Socio-Cultural Role of Technology in

Digital Musical Interactions

14 November 2019 / OODI, Helsinki

There is no denying that in our times music practices have a core element of digital technologies. These technologies are shaping our relationships with music, which itself is inherently a socio-cultural activity, a source of intense experiences of cultural and mediated practices, supporting a diverse range of interactions and social or individual goals. Digital technologies have already enabled new possibilities of utilising new interfaces, new instruments and they are intersecting our lives with the ways we interact with them. In this symposium we question, what does our relationship with music and musical instruments look like today?

The symposium, Socio-Cultural Role of Technology in Digital Musical Interactions, will discuss critically our relationships with music and digital musical instruments, exploring how these new relationships build embodied behaviours, expectations, beliefs, interpretations and actions in various ways we practice and act on music through digital technologies. This symposium will bring together expert scholars, artists and practitioners from the musicology, music performance, new interfaces for musical expression, sound and music computing and postphenomenology studies. Participants (alphabetically by surname); Don Ihde, Stony Brook University, New York - Marc Leman, Ghent University - Thor Magnusson, University of Sussex - Tarja Rautiainen-Keskustalo, Tampere University - Taina Riikonen, Tampere University - Koray Tahiroğlu, Aalto University - Simon Waters, Queen's University Belfast / Orpheus Instituut, Gent

DATE: 14 November 2019
PLACE: Maijansali Auditorium, OODI, Töölönlahdenkatu 4, Helsinki


Opening Session



Ghent University

Musical homeostasis: a key concept for understanding human-technology interactions

In my talk I introduce the concept of musical homeostasis as a key concept for understanding human-technology interactions, such as between humans and their digital musical environments. A homeostasis is a particular state of interaction which a system, consisting of humans and digital technologies, can build up and maintain (for a while). I argue that musical homeostasis is an extra-ordinary interaction state, which humans are aiming at because it is a highly rewarding state-of-being, perhaps involving altered states of consciousness, and beneficial for a socio-cultural setting. In fact, an entire society and culture can be conceived as a homeostasis when seen from the viewpoint of a dynamic system. A musical homeostasis then forms part of that overall idea. In this talk, I go deeper into the study of musical homeostasis, which in my lab is based on (i) creation of interaction contexts, (ii) behavioural, neuroscientific and computational analysis, (iii) validation through applications in the arts, sports, and the medical sector. Examples are given, as well as a glimpse of the state-of-the-art in our results. It is argued that the study of human-technology interactions offers a very promising avenue for future interdisciplinary research.



Queen’s University Belfast / Orpheus Instituut, Gent

The Entanglements which make Instruments Musical: Looking back to move forwards

When I suggested (in 2007) that the notion of the performance ecosystem might be a useful manner of understanding the relations between performers, instruments and environments, I intended such ‘ecosystemic thought’ as a tool for understanding all musical activity in a situated, holistic manner; as if all performers were and always had been in complex feedback loops with their instruments and environments, and could best be understood in that way (following Suchman, in contexts of specific use), rather than being accounted for as separable parts of a system. Instruments therefore play a key role in a necessary assemblage. This presentation will suggest that many of the concerns of those involved in digital instrument making can be illuminated by being placed within a broad history of instrument use in which the ‘non-standard’ instrument can be seen to be commonplace. There is much to learn from old musical instruments, as these embody patterns of use, and ideologies of everything from acoustic fact to social cohesion, which often transcend (exceed) or ignore the conditions for which they might have initially been ‘designed’.



Tampere University

Liberating Sounds, Liberating bodies? - Mapping New Audio Cultures

The more digital our everyday life is, the more our body and materialities of the body are emphasized. Starting from this point of view, I focus in my talk on how the study of the daily interactions with digital music and sounds may allow us to re-think our perceptions of sounds and sensory lives. In tackling these questions, I will use the observations concerning the daily use of mobile devices among children and youth as an example. The mobile phone provides a particular kind of multimodal access to the world, including access to music. While many historical practices and cultural conventions of the Western popular culture (fandom, taste-cultures) have still an importance in the ‘mobile world’, the overall terrain where music is lived, consumed and produced is changing. Therefore, I will focus in my talk especially on how digital devices afford unique ways to experience and communicate through sounds in material and non-linear ways. By reflecting the approaches of material media studies and sound studies, I argue that these new audio cultures urge to recognize the historical orders, which regulate our daily interactions with the audio world.



Aalto University

Reciprocal Relationships with Digital Musical Instruments (DMIs)

The current development of tools and technologies associated with digital music practices provides a strong connection for our natural tendency to engage with music. The research in new interfaces for musical expression reflects these challenges, in which digital musical interactions form a complex reciprocal relationships between musicians - instruments - technology - audience - instrument designer - composer - environment, and they all interact and merge in its conception in what music performances indicate to communicate; thoughts, ideas, intentions, expectations, interpretations. The presentation will discuss further in what ways the nature of our current relationships with DMIs could be understood through insights positioned with technological conditions in digital music practices. The presentation will take into account how new technology influences digital music practices with DMIs and create a shared sense of features in forms, performance and experience of music.





Stony Brook University, New York

Postphenomenological Variations on player-instrument and listener-music relations

Beginning with the ICE AGES I will look at selected examples of player-instrument relations beginning with single strings (identical with hunting bows, earliest images,etc) and move to my focal instruments, digital synthesizers and other contemporary instruments, and describe changes in listening contexts.



University of Sussex

Transforming Instruments

The function and meaning of musical instruments change over time in the diverse musical cultures of the world. Digital musical technologies are primarily tools of Western musical culture. The question is asked about the cultural conditions of contemporary music technology and how the field has influenced music around the world. But first we need to understand how instruments establish themselves as part of culture, where they come from, how they move through history, and the way they manifest in practice in the digital age. This talk will trace the historical and techno-scientific conditions of musical instrument design in European history and explore its effect on wider global musical culture. The concept of ethno-organology will be introduced to explain the complexity of new music instrument design.



Tampere University

Digital Anthropology Meets Multi-Sensory Listening

In this talk I will discuss on listening to binaural recordings of Helsinki metro tunnels through the key concepts of digital anthropology. The digital is understood in this context as material culture, and also as a constitutive part of corporeality. By exploring the binaural recordings as conceptualised both as instrument and device for sensing the sonic environments, I argue that the acoustic epistemologies within the digital material culture will produce relevant knowledge on sensing and experiencing the changing environments.


Lunch Break


Panel Session

The panel disucssion will give speakers an opportunity to reflect on the emerging themes from the presentations as well as to audience to participate in the discussion with further comments and questions. Panel Moderator: Koray Tahiroğlu


Closing Session



This symposium is supported by the Academy of Finland (project 319946)