Xth Sense – biophysical generation and control of music

With Marco Donnarumma.

Hands-on training in augmentation of the body for musical performance.
Creating your own low cost biosensing wearable device for muscle sounds.

See an Xth Sense performance

Xth Sense research hub: http://res.marcodonnarumma.com/projects/xth-sense/
Music for Flesh II: http://marcodonnarumma.com/works/music-for-flesh-ii/


The workshop offers an hands-on experience and both theoretical and practical training in gestural control of music and bodily musical performance, deploying the brand-new biosensing technology Xth Sense.

Developed by the workshop teacher Marco Donnarumma within a research project at The University of Edinburgh, Xth Sense is a framework for the application of muscle sounds to the biophysical generation and control of music. It consists of a low cost, DIY biosensing wearable device and an Open Source based software for capture, analysis and audio processing of biological sounds of the body (Pure Data-based). Muscle sounds are captured in real time and used both as sonic source material and control values for sound effects, enabling the performer to control music simply with his body and kinetic energy. Forget your mice, MIDI controllers, you will not even need to look at your laptop anymore.

The Xth Sense biosensor was designed to be easily implemented by anyone, no previous experience in electronics is required. The applications of the Xth Sense technology 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, and more.


Firstly, participants will be introduced to the Xth Sense Technology by its author and led through the assembling of their own biosensing wearable hardware using the materials provided. Next, they will become proficient with the Xth Sense software framework: all the features of the framework will be unleashed through practical exercises. Theoretical background on the state of art of gestural control of music and new musical instruments will be developed by means of an audiovisual review and participatory critical analysis of relevant projects selected by the instructor. Eventually, participants will combine hardware and software to learn how to implement a performance with the Xth Sense system.

At the end of the workshop, participants will be free to keep the Xth Sense biosensors they built and the related software for their own use.

Perspective participants

The workshop is open to anyone passionate about sound and music. No previous experience in electronics or programming is required, however participants should be familiar with digital music creation. 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. Participation is limited to 8 candidates.

Requirements and further info

Participants need to provide their own headphones, external soundcards and laptops with Pd-extended already installed. Free download is available at http://puredata.info/community/projects/software/pd-extended

We will work either on Linux or Mac OSX ⇒ 10.6 operating systems. If you don't have access to none of them, please download a live distribution of Pure:Dyne at: http://puredyne.org/index.html

Musicians interested in augmenting their favourite musical instrument by means of body gestures are encouraged to bring their instrument along.

Dates and Location

17-18-19-20 August, 11.00-19.00 daily (6 hours sessions + 1 hour break)

nnnnn, Unit 73a, Regent Studios, 8 Andrews Road, London, E8 4QN

Fee and Booking

Maximum 8 participants.

£ 80 including materials.

To reserve a place please contact ryan@ryanjordan.org and m@marcodonnarumma.com and you can pay online here:

Workshop leader

New media and sonic artist, performer and teacher, Marco Donnarumma was born in Italy and is based in Edinburgh, UK.
His works are regularly presented internationally. He has exhibited and performed in 25 countries across South America, Europe, India, China and Australia (among the others, Venice Biennale, WRO Biennale, Némo, Mapping, Piksel, Re-New, Laboral, Pure Data Convention, Linux Audio Conference, EMAF, Visionsonic, Live!iXem). His projects have been featured on Wired, We Make Money Not Art, Rhizome, Turbulence.org and Micro Art in China.
Presently, he investigates experimental paradigms for embodied interaction in performative environments at The University of Edinburgh, supervised by composer and sound artist Dr. Martin Parker.
Donnarumma teaches workshops and gives talks for international academic institutions and venues on a regular basis – including NK Berlin, University of London, Glasgow Centre for Contemporay Arts, UPR Universidad de Puerto Rico, Trinity College, NUI Maynooth and Ulster University in Ireland, Gotland University Institute for New Media Art and Technology in Sweden, Academy of Fine Arts of Brera and Pierluigi da Palestrina Conservatory in Italy.



DAY 1 - 7 hours

Introduction to the Xth Sense technology – 2h

  • Capabilities and scope of the framework
  • Technical overview
  • Understanding different musical and performance outcomes

Building your own Xth Sense biosensor – 5h

  • Cutting, soldering your own muscle sensor circuit
  • Building a wearable hardware
  • Refining the final device

DAY 2 – 7 hours

Using the Xth Sense Digital Signal Processing system (Pure Data-based)

  • The Pd language
  • Pd tips & tricks for live performances
  • Xth Sense software: learning how to use the graphical interface
  • Xth Sense software: playing around with audio modules and DSP chains
  • Xth Sense software: storing and recalling global preset scenes

DAY 3 – 7 hours

Plug yourself in! Wearing the biosensors and communicating with the music software

  • Exploring muscle sounds design capabilities
  • Mapping kinetic energy to control values
  • Experimenting with real time muscle sounds audio processing
  • Controlling real time processing of traditional instruments with gestures and kinetic energy

DAY 4 – 7 hours

Creating a performance – 4h

  • Theoretical insights on bodily musical performance
  • Reviewing audiovisual documentation of relevant performance projects
  • Designing your sonic vocabulary
  • Establishing data mapping definitions
  • Planning the format of the performance

Performance testing – 3h

  • Testing your system
  • Fixing the application and refining the interaction

Picture Courtesy by Chris Scott


Workshop participants: Leroy Douglas, Dan Tidhar, Jack Armitage, John Holder, Fabi Borges, I-chin Lee.

Marco's write up of the workshop can be found here

xth_sense.txt · Last modified: 2011/12/29 08:55 by r
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