Research profile of Alexander Refsum Jensenius
I am a music researcher and research musician. My scientific investigations inspire my art, and my artistic exploration leads to new research questions.
Alexander Refsum Jensenius (Photo:Ketil Blom Haugstulen/Khrono)
My main research activities are in the fields of music technology (with a particular focus on new instruments) and music cognition (emphasizing the role of the body in music performance and perception). I have also collaborated with researchers in physiotherapy and medicine, hence some of my publications are also in channels related to those fields.
My interdisciplinary research approach is based on a varied background, including undergraduate studies in musicology, music performance, mathematics, physics, informatics, and French language; and two master's degrees, one in music and one in applied informatics. This has led to my combination of theories and methods from the humanities, the natural and human sciences, practice-based technology development, and the performing arts.
- My main contribution within the field of music cognition, is a series of novel studies of peoples’ spontaneous movement to musical sound. This includes experiments on `air piano’ performance, free-dance to music, and sound-tracing to musical sound. My recent research on music-related micromotion has received considerable attention also outside academia due to the organization of the annual Championship of Standstill as a data collection strategy.
- My most cited work is on the theoretical development of the concept musical gesture. This includes a clarification of its relation to motion and action, as well as a classification of different types of music- related body motion and their relationships to musical sound.
- I have taken a lead in the development of music technology theory, which is underdeveloped when compared to the amount of engineering and practice-based exploration going on. This has resulted in several papers with meta-perspectives on music technology, and the anthology A NIME Reader, which is already on curricula around the world.
- Seeing the need for better methods and tools to study music-related body motion, I have developed several novel movement visualisation techniques: motiongrams, motion history keyframe displays, and mocapgrams. These techniques have been implemented (open source) in different programming environments, such as Max, PureData, EyesWeb, Matlab, and Python. The motiongram technique has also been extended to a sound generation tool through sonomotiongrams, which have been used in music analysis, music performance, and for sonification of architecture.
- In 2008 I started up the the fourMs lab with Prof. Rolf Inge Godøy, and we have developed this into a world-class facility, with a range of state-of-the-art motion capture systems, including optical infrared systems (Vicon, Qualisys, Optitrack) and inertial systems (Xsens, Delsys, AX3). My knowledge of methods and tools for studying music-related motion has been summarized in a book chapter, which is finding its way into curricula around the world.
- Some of my tools for for analysing music-related body motion have been implemented in Computer-based Infant Movement Assessment. This is a clinical tool to help with diagnostics of infants with cerebral palsy. My collaboration with Lars Adde and colleagues at St. Olav’s University Hospital, Trondheim, has resulted in several joint publications, and has been subject of a mini-documentary on national TV.
- I am always trying to use results from my scientific research in my artistic practice, and consequently also try to let my music performances influence my scientific questions. This has led to the development of a series of new instruments for musical expression based on ideas from embodied cognition, including Cheapstick, Music Troll, a series of Music Balls, muscle instruments, and self-playing guitars. My research into micromotion has also resulted in a series of music/dance performances based on the concept of sonic micro-interaction, that is, exploring the potential of unconscious/involuntary actions.
- I have throughout my entire academic career worked hard on providing my students with research-led education, and have experimented with a range of novel educational practices. Some of these have also led to research articles, such as the use of my action-sound theory in the development of the course MUS2830. In 2015 we launched the free online course Music Moves, summarizing all our research to date in an accessible format. The establishment of the novel master’s programme Music, Communication & Technology, a joint initiative between UiO and NTNU, is also part of my wish to unite research and education.