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Journal of New Music Research 2009, Vol. 38, No. 3, pp. 211–214

Enaction and Music: Anticipating a New Alliance between Dynamic Instrumental Arts Annie Luciani Grenoble Institute of Technology, France; Ministry of Culture, France

1. Enaction and enactive knowledge The concept of enactive representation was first introduced in cognitive psychology by psychologists such as Jean Piaget and Jerome Bruner. Pasquinelli defines precisely the origins of the concept of Enactive knowledge: ‘In Bruner’s view [(Bruner, 1966, 1968)], there are three systems or ways of organizing knowledge and three correspondent forms of representation of the interaction with the world: enactive, iconic and symbolic. Symbolic knowledge is the kind of abstract knowledge that is proper for cognitive functions as language and mathematics. Iconic knowledge is based on visual structures and recognition. Enactive knowledge is constructed on motor skills, such as manipulating objects, riding a bicycle, etc. Enactive representations are acquired by doing’ (Pasquinelli, 2007, p. 93). The term enaction was then adopted by Francisco Varela and his co-workers in order to describe a form of embodied cognition that is opposed to those of classical cognitive sciences. In Varela, Thompson, and Rosch (1991, p. 9), the authors declared: ‘We propose as a name the term enactive to emphasize the growing conviction that cognition is not the representation of a pregiven world by a pregiven mind but is rather the enactment of a world and a mind on the basis of a history of the variety of actions that a being in the world performs.’ Research activities conducted within the European Network of Excellence, from 2004 to 2007, supported by the European Commission, aimed at developing new types of human–computer interfaces, called ‘Enactive Interfaces’, and, more generally, new ways of mediation between humans and the world through digital technologies: ‘Enactive Interfaces are related to a fundamental

interaction concept, which is not exploited by most of the existing technologies. The traditional interaction with the information mediated by a computer is mostly based on symbolic or iconic knowledge. In the symbolic way of interaction, knowledge is encoded through words, mathematical symbols or other symbolic or iconic systems, as diagrams and illustrations that can accompany verbal information. Conversely, Enactive knowledge is a form of cognition inherently tied to actions, capable of being conveyed through non-symbolic interaction’ (Enactive Interfaces, 2004). No doubt several concepts such as ‘the sense of doing’, ‘learning by doing’, ‘memory of doing’, and especially the idea that ‘doing makes sense’, are particularly true in arts and in music. It is easy to assume that the concept of enaction is structurally co-native with the process of artistic creation, which aims at human cultural creation of new sensory objects or symbols.

2. Enaction and arts Different arts could be distinguished by their focus on formal design (composition, scenarios), or on performance activity (musical performance, interactivity, open artworks). In both domains, in the past the association ‘enaction’ and ‘artistic creation’ would have been considered either provocative or of little interest. What nowadays could be the link between enaction and the arts? Does this link support a new general paradigm in the process of artistic creation? Since the industrial revolution in the nineteenth century, the act of creation in the arts was considered mainly as an abstract activity, initiating the clear-cut

Correspondence: Dr Annie Luciani, Grenoble INP, Laboratoire ICA, 46 avenue Fe´lix Viallet, Grenoble, 38000, France. E-mail: DOI: 10.1080/09298210903325600 Ó 2009 Taylor & Francis


Annie Luciani

separation between composers and instrumentalists in music, designers and producers in fine arts, and choreographers and dancers in choreographic arts. The apogee of this period was the middle of the twentieth century with its primacy of formal approaches in the arts, such as the serialism in music or the conceptualism in visual arts. The ultimate point in music was the Darmstadt school ‘Domaine Musical’ (1955–1967) founded by P. Boulez, the leader of the European avant garde and his book entitled Penser la Musique aujourd’hui (Boulez, 1987). When computers began to be used in the arts (in the middle of 1960s), the main stream of theories and uses focused on the conquest of ‘immateriality’ allowed by computer. Keywords were: ‘to overcome the limit of the matter’, ‘to reach a pure thinking of musical cues’, ‘Music for mind’, ‘Abstraction for visual cues’, ‘breaking the real’, etc. Recently, about ten to twenty years ago, after the relative failure of such radical theories, and under the recent technological propositions of interactivity, allowing the computers to be more and more adapted to the human senses and action, the arts became more and more interactive. ‘Instrumentality’ is progressively reintroduced as a means of design through its sub-instance of interactivity. The role of ‘gestures’ has been rehabilitated, not only to produce sensorially predefined events but also actually to create artistic qualities. In music, performance, previously considered as the end of the musical production process, as a kind of ‘sonification’ of the pre-written musical score, was rehabilitated as a creative process in itself, not only in musical improvisations as in specific musical styles (jazz, free music, etc.) but as a creative process in itself, as in open or interactive composition. Such approaches shift the creation process from the formal organization of musical visual events to the production process itself. Simultaneously, the role of the ‘instrument’ as a tangible object able to feed and steer the creative process by imposing constraints, and of the ‘instrument trade’, was rehabilitated against the ‘free constraint approaches’. Such a theoretical shift is totally in agreement with the concept of enaction. Indeed, the domain of arts is probably the emblematic realm in which high level media of communication and cultural data are produced by means of closed-loop sensori-motor interactions. This historical movement is particularly clear in music, which needs, as an ‘allographic art’, another way of representation and of design different than itself: the musical graphical notation. It is less evident in visual arts or choreographic arts, which are in themselves, as ‘autographic arts’, their own tools of representation and design. However, it traverses all the arts that can be called ‘dynamic instrumental arts’ (DIA). ‘Instrumental arts’ refer to arts that need a physical medium (object, body) to exist. ‘Dynamic’ refers to the fact that at any

