Gesture-controlled musical performance: from movement awareness to mastery

Mary Mainsbridge*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Technical advances in movement sensing and processing offer musicians greater scope to perform in ways that reflect their individual body signature. However, there is currently an asymmetry between innovations in gestural system design and the development of movement skills and awareness among performers. In particular, stagecraft for musicians to master and perform effectively with gesture-controlled instruments is underdeveloped. Few formal guidelines exist to equip musicians with the physical skills to calibrate whole body movements spatially in order to achieve precise and nuanced control of sound when using non-tactile controllers. This paper firstly examines the relevance of embodied interaction design approaches and movement awareness disciplines in addressing this challenge. An outline of the work Bodyscapes follows, composed for a novel gestural instrument, the Telechord, voice and drums. The piece explores the influence of metaphor-based mapping strategies on gesture-controlled performance experiences and skills. Analysis of autoethnographic insights that emerge from the work illuminates ways in which musicians inhabit their bodies to cultivate new forms of musicianship when performing with gestural instruments, drawing on techniques that include movement improvisation and kinaesthetic imagery.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)34-51
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of Performance Arts and Digital Media
Issue number1
Early online date17 Jan 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • digital musical instrument
  • embodied metaphor
  • gestural control
  • kinaesthetic awareness
  • live performance


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