Food & Paper: What is an instrument? Some reflections on digital musicking (Jensenius)

Professor in music technology Alexander Refsum Jensenius will give a talk on musical instruments.

Alexander Refsum Jensenius playing on some new interfaces for musical expression.

Alexander Refsum Jensenius playing on some new interfaces for musical expression (Photo: Ketil Blom Haugstulen/Khrono)


What is an instrument in our increasingly electrified world? In this talk I will present a set of theoretical building blocks from my forthcoming book on "musicking in an electronic world". At the core of the argument is the observation that the introduction of new music technologies has led to an increased separation between action and sound in musical performance. This has happened gradually, with pianos and organs being important early examples of instruments that introduced mechanical components between the performer and resonating objects. Today's network-based instruments represent an extreme case of a spatiotemporal dislocation between action and sound. They challenge our ideas of what an instrument can be, who can perform on them, and how they should be analyzed. In the lecture I will explain how we can use the concepts of action-sound couplings and mappings to structure our thinking about such instruments. This will be used at the heart of a new organology that embraces the qualities of both acoustic and electroacoustic instruments.


Alexander Refsum Jensenius is a music researcher and research musician. His research focuses on why music makes us move, which he explores through empirical studies using different types of motion sensing technologies. He also uses the analytic knowledge and tools in the creation of new music, with both traditional and very untraditional instruments.

Published May 11, 2020 9:30 AM - Last modified May 11, 2020 9:30 AM