stage of its production process, sensorial artistic events are evolving events. Basic dynamic instrumental arts are music, visual arts and choreographic arts. Each of them addresses the question of the role of the instrument and of the interaction between artists and their instruments in specific ways according to their own historical evolution and their own particularities. Indeed, the word ‘instrument’ is usually reserved to the musical realm. However, if we dare to use it in a more general meaning, as a physical mediator able to produce exteroceptive stimuli, visual and auditory, by an action of a human body on it, we understand immediately that all the arts that need such a mediator are necessarily temporally based and interaction based. Physical interaction, sensory-motor coupling, gesture, instrument, movement, etc. are complementary components that are always present and that are always cooperating in all sensory-based (as opposed to language-based) arts. Conversely, the link between the interactive performance activity and the conceptual processes is raised as one of their core questions. One main property of such an ‘instrumental concept’ is to reveal the implicit familiarity of the process of artistic creation with the ‘enaction concept’. In musical arts, the concept of instrumentality is an ancestral concept that existed from the origin of music and of sound production. The pair instrument–instrumentalist is always present in music, even in computer music in the field of ‘digital musical instruments’. The main fundamental question in music is the link between the inevitable instrumental process and musical notation and composition one, and the link of musical composition with musical perception and cognition. In visual arts, two sub-domains can be distinguished: arts that produce ‘static objects and events’ (sculpture, paintings, etc.) and arts that produce ‘movements’ or ‘moving objects and visual events’ (movies, automata, animation). In the first sub-domain, instrumentality is a native and ancient practice. The role of physical matter and of interaction with it is widely recognized and reclaimed. Unlike music, such autographic arts do not need external and foreign ways of notation for their design and their composition. There are no problems of notation such as those that exist in music and no breakdown between compositional activity and other musical activities such as performance. In the second sub-domain, except in some minor cases like shadow theatre or puppet theatre, instrumentality was not actually addressed before the arrival of the computer. We cannot play with objects producing pure visual events as we are able to play with a violin. Movies and animation with conventional media (cinema or video) do not implement explicitly the instrumental concept. From the point of view of the novelty brought by computers, in both cases, computers triggered a real revolution in the visual art of motion by allowing the design of ‘objects’

Enaction and music that can be manipulated like a ‘violin’ to produce visual evolving events. And in both cases, Enactive Interfaces and Enactive Knowledge, as envisioned in the Enactive project (Enactive Interfaces, 2004) are means to investigate and to rehabilitate the pre-eminent role of interaction and of matter in the visual artistic process. In choreographic arts, as in theatre arts, ‘instrumentality’ is not a usual explicit concept. The concept of instrument has been introduced recently with the notion of the ‘augmented body’ by external devices and equipment able to capture the motions of the body. Such motions, transformed in signals, can be processed and applied to control other objects and others instruments. Computers allow the bringing together of musical arts, visual dynamic arts and choreographic arts, around a common ‘instrumental’ concept of instrumental interaction and design. Correspondingly, in both music and visual motion, the core difficult unsolved question remains that of the notation and of the composition of such evolving events.






3. Open issues To distinguish and summarize the major questions raised in each of the main dynamic instrumental arts, we could say: .




In music, the haunting question that traverses the contemporary schools is the relation between instrumentality and composition: are new computer tools, and new ways of interaction with computerized instruments, able to overcome this frontier or not? Are the concept of enaction and its technological instances able to reconcile the opposites, the enemy brothers ‘the mind’ and ‘the body’? In visual static arts, is the generalization of the interactivity concept able to instil in the production process the minimum of instrumentality required to support craft know-how? In visual dynamic arts, is the notion of virtual handleable objects able to produce visual dynamic arts with the same level of quality with respect to visual shapes and expressivity of the motion? Is motion processing able to overcome the duality between space (leading to autographic representations) and time (allowing allographic representations)? In choreographic arts, are computers able to propose a progress in motion representation and to avoid the break between choreographic performance and choreographic design, which is nowadays a core and passionate question?

