MusicLab vol.1: Biophysical Music

"Biophysical Music" is volume 1 of the new concept "MusicLab", a series of events exploring the science of music from different perspectives. The idea is to mix research and edutainment through hands-on workshops, intellectual warm-ups, performances and data jockeying.

Biophysical music is the control of musical sounds and parameters with the human body. On the 23rd of November, Marco Donnarumma, the distinguished artist-researcher and inventor of XTH Sense will run a workshop during the day and perform two of his muscle music pieces in the evening. After the gig we invite you to stay for a beer accompanied by data jockeying (live mixing of data recorded during the performance)!

The event is open to everybody and is relevant for students, researchers, musicians, dancers, artists, technicians and others who sometimes marvel at the phenomena of music and the human body. The concert is a small research experiment on its own, as data will be collected from both performers and a group of audience members. This means that just by attending you can contribute to research.


Time Content Location
10:15 Introduction to MusicLab Informatics library
10:30 Biophysical music workshop Informatics library
12:00 Lunch break Canteen
13:00 Workshop continues Informatics library
17:00 Dinner break Canteen
19:00 Intellectual warm-up Escape
19:30 Muscle Concert Escape
20:30 Data jockeying (live remix of concert data) Escape

BioPhysical Music Workshop

Workshop on the XTH Sense, an award-winning, free and open biophysical technology. Participants build their own low-cost, biophysical muscle sounds sensor, and experience an intensive training on bodily performance of music, live video and other media.

About XTH Sense

Developed by Marco Donnarumma, the the XTH Sense is a biophysical musical instrument enabling the creation of music through human bioacoustic sounds. It consists of a low-cost, DIY biowearable and an open source software to capture, analyse and process bioacoustic sounds from the human body. Muscle sounds are captured in real time and used as both a sound material to be composed live, and also as control values for sound effects. This enables a performer to play music simply with the kinetic energy of her body, effectively replacing the need for a mouse, a MIDI controller, or the need to monitor one’s own laptop.

The XTH Sense is designed to be easily implemented by anyone, hence no previous experience in electronics is required. The applications of the XTH Sense are manifold: from complex gestural control of samples and audio synthesis, through biophysical generation of music and sounds, to kinetic control of real-time digital processing of traditional musical instruments, to name a few.

About the workshop

First, participants are introduced to the XTH Sense by its author and led through the assembling of their own biowearable hardware using the materials provided. Next, they become proficient with the XTH Sense software by learning its features through practical exercises. They then develop a theoretical understanding of gestural control of music and new musical instruments through a participatory critical analysis of relevant projects, selected by the instructor. Eventually, participants combine hardware and software to implement a solo or group performance to be presented during a closing event. At the end of the class, participants are free to keep the XTH Sense they built, and the related software, for their own use.


  • Who can attend? The workshop is open to anyone passionate about sound and music. Musical background and education does not matter as long as you are ready to challenge your usual perspective on musical performance. Composers, producers, sound designers, musicians, field recordists are all welcome to join our team for an innovative and highly creative experience.
  • Prerequisites: No previous experience in electronics or programming required, participants should be familiar with digital music creation.
  • Sign up: There are only 16 seats, so sign up soon!
  • What to bring
    • Laptop, preferably with PD-extended installed
    • External sound card
    • Headphones

About Marco Donnarumma

Marco Donnarumma is an Italian performance artist, new media artist and scholar based in Berlin. His work addresses the relationship between body, politics and technology. He is widely known for his performances fusing sound, computation and biotechnology. Ritual, shock and entrainment are key elements to his aesthetics. Donnarumma is often associated with cyborg and posthuman artists and is acknowledged for his contribution to human-machine interfacing through the unconventional use of muscle sound and biofeedback. He is a Research Fellow at Berlin University of the Arts in collaboration with the Neurorobotics Research Lab at Beuth University of Applied Sciences Berlin.

Corpus Nil | Marco Donnarumma from Marco Donnarumma on Vimeo.


Intellectual warm-up

The phenomenon of biophysical music will be discussed from different perspectives by the experts: 

  • Marco Donnarumma - performance artist and scholar
  • Are Brean - neurologist and Editor in Chief, Journal of the Norwegian Medical Association, and Associate Professor at the Norwegian Academy of Music​ 
  • Jo C. Bruusgaard - physiologist 
  • Kari Anne Bjerkestrand - choreographer and dancer 
  • Alexander Refsum Jensenius - music technologist and Deputy Director of RITMO Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Rhythm, Time and Motion

Muscle concert

The muscle concert includes two contributions from Marco and one from Alexander. Marco will be using his XTH Sense technology to perform music through his muscles. This is a breathtaking musical and performative experience you won’t miss! Alexander and his colleagues will play a set of active agumented acoustic guitars, controlled by Myo armbands detecting micromotion and muscle tension.

  • Sverm - Stillness under Tension
  • Marco Donnarumma - Ominous
  • Marco Donnarumma - Music for flesh II

About the artists

Marco Donnarumma is an acclaimed performance artist and scholar who has toured over 60 countries with his pioneering works. “A unique presence across contemporary performance and media art, Marco Donnarumma distinguishes himself by his use of emerging technology to deliver artworks that are at once intimate and powerful, oneiric and uncompromising, sensual and confrontational. Working with biotechnology, biophysical sensing, as well as artificial intelligence and neurorobotics, Donnarumma expresses the chimerical nature of the body with a new and unsettling intensity. He is renown for his focus on sound, whose physicality and depth he exploits to create experiences of instability, awe, shock and entrainment.” (The quote is from his website.)

Sverm consists of a group of artist-researchers that explore human bodily micromotion in dance and music performance. This performance will be conducted by Alexander Refsum Jensenius, Charles Martin, Kari Anne Bjerkestrand, Victoria Johnson.

Data jockeying (live remix of concert data)

After the intellectual warm up and concert we invite you to stay and have a beer and socialize while phd fellow Tejaswinee Kelkar starts the data jockeying session, by remixing and visualizing muscle data recorded during the performance. The data will be made available for everyone, so feel free to open your laptop and do your own data jockeying.

How to get there

Escape is the bar of the informatics students. It is located in the mysterious concrete catacombs of Ole Johan Dahls hus in Forskningsparken. It is a short walk from Forskningsparken metro station, just a few stops from the city centre.

Tags: Biosensors, performance, music, DIY, programming
Published Feb. 17, 2017 7:58 PM - Last modified Mar. 7, 2022 12:04 PM