Performing bodies, sounds and machines

DEV | Marco Donnarumma | sound art and performance art, human body and biotechnology


Marco Donnarumma Sound Art Performance and Technology0-Infinity at TodaysArt Festival, NL, 2015. Photo: Fanny Fazakas.

Biophysical Music

This is a term originally coined by Marco Donnarumma in 2011 in various writings and mailing list conversations. With this term, one refers to live music pieces based on a combination of physiological technology and markedly physical or gestural performance. In these kinds of works, the physical and physiological properties of the performers’ bodies are interlaced with the material and computational qualities of the electronic instruments, with varying degrees of mutual influence. Musical expression thus arises from an intimate and, often, not fully predictable negotiation of human bodies, instruments and programmatic musical ideas.

Initially, the term indicated the particular use of body technologies that characterised Donnarumma’s own performances. In the past years, the term “biophysical music” and, consequently, the term “biophysical media” have been adopted by other art practitioners, curators and academics to describe their own approach to performance, music and technology. Today, the term has distanced itself from Donnarumma’s specific practice and has become a term of reference for a whole field of practice that did not fit previous terminology and discourses.

Useful reads

Biophysical Music, Sound and Video Anthology
Computer Music Journal, 39:4, MIT Press, 2015

Incarnated Sound in Music for Flesh II. Defining Gesture in Biologically Informed Musical Performance
Leonardo Electronic Almanac, 18:3, Leonardo and MIT Press, 2012

Xth Sense: A Study of Muscle Sounds for an Experimental Paradigm of Musical Performance
Proceedings of the International Computer Music Conference (ICMC), Huddersfield, 2011