Embodied Gestures: Sculpting Sonic Expression into Musical Artifacts

  • Institute of Media Studies, University of Art and Design Linz
  • Institute for Technology Assessment & Design, Vienna University of Technology

Funded by the Austrian Science Fund FWF, Programm zur Entwicklung und Erschließung der Künste (PEEK AR99-G24)

Embodied Gestures began in October 2017 and it will end in October 2021.


The aim of this artistic-research project is the development of a new paradigm of interfaces for musical expression especially designed to emphasize a performer’s gestural embodiment within an instrument. For that, “embodied gestures” explores the possibilities of shaping the physical affordances of designed digital instruments with the intention of inspiring particular forms of gesturality. Specifically, our objective is studying the implications of designing musical interfaces which can afford the same type of gesturality that a particular sound inspires.

For instance, in order to control a sound passage composed from the circulation of “elastic” sonic movements in space, we will design musical interfaces which will afford by themselves, and through their physical affordances, similar “elastic” physical gestures to their performers. This process will be repeated for a number of gestures included in a typo-morphology of gestural archetypes which will be created specifically for “embodied gestures”.

Escaping from the paradigm of “one electronic instrument for all”, our purpose is the creation of ensembles of “embodied-gestures instruments” where each instrument is dedicated to the sonic exploration of the design space of a very specific sonic gesture. We are convinced that through this innovative approach, we can enhance the artistic communication between performer and music, but also among performers on stage and with their audiences through the live engagement.

The project’s point of departure originated with the question of how can we better embody our musical intentionalities into digital interfaces. And the crucial question at the outset of this project deals with finding successful ways of shaping the affordances of specific objects for suggesting particular body gestures. Taking this problem into consideration, we have planned a methodology based on user-studies and experiential evaluation which will help us to identify according design patterns.

Together with the support of an exceptional international advisory-board (IRCAM,STEIM, Goldsmiths, Sussex), the project will result in the creation of ensembles of “embodied gestures” interfaces, a bundle of compositions, and a compelling and reviewed number of publications documenting the possibilities of rendering musical intentions into physical features. These results can produce a relevant impact in the field of digital instrumentalities, composition with new technologies and musical education.


  1. Research Method: Workshop Study on Interface Design through Sound-Producing Gesture Mimic
  2. Instrument Design: Embodied Gestures Interfaces
  3. Composition and Performance: Sound Works Commissioned (video documentation)


Material Embodiments of Electroacoustic Music: An Experimental Workshop Study Enrique Tomás, Thomas Gorbach, Hilda Tellioglu, Martin Kaltenbrunner. 19th International Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression (NIME19), Porto Alegre, Brazil, 2019

Understanding Material Embodiments in Live Electroacoustic Music. Enrique Tomás, Thomas Gorbach. CIM19 – Conference on Interdisciplinary Musicology “Embodiment in Music” Graz.

Embodied Gestures: Sculpting Energy-Motion Models into Musical Interfaces. Enrique Tomás, Thomas Gorbach, Hilda Tellioğlu, and Martin Kaltenbrunner. 21st International Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression (NIME 21), Shanghai, 2021.

Tomás, E., Gorbach, T., Tellioğlu, H., & Kaltenbrunner, M. (Hrsg.). (2021). Embodied Gestures. TU Wien Academic Press. https:/doi.org/10.34727/2021/isbn.978-3-85448-047-1

Activities and Dissemination Developed  or Upcoming

March 20-23 2018 Workshops on musical interface envision following the embodied gestures methodology. Bruckneruni Linz, Kunstuni Linz and TU Wien.

15.11.2018 Workshop on “Ergodynamics: approaching experiential aspects of performing and designing musical instruments” with Thor Magnusson.

25.4.2019 Keynote “The Action of the Hand” at the Artistic Research Symposium Cápsulas Fuente III at the Faculty of Fine Arts, Complutense University Madrid.

27.4.19 Workshop “Artistic Research from Sound and Musical Practice” in Medialab-Prado Madrid.

23.5.19 Presentation of the project Embodied Gestures and workshop at the artistic research seminar ‘Wann wird Kunst zur künstlerischen Forschung‘ at the Bruckner University of Linz.

3-6 June 2019 Presentation of the paper ‘Material Embodiments of Electroacoustic Music: an experimental workshop study‘ at NIME Conference 2019, Porto Alegre, Brazil.

25-28 July Presentation of the “embodied gestures” project at the “Acousmonium Festival” in Saint Petersburg, Russia. https://www.acousmonium.info/2019-programma

26-28 September 2019 Presentation of the poster “Understanding Material Embodiments in Live Electroacoustic Music” at CIM19 – Conference on Interdisciplinary Musicology “Embodiment in Music” Graz.

11-15 October 2019 Presentation of the “embodied gestures” project at the “Orpheus Artistic Research Summit” in the Orpheus Instituut Ghent, Belgium.

11-15 February 2020 Artistic residence at Kunstuni Linz of the composers Jaime Reis and Theodoros Lotis for the production of electroacoustic music works

14 March 2020 Concert with embodied gestures instruments by Thomas Gorbach in echoraum Wien (Echos Around Me II).

9 May 2020 Concert with embodied gestures instruments and acousmonium by Thomas Gorbach and Enrique Tomás in echoraum Wien

7 September Embodied Gestures and its authors featured/interviewed at ORF Radiokolleg chapter Interfaces und neue Instrumente

2-3 October 2020 Presentation of compositions commissioned by the embodied gestures project (Jaime Reis “Magistri Mei Bruckner” , Theodoros Lotis “Voices“, Steel Girls “Embodied Gestures Instruments: NoisyRotation Instrument (Angelica Castello), GranularBowl Instrument (Astrid Schwarz), Bending Instrument (Tobias Leibetseder)“) at the festival Echoes Around Me III Festival in Vienna. Link to the festival

23 October 2020 Theodoros Lotis presents his work with embodied gestures at a Master Class at the International Acousmatic Festival L´Espace du Son presented by Musiques & Recherches (M&R)

5 December 2020 Thomas Gorbach performs with the noisy rotation instrument at the concert Young Lions of Acousmatic Music in Vienna.

12 December 2020 Theodoros Lotis performs the embodied gestures commissioned work “Voices” in the Electroacoustic Music Days 2020 of the Hellenic Electroacoustic Music Association.

15 June 2021. Paper “Embodied Gestures: Sculpting Energy-Motion Models into Musical Interfaces” has been presented at the International Conference NIME 21 in Shanghai. Link.

June 2021. Embodied Instruments concert at the 21st International Conference of New Interfaces for Musical Expression (NIME21), Shanghai. Link.