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Feedback Musicianship Workshop @ NIME 2020

Collaborative Document

Published onOct 26, 2020
Feedback Musicianship Workshop @ NIME 2020


  1. Introduction

  2. Questions themes & interests

  3. What, How & What next: Breakout discussion

  4. Participant list and bios

  5. Instrument Images & Diagrams

  6. Resources

    1. Introduction

This document distils discussion, insight and open questions from the first Feedback Musicianship Workshop, hosted as part NIME 2020 (July 21). The aim of the workshop was the exchange and generation of strategies, concepts and practices of feedback musicianship, to build community and new musical collaborations

Feedback purposefully utilised in performance has long been an interesting musical endeavour; however, integrating such expertise into the design and development of instruments and interactive systems, which balance autonomy and expressivity, playability and musicality remains a challenge. Examples include extended traditional instruments, modular synthesisers, feedback incorporated into acoustic resonating bodies, new algorithmic techniques for managing feedback loops, etc. The workshop concluded with an evening concert (online informal jam session) in the form of improvisation with feedback instruments, open to all participants.

Identifying the importance of musical feedback in interaction, instruments, and systems, this workshop focuses on the development of instruments for innovative interactions with feedback in music, from designs for feedback instruments themselves, to novel multi-sensory interaction with feedback incorporated into augmented instruments and systems.

2. Questions, themes and interests

We asked participants to state what in particular interested them about feedback musicianship or what were the important questions for the field. This is how people responded:

  • How do we develop languages for feedback musicianship?

  • Antiresonance, letting be, complexity literacy, impact of brain and nervous system impact (brain dead)

  • Metacontrol, what does playing feedback instruments do to your brain?

  • Uncontrol & musicianship

  • How to balance control in feedback systems

  • How to lose control when one chooses to?

  • Recursivity, emergence

  • Feedback in improvision as a social model - intimacy & uncertainty

  • How does feedback change networked performance?

  • Feedback as control in cybernetic thinking and relationship to instrumental performance

  • Feedback between humans and AI systems, reaching new places

  • How to apply feedback to find out more about the system?

  • Feedback sound is subtle and deserves long attention

3. What, Why, How & What next: breakout discussion

Participants broke out into smaller groups and discussed their motivations, methods and open questions:

Prompt Questions

What? The instrument is not a tool but an ally. It is not only a means to an end, it is a source of material, and technique for the improvisor is often an exploitation of the natural resources of the instrument” - Derek Bailey

Does the ‘agency’ of feedback instruments differ in degree or kind wrt to other instruments?

How? (methods, techniques)

Why? (personal musical, technical, philosophical motivations)

What is unique? - Why do we do it?

  • Conducting energy, how do we get these instruments to take on cultural relevance, different relationship with instrument (module in a signal chain, not finger on a piano)

  • Surprise, complexity;

  • Landscape analogy, experience of insects in hot climate, the way sound permeates your being - as a catalyst for making sound and good way to describe the experience (vibrationscape) - going beyond an instrumental practice, a new way back to an instrument, more intimate [AE: is it really the same instrument?]

  • Why do it in this context, now; a listening to the materials; giving honorary personhood, feedback as a source of info to guide your action [AE: letting be] friend vs ally - decide to pay attention to or nullify, invites you to take care of it and listen

  • Characteristic: widens attentional focus [APM], brings you into the now [AE], have to back off from it, have to not try [CK]

  • Interface - as interface to deity as in Indian music - performance as ritual, instrument as deity, have to surrender, brings you into the moment.

  • bidirectional nature - respond and then cause effect - conversation, push & pull - could be become more sensitive through practicing with feedback, to our biases? feedback as helping us understand our objects and ourselves - as becoming more sensitive - exercises our humble - develops our becoming humble

  • Interfaces are what a system chooses to tell us

  • Simplicity, immediacy, efficiency.

  • Complexity from simplicity

  • Complexity, nonlinearity

  • Feedback musicianship as a way to develop complexity/ systems literacy (cf Noisecrypt )


  • live co-performance, sensing; max patches; hybrid analogue digital

  • interfaces — we only know about a system, through what an interface tells us

  • intimate interaction, understanding and prediction

  • Dirk, differential equations; Till, compression to bring feedback into the foreground, Faust, linear feedback machines, bit shifting, feedback at different levels of granularity

  • Exploring sound spaces, switching roles of control. How we think about feedback to drive our interaction: metaphorical, mathematically or in an abstract/poetic way

  • Tuning of strings affects the resonance between them (obvs). For a given gain setting on the pick ups, retuning a string can induce another string to start oscillating when it is tuned sympathetically (resonance); retuning a string can also dampen oscillations in another string (antiresonance). Resonance feels obvious (kinda). Octaves, Vths resonate. But why?

