Ergodynamics: approaching experiential aspects of performing and designing musical instruments.

At this workshop participants will gain methods to analyse and design new electronic music instruments from the perspective of ergodynamics, a notion coined by Thor Magnusson. The terminology (together with related terms) offers a toolbox and methods to describe the experiential aspects of performing a musical instrument in the context of other embodied, historical and aesthetic facets. The workshop is an opportunity for practitioners working with sound to discuss their project ideas, and bring examples of work to present and analyse in an informal and open setting.

In particular, participants will learn how to analyse the experience of performing musical instruments or sound installations. With ergodynamics, we will gain methods to observe the particularities of our musical instruments. At the same time, this analysis will trigger new design patterns inspiring new musical instruments.

When we investigate what an instrument can do, studying its affordances and constraints, but also historical background, the use of our pre-incorporated motor memory, its musical character as part of a tradition, and imagine the potential relationship we might have with the instrument, we are exploring its ‘dynamis’. For this reason, the word ergodynamics is proposed as a term that somewhat relates to the use of ‘gameplay’ in computer games, but further signifies an awareness and experience of the instrument in embodied, historical, and aesthetic practices.
[…] From this perspective, even if they are the same object, a fiddle and a violin have different ergodynamics as they are part of different traditions. Similarly, Jimi Hendrix ‘discovered’ feedback as an ergodynamic feature of the electric guitar, adding it to the possible array of techniques.

Ergodynamics and a Semiotics of Instrumental Composition, Thor Magnusson