number of recommendations for stimulating community-wide discussion on these themes in the hope that this leads to the development of an outward-facing perspective that fully engages with political topics.

Design for Auditory Imagery: Altering Instruments to Explore Performer Fluency
Andrea Guidi, Fabio Morreale, Andrew McPherson
Download the paper here.

In NIME design, thorough attention has been devoted to feedback modalities, including auditory, visual and haptic feedback. How the performer executes the gestures to achieve a sound on an instrument, by contrast, appears to be less examined. Previous research showed that auditory imagery, or the ability to hear or recreate sounds in the mind even when no audible sound is present, is essential to the sensorimotor control involved in playing an instrument. In this paper, we enquire whether auditory imagery can also help to support skill transfer between musical instruments resulting in possible implications for new instrument design. To answer this question, we performed two experimental studies on pitch accuracy and fluency where professional violinists were asked to play a modified violin. Results showed altered or even possibly irrelevant auditory feedback on a modified violin does not appear to be a significant impediment to performance. However, performers need to have coherent imagery of what they want to do, and the sonic outcome needs to be coupled to the motor program to achieve it. This finding shows that the design lens should be shifted from a direct feedback model of instrumental playing toward a model where imagery guides the playing process. This result is in agreement with recent research on skilled sensorimotor control that highlights the value of feedforward anticipation in embodied musical performance. It is also of primary importance for the design of new instruments: new sounds that cannot easily be imagined and that are not coupled to a motor program are not likely to be easily performed on the instrument.

Critical Perspectives on AI/ML in Musical interfaces
Charles Martin, Fabio Morreale, Benedikte Wallace, Hugo Scurto
Workshop organisation

The use of machine learning and AI in everyday applications has taken off in recent years. Now, you can buy a refrigerator with “AI”, but, despite much media interest in “AI composers”, not a musical instrument (or perhaps, not a good one). This workshop seeks to develop a community of NIME researchers and practitioners to analyse the roles that computational intelligence already plays in music technology and where it may play a role in future. (further information soon…)