Feedback Musicianship Network

Lead Research Organisation: University of Sussex
Department Name: Sch of Media, Arts and Humanities

Abstract

The Feedback Musicianship Network (FMN) responds to the need to fill current gaps in knowledge around feedback instruments; we need a common language to describe their complex behaviour, and better understandings of: luthiery in hybrid instruments, virtuosity, composition and notation techniques.
The FMN brings stakeholders in feedback musicianship together to establish a new research agenda addressing these gaps, and to build a community hub. This will stimulate and guide future developments in this field, supporting a new generation of instruments and musical practices.

Feedback instruments offer a radically different way of engaging with musical practice compared to traditional instruments. They are defined by recirculation of signals through the instrument, which give the instrument 'a life of its own'; the player must guide the instrument rather than controlling it. They possess 'a stimulating uncontrollability' (Ulfarsson, 2019). The use of musical feedback began in the 1950s. Now, a new generation of instruments are using hybrid digital/electronic/acoustic technologies to refine the behaviour of the feedback, creating entirely new musical experiences, and providing fertile areas for creative new instrument designs and modes of musical practice. An example is the Feedback Cello, an acoustic cello augmented with string pickups and exciters; the string signals pass through external effects, and return to the cello through the exciters. This creates a feedback loop which the player navigates by damping and stimulating the strings, or by controlling the external effects. This is a radically different way of playing the cello, effectively turning it into a new instrument.

In order to support the next generation of these instruments, we need to advance our understanding of how to shape the behaviour of complex feedback loops, and how to design and build instruments which are essentially hybrids, mixing complex signal processing with traditional acoustic luthiery, and electromechanical transducers that link these two domains. We also need to gain better understanding of the culture surrounding these instruments. This research demands interdisciplinary approaches involving music, engineering, mathematics, philosophy, design and computer science. The FMN will bring these groups together, along with practicing artists and industry representatives, for workshops and symposia at three themed network meetings: (1) Design, Making and Innovation, Aalborg University Copenhagen, (2) Musicianship and Notation, Berlin, (3) Approaches to Signal Processing, University of Sussex. The network will also run two longitudinal activities linking the three meetings: (1) composition of a piece for feedback ensemble, (2) progress reports from musicians learning and developing feedback instruments. These meetings will enable the community to establish a future research agenda, stimulate new activity in instrument design supported by knowledge exchange, and map out creative practices in feedback musicianship in order to guide future cultural engagement.

The FMN has a strong interdisciplinary set of confirmed participants, and is guided by a highly qualified advisory board. It will engage further participants through live streaming and archiving of network events. The FMN will disseminate research though three peer reviewed journal articles, the key output being a research review and future research roadmap. Another key output of the network will be a new online hub for feedback musicians; we aim for this to become a focal point for the community to support future developments.

The network will engage with the public at four concerts, also available online. Through concerts, knowledge exchange, and online sharing, the network will create impact by engaging the wider public in feedback musicianship, stimulating the design of new instruments and artistic practices, and by creating new dialogues between researchers and the public

Planned Impact

Feedback Musicianship has broad potential for impact through exposure of research via public concerts, music releases, new instruments and knowledge exchange through meetings and online discussion. Impact will have a wide geographical spread through public events at four European locations.

Six user groups are identified:

1. Feedback instrument designers.
The network brings in a wide ranging group of feedback instrument designers, including academics and independent artists, many of whom are also actively performing with their instruments. These designers will also share knowledge with researchers and musicians, bearing a direct influence on their work. We anticipate the short to medium term effect of this to be an increase in activity in the design of new feedback instruments, and development and sharing of new design techniques, in particular through the Copenhagen meeting which is focused on design and innovation. In the long term, we anticipate more instruments emerging, and in turn increased knowledge concerning feedback design techniques, as the instruments are explored in detail through long term use by musicians. We also anticipate feedback techniques being incorporated into wider instrument design, in both hardware and software.

2. Music technology industries
Ultimately we would like to see feedback instruments in more frequent production from commercial musical instrument manufacturers. We see technologies and techniques from feedback music as being of great potential value to the music technology industry, for example, for creation of new modes of interaction and new types of interactive sound synthesis.

3. Soundtrack composers.
Hildur Gudhnadottir's use of the halldorophone on film soundtracks demonstrates the potential of feedback instruments for soundtrack composition in film and television. These include high-profile soundtracks such as Joker (2019) and Chernobyl (2019). Efficacy in film and TV also points to high potential in game soundtracks. In the halldorophone at least, potential lies in the flexibility to expressively navigate complex sonic textures, and this should equally apply to other feedback instruments; the language of feedback music is varied and diverse, lending itself well to composition for visual and interactive media. We will seek to invite representatives from film, tv, and games industries to the network's events, and explore the formation of longer-term partnerships through academic and arts funding routes.

4. Musical instrumentalists
A long term impact goal of the network is to see wider adoption of feedback instrument by musicians in general. Feedback instruments show a great promise for new modes of artistic practice and for exploration of novel sonic territories, and we wish help make these instruments available to musicians, for example through open source development efforts.

