Engineered Expression

Digital Instruments in Performance

May 07, 2021 | 07:30 pm

May 07, 2021 | 07:30 pm

This event is presented in association with Course 21M.370 Digital Instrument Design and supported by the MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology Cross Disciplinary Class Development Fund


CONCERT DETAILS: Friday, May 7, 2021  |  7:30PM

Featuring: Myriam Bleau, Ian Hattwick, Marije Baalman, 80KV, Author & Punisher


WORKSHOP DETAILS: Saturday, May 8, 2021  |  1PM - 4PM  | 

Moderated by Ian Hattwick (MIT) and John Sullivan (McGill University)



Creating and performing with new digital and electronic musical instruments has always been an important part of electronic and computer music. This concert and workshop features musicians for whom this is a central part of their practice. Whether it takes the form of a physical interface, motion sensor, or software system, these new instruments are shaped by the artistic and aesthetic goals of the performer. Their instruments become part of their extended musicality, providing tactile interaction with computational processes and algorithms and becoming an essential element of their performance practice.

The motivation for creating new instruments can vary widely, especially as you move between musical communities. Sometimes it is the desire to interact with electronic sounds using traditional gestures, or bringing interaction with software systems or digital audio workstations into the physical world, or embracing the crossover between digital media in order to create dynamic multi sensory performances.

In any of these cases, the challenges of creating new instruments are significant. It requires a synthesis of many elements: imagination and creativity, mechanical and software design, sound design and composition, and the creation of a unique musical and gestural vocabulary. Instrument design is often a very personal endeavor, one which develops over years of practice and iterative design, and which results in tangible artifacts which reflect crucial elements of a performer's artistic vision.

In this concert and workshop we will be exploring the ways in which this manifests in the practice of musicians from several different musical communities. On Friday May 7 we will present performances by each of the different musicians, and on Saturday May 8 will be a 3-hour workshop featuring conversations with the performers and in-depth explorations of their instruments.

This concert and workshop were created to support the creation of a new MIT course, 21M.370 Digital Instrument Design, in which students engage with the full practice of instrument design, engaging with design issues, technical implementation, and artistic practice. The final project for this course is the creation of a brand new digital instrument, and a performance in which the students integrate their new instrument into their musical practice.

For the workshop, class members will be invited to participate in the discussions, asking questions and adding comments. Comments and questions will also be welcome from the general public.



MYRIAM BLEAU is a composer, digital artist and performer based in Montreal. Her work investigates performance, both as a codified cultural manifestation, and as an embodied (re)enactment of symbolic systems through human and non-human agencies. Using music and sound as a point of departure, she has created gestural electronic music performances, audiovisual interfaces, installations and interactive devices that articulate sound, light, movement and symbols. Her work has been recognized and presented internationally : Prix Ars Electronica (AT), Sónar (ES) and Sónar Hong Kong, Sonic Arts Award (IT), Elektra (CA), Mutek (MX), ISEA (CA), Transmediale (DE), ACT (KR), LABoral (ES), Scopitone (FR) and Cafe Oto (UK).


IAN HATTWICK is an artist, researcher, and technology developer whose work focuses on the creation and use of digital systems for professional artistic performance. He is particularly interested in collaborative performance and the creation of multimodal hardware systems to explore and facilitate social and embodied interaction. He teaches music technology and digital musical instrument at MIT, and is the director of FaMLE, the MIT Laptop Ensemble.


MARIJE BAALMAN is an artist and researcher/developer working with sound, light, interaction and code. She has a diverse background in applied physics, acoustics, electronic music, computation arts and interactive technologies. She is an expert in sound spatialisation and wireless sensing for live performance, installations and interactive environments.
She works as a freelancer creating her own artistic work, and develops open source hardware and software. She is a member of the artist collective iii (The Hague). Currently she is writing the book “Just a question of Mapping” to be published in the fall 2021 by V2_ (Rotterdam).



80KV is a noise/industrial musician, performance artist, and mixed media sculptor whose work explores the interface between technology and the human body. Inspired by cyberpunk transhumanism and gothic aesthetics, her performances use custom digital instruments and robotic prostheses to produce disquiet. 80KV loves shiny red LEDs, upsetting noises, and knitting, but definitely not long walks on the beach because who wants salty, sandy circuitry?


AUTHOR & PUNISHER, named, “one of the most prolific acts in aggressive music,” by Noisey, recently released his first album on Relapse Records entitled “Beastland”.  His newest and most intense album recalls Ministry, channeling Godflesh, traversing through dark, uncompromising, and often disturbing soundscapes, with occasional detours into rich melodies and splinters of light. After leaving a career as mechanical engineer in Boston to focus on art and sculpture, Tristan Shone, the creator and sole artist behind AUTHOR & PUNISHER, moved west to pursue his MFA in Southern California. In the metal and machine shops of University of California, San Diego, Shone forged a relationship with design, sound and fabrication that ultimately yielded AUTHOR & PUNISHER‘s first music and mapped the journey away from traditional instrumentation towards custom made, precision machinery. Shone used his technical knowledge, along with his artistic background to create what Wired Magazine has hailed as his own “special brand of doom metal.” All aspects of the AUTHOR & PUNISHER sound begin with physical movement, limbs struggling in unison to coordinate a wall of electronic rhythm and oscillation, ultimately conditioned by an organic and loose quality absent of sequencing and plastic perfection. AUTHOR & PUNISHER performances are a real amalgamation between man and mechanisms. They are direct, physical, heavy experiences that have amassed praise and intrigue from a wide array of audiences. Pitchfork styled him “immediate but mysterious,” Stereogum described his “chilling, unrecognizable form,” and NPR hails him as “a thrill [who] fires on all cylinders.”
“ In the contiguous realms of metal nerds and gear nerds, Shone possesses semimythical status. He performs within a semicircle of frightening homemade machines that seem at once futuristic and medieval.“ – The New Yorker (2016). 


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