[May 19-20] The Xth Sense – Making Your Own Biophysical Sensor


The workshop offers an hands-on experience and both theoretical and practical training in gestural control of music and live video, deploying the Xth Sense (XS), a brand-new, biophysical, free and open technology. The XS was recently awarded the first prize in the Margaret Guthman Musical Instrument Competition (Georgia Tech, US 2012) as the “world’s most innovative new musical instrument”. Participants build their own XS biosensor and learn how to generate interactive music and control live videos using the muscle sounds of their bodies.

The Xth Sense – Making Your Own Biophysical Sensor

Marco Donnarumma / Atau Tanaka
Sat/Sun, May 19 + 20, noon to 6pm
Cost: Regular: $280, Members & Students (with ID): $250 (+ $40 Materials Cost)
Please bring the $40 for the materials cost in cash to the workshop!
The workshop is limited to 10 people.
Pay with PayPal or Credit Card

Harvestworks – www.harvestworks.org
596 Broadway, #602 | New York, NY 10012 | Phone: 212-431-1130
Subway: F/M/D/B Broadway/Lafayette, R Prince, 6 Bleeker

Pay with PayPal or Credit Card

Member/Student $250.00 USD

Developed by the workshop teacher Marco Donnarumma within a research project at The University of Edinburgh, XS is a framework for the application of muscle sounds to the biophysical generation and control of music. It consists of a low cost, DIY biosensing wearable device and an Open Source based software for capture, analysis and audio processing of biological sounds of the body (Pure Data-based).

The workshop is limited to 10 people. Participants will be free to keep the XS biosensors they built, and the related software for their own use.

Muscle sounds are captured in real time and used both as sonic source material and control values for audio and video, enabling the performer to control the computer simply with his body and kinetic energy. Forget your mice, MIDI controllers, you will not even need to look at your laptop anymore.

The XS biosensor was designed to be easily implemented by anyone, no previous experience in electronics is required. The applications of the Xth Sense technology are manifold: from complex gestural control of audio and video sampling and synthesis, through biophysical generation of music and sounds, to kinetic control of real time digital processing of traditional musical instruments, control of external vjing software and more.


Firstly, participants will be introduced to the XS Technology by its author and led through the assembling of their own biophysical wearable hardware using the materials provided. Next, they will become proficient with the XS software framework: all the features of the framework will be unleashed through practical exercises.

Theoretical background on the state of art of gestural control will be developed by means of an audiovisual review and participatory critical analysis of relevant projects selected by the instructor. Eventually, participants will combine hardware and software to learn how to master the XS system in a performative context. At the end of the workshop, participants will be free to keep the XS biosensors they built, and the related software for their own use.

Participants need to provide their own headphones, external soundcards and laptops with Pd-extended 0.42.5 already installed. Free download is available at http://puredata.info/community/projects/software/pd-extended.
We will work either on Linux or Mac OSX (system have to be 10.6 or newer. If you don’t have access to none of them, please download a live distribution of Pure:Dyne at: http://puredyne.org/index.html Musicians interested in augmenting their favourite musical instrument by means of body gestures are encouraged to bring their instrument along.
More information about the XS and a video of a live performance can be viewed on-line at:
http://marcodonnarumma.com/works/xth-sense/ http://marcodonnarumma.com/works/music-for-flesh-ii/ http://marcodonnarumma.com/works/hypo-chrysos/


Saturday: ..-.. (6h)
Introduction to the Xth Sense (XS) technology – 30minutes
• Capabilities and scope of the framework
• Technical overview
• Understanding different musical and performance outcomes
Building your own XS biosensor – 2.30h
• Cut, solder and make your own XS wearable sensor
Using the XS Digital Signal Processing system (Pure Data-based) – 3h
• The Pd language
• Pd tips & tricks for live performances
• XS software: learning how to use the graphical interface
• Plug yourself in and make some noise!

Sunday: ..-.. (6h)
Using the biosensors to communicate with the DSP application – 2h
• Exploring muscle sounds design capabilities
• XS software: playing around with audio modules and DSP chains
• XS software: storing and recalling global preset scenes
Some thinking – 1h
• Aesthetic insights on bodily musical performance
• Reviewing audiovisual documentation of relevant performance projects
• Open discussion
Mapping and control – 1h
• Mapping kinetic energy to control values
• Controlling real time processing of traditional instruments with gestures and kinetic energy
Creating a performance – 2h
• Designing your sonic vocabulary
• Establishing data mapping definitions
• Planning the structure of a performance


New media and sonic artist, performer and teacher, Marco Donnarumma was born in Italy and is based in Edinburgh, UK.

Motivated by the principles of post-modernism and open source philosophy, his works augment human body and its real/virtual environment so to question, reposition and extend relation models between Man and machine. Weaving a thread around biophysical systems, musical and theatrical performance, participatory practices and subversive coding, he looks at the collision of critical creativity with humanized technologies.

Marco has performed and spoken in 28 countries including USA and South America, Europe, India, China, South Korea and Australia. His works have been shown at leading art events (Venice Biennale, WRO Biennale), specialized festivals (Némo, Mapping, Piksel, Re-New, Laboral, EMAF, Visionsonic, Carnival of e-Creativity) and major academic conferences (ICMC, Pure Data Convention, Linux Audio Conference, SICMF). His projects have been reviewed on Wired, We Make Money Not Art, Rhizome, Weave, Turbulence.org. Most recently, he appeared in the book “New Art/Science Affinities” (CMU and Studio for Creative Enquiry, US) along with other 60 selected international creators. Marco has been artist in residence at Inspace (UK) and the National School of Theatre and Contemporary Dance (DK). His work has been funded by the European Commission, Creative Scotland and the Danish Arts Council.
First prize at the Margaret Guthman New Musical Instrument Competition 2012 (Georgia Tech, US). Nominated for the Screengrab New Media Award (AUS) and first prize at BLM International Electroacoustic Music Competition (IT).

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