From such contemporary questions asked by such arts, some relevant—and, of course, non-exhaustive— issues can be listed:



What are the common issues in all the DIA? Are motion and gesture, (with their processing, rendering, production, and notation) a common feature shared by all such instrumental dynamic arts? Could motions and gestures be common means to bring them together or to merge them in a very novel and genuine way? What types of computer models and computer representations and interfaces should be the best candidates to receive gestures and to produce genuine movements? What types of links should exist between the primary evolving event (gesture, movement, action) and the sensory outputs (visual and auditory): trivial links only such as those proposed now in computer graphics and animation; arbitrary links such as those proposed in the mapping process in computer music; or other links? Can we speak about the composition of gestures independently of the 3D object that is receiving or producing such motions? Can we apply every kind of gesture and action to every type of production process? What types of link should there be between the design process and the performance processes? What should be the relation between the enactive concept, revealed by the necessity of gestural interaction, and artistic emotion? What is the role of the instrument and of the interaction in the aesthetic process?

4. Towards a new alliance between all the forms of dynamic instrumental arts In music, computers will certainly open the door to a reconciliation between musical sound design and musical composition. In choreography, computers will probably open the door to a possible generic notation of human motions. In visual arts, computers open the door to consider visual arts of movement as instrumental arts—‘playing visual object sources like playing a violin’—not only as it is nowadays implemented in interactive artistic installations but also by implementing a strong physical closed-loop dynamic interaction. Thus, the age of a genuine integration between dynamic arts could be triggered. This possible new alliance between arts, which for centuries were believed to cooperate but which remained separated, could lead society to consider a new type of art, which we might call ‘dynamic instrumental arts’, simultaneously musical, gestural and visual, as an art of handleable virtual sources.

5. Enaction and music in this special issue The seven papers presented in this special issue of JNMR pursue this same direction of enaction and


Annie Luciani

music. Claude Cadoz envisions the use of physical models beyond the production of realistic sounds and towards the composition of musical structures. Stefania Serafin and Amalia de Go¨tzen revive the historical Futurist Manifesto to reconcile music with everyday machines and everyday sounds, such as noisy sounds. Mark T. Marshall and colleagues examine in depth and detail the types of sensors adapted to a musical task. Luiz Naveda and Marc Leman propose analytic methods able to understand the relationship between music and dance. Juraj Kojs tries to build a bridge between folkloric real instruments and physically-based computer models, and enlightens the idea that instrumentality is a kind of enactive process able to support complex cognitive and cultural features by facilitating a confident flux between embodiment and creativity. Giovanni De Poli, Luca Mion, and Antonio Roda` explore how to specify interaction with musical contents to render it more natural and effective by using physically-based action metaphors. Finally, Annie Luciani and her team relate some experiments performed in the context of the Enactive Interfaces European network of excellence, exploring the role of instrumental action and energy in the playability and believability of digital musical instruments. Although they do not cover the entire promising field of enaction and music, by their complementarity and novelty they are relevant contributions on this very novel concept based on the rehabilitation of gesture, instrument and action in musical creativity.

Acknowledgements The researches on ‘creativity and arts’, ended by the cultural and artistic event ‘Enaction_in_Arts’, held at Grenoble on 19–21 November 2007, have been supported by the French Ministry of Culture, the Grenoble Institute of Technology, the European Commission NoE Project IST-2004-002114-ENACTIVE, and the National French Research Agency (ANR) Project ANR-08CREA-031. Many thanks to A. Marsden for the English revision of the paper.

References Boulez, P. (1987). Penser la musique aujourd’hui. Paris: Gallimard. Bruner, J. (1966). Toward a Theory of Instruction. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. Bruner, J. (1968). Processes of Cognitive Growth: Infancy. Worcester, MA: Clark University Press. Enactive Interfaces. (2004). ‘Objectives’ page of website of FP6 project Enactive Interface IST 2002 0002114. Retrieved September 7, 2009, from http://www.enactive Pasquinelli, E. (2007). Enactive knowledge. In A. Luciani & C. Cadoz (Eds.) Enaction and Enactive Interfaces: A Handbook of Terms (p. 93). Grenoble: ACROE. Varela, F., Thompson, E., & Rosch, E. (1991). The Embodied Mind. Boston: MIT Press.

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Enaction and Music - Anticipating a New Alliance between Dynamic Instrumental Arts  

Enaction and Music - Anticipating a New Alliance between Dynamic Instrumental Arts