4. Wider arts practitioners
This describes a wider user group than instrumentalists, whose artistic practice stands to benefit from techniques and technologies developed within feedback musicianship research in ways beyond playing and performing with feedback instruments. For example, algorithms for musical feedback might be equally useful for visual feedback systems. We are seeking to create an environment for dialogue between academia and arts practitioners to explore these new territories.

6. Wider public.
Currently feedback musicianship is an emerging field, and public awareness is low. For example, while many have heard feedback instruments on film soundtracks, they are unlikely to recognise the instruments that made these sounds. We will engage with the wider public through concerts, online streamed and archived events, social media, and in the long term, through the uptake of new instruments.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Title Live at the Meeting House 
Description This is a recording of a concert at the final network meeting at the University of Sussex. The recording has been release on Emute Lab's label, with digital distribution. 
Type Of Art Performance (Music, Dance, Drama, etc) 
Year Produced 2022 
Impact This has only just been released, so we're waiting to see what impact it has. 
URL https://www.emutelab.org/label/fmn_liveathemeetinghouse
 
Title Scores for feedback instrument ensemble 
Description A set of scores, commissioned by the network in collaboration with the Danish Composers Society and Koda Kultur, by composer Lars Kynde 
Type Of Art Composition/Score 
Year Produced 2022 
Impact The scores are available as an educational resource. PI Kiefer has used them for teaching. 
URL https://assets.pubpub.org/wwn4v7ht/41655702928837.pdf
 
Description The key finding in this award was material to form a research agenda for feedback musicianship. This agenda is currently being compiled for publication.
Exploitation Route The research agenda will help researchers and practitioners in feedback musicianship in understanding musical practice with feedback instrument, and in building future instruments.
Sectors Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Electronics,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Other

URL https://feedback-musicianship.pubpub.org/
 
Description In this networking project, three meetings took place in Copenhagen, Athens and Brighton. These events have brought together stakeholders in feedback musicianship, and created a community, centred around a mailing list. Impacts are just beginning to emerge, we are still at an early stage as the project finished only 8 months ago. We have heard from students who were inspired by network events to focus their projects on feedback instruments, and new instrument development has been guided by network discussion themes. When the research agenda is published, we expect this to support further impact.
First Year Of Impact 2021
Sector Creative Economy
Impact Types Cultural

 
Title Lib CCCRT 
Description LIbcccrt is a collection of utilities for measuring complexity in realtime. It has recently been updated to include new algorithms inspired by network activities. 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2019 
Open Source License? Yes  
Impact It's in use by the PI in the design of new instruments. 
URL https://github.com/chriskiefer/libcccrt
 
Description Athens meeting, 12th and 13th March 2022 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact We had two days of instrumental practice sharing and discussion about feedback musicianship. The event had strong public interest. The event created new collaborations between participants, creatively and academically.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://feedback-musicianship.pubpub.org/pub/events
 
Description Concert an Athens 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This concert was the start of our Athens meeting, with invitees from across europe, also open to the public. The event was at capacity, and deemed a great success based on audience feedback.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://feedback-musicianship.pubpub.org/pub/events
 
Description Concert and workshop at Ionian University of Corfu 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact This event comprised a concert and Q&A session, attracted over 50 attendees, mainly music students. Following the discussion, several people discussed how they were inspired to build new instruments and get involved in feedback music.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://feedback-musicianship.pubpub.org/pub/events
 
Description Concert in Copenhagen, 30th November 2021 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Artists from across northern europe played at this concert, attended by general public in copenhagen. Then concert was also streamed and archived on youtube
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://feedback-musicianship.pubpub.org/pub/events
 
Description Concert: The Meeting House 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A concert showcases the work of network participants. The concert was recorded, and has just been released with international digital distribution.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://www.emutelab.org/label/fmn_liveathemeetinghouse
 
Description Concert: The Volks 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 40 people attended a concert, showcasing performances from participants in the network
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description Copenhagen Meeting, 1st and 2nd December 2021 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact This was the first in-person meeting of the network. We had a public keynote talk and a day of practical instrument building followed by a day of discussions
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://feedback-musicianship.pubpub.org/pub/events
 
Description FMN 'What's next?' meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact 10 people attended an online meeting, exploring future research directions and activities stemming from the network
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://feedback-musicianship.pubpub.org/pub/events/release/40
 
Description Network Meeting: University of Sussex 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact 30 people attended a symposium on feedback musicianship, helping towards establishing a research agenda for the field.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://feedback-musicianship.pubpub.org/pub/qe5tluv1/release/16
 
Description Online launch event 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact We ran an online launch event for the network, attended by 30-40 participants. We had a presentation and performance from a musician, followed by group discussions.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://feedback-musicianship.pubpub.org/pub/events
 
Description Online network meeting, 17th September 2021 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact We had two presentations, one acadamic and one from practicing artists, followed by discussions
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://feedback-musicianship.pubpub.org/pub/events