What next? - Future Directions

  • How to design complexity, where are the hot spots? navigating parameter spaces

  • Language, how to talk about it (poet, DST, systems, cybernetics) and how to implement it

  • request for primer on complex system

  • thinking about feedback at longer time scales, range of joy formal to intuitive - inexplicable

  • how to negotiate control (how much agency the machine has), learning a feedback system enough for expression. Languages to describe feedback

4. Instrument images & diagrams

The Halldorophone -

Alice’s feedback cello (cousin of the Halldorophone) in development (ICLI 2016)

Chris Kiefer and Alice Eldridge exploring their circular bows

‘Shaping the behaviour of feedback instruments with complexity-controlled gain dynamics’ - Kiefer, Overholt and Eldridge

5. Participants - bios and links

Adam Pultz Melbye Double bass player, improviser, composer and PhD-researcher at Sonic Arts Research Centre in Belfast. I have released three double bass solo albums and appear on around 40 releases and toured Europe, the US, Japan and Australia. I have composed and performed music for—and in collaboration with—dance, visuals, sculpture, film, theatre as well as sound installations.
www.adampultz. com //
Feedback works:
What the Frog’s Eye tells the Frog’s Brain:
The Feedback-Actuated Augmented Bass:
attics for all, floors for none:

Alaa Yussry -

Andrew Piepenbrink “the compressor is fundamental in the feedback path to reign things in”

Alice Eldridge. I’m a cellist, researcher and lecturer in Music Technology at the University of Sussex working at the intersections of music, ecology & technology. I am interested in sonic systems - how sound organises systems and how we can understand (complex, adaptive, dynamical) systems by sounding them out . I am 1/2 of Feedback Cell, 1/4 of feedback-drone-quartet Brain Dead Ensemble and 1/4 of female multi-arts collective, Collectress. My current research projects focus on performance systems (feedback musicianship, interactive software and corpus manipulation) and Ecoacoustics (theorising the role of sound and ecosystems and ecosystem machine listening as a method for conservation).

Çağrı Erdem. I’m a performer and researcher specializing in improvised electroacoustic music and body–machine interaction. Following training in composition and guitar performance, I have focused on developing and performing with new musical interfaces for the extraction of body movements in the form of biosignals. As a PhD fellow at the RITMO Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Rhtyhtm, Time and Motion at the University of Oslo, I am now expanding my research on the use of muscle contraction effort in the context of virtual musical instruments.

(An example feedback work:

Chris Kiefer. I’m a computer-musician, musical instrument designer and Lecturer in Music Technology at the University of Sussex, also part of the Experimental Music Technologies Lab. I play feedback cello as half of improv-duo Feedback Cell, and with feedback-drone-quartet Brain Dead Ensemble. I play algoraves as Luuma. I’m really interested in complexity and dynamical systems; how to make sound with them and how to interact with them.

Courtney Reed. I’m PhD student in the Augmented Instruments Lab at the Centre for Digital Music at Queen Mary University of London. I have an MSc in Computer Science from QMUL and a BMus in Electronic Production and Design from the Berklee College of Music (Boston). My background is in classical vocal styles, but I really enjoy circuit bending and using modular synths and to incorporate digital synthesis into vocal improv. I have been building a system for interacting with vocal musculature using sEMG (presented here at NIME2020) and would like to learn more about feedback musicianship practices here, as this is a new area of exploration and design for me and one which I’d like to incorporate into my setup.
A feedback collab (one of the few recorded improvs!) of mine:
My research webpage:

Dan Overholt. I’m a researcher in Sound & Music Computing at Aalborg University Copenhagen, Denmark (Associate Professor). My Ph.D. is in Media Arts and Technology from UC Santa Barbara, I have a Masters from the Media Laboratory at MIT, and I studied electronics engineering and music (violin performance) at CSU, Chico. I compose and perform with custom-designed musical instruments and signal processing algorithms, and have also worked in the industry for companies such as Eventide, E-mu, and Echo Audio. Over the years, I’ve become more and more interested in the dynamics and richness of active acoustic instruments that focus on the intersection of human actuation & processed actuation, where feedback is an important integral question.

Dave Casey I’m a non-academic instrument builder. I’m interested in using feedback involving the vocal column as input for wind controllers. I am also interested in using delays with feedback in performance.

Diemo Schwarz – art: – science: ISMM team – development: — (“in Catart, one can use a very rich sound world, but in the end, everything is linear and thus fundamentally boring” —> feedback as purveyor of non-linearity )

Dirk Roosenburg -

Gabriel Baskin-

Gerhard Eckel-

Halldor Ulfarsson - https://[email protected]

James Leonard - I’m a computer music researcher and musician, based in Grenoble France (GIPSA-Lab). In my research I’ve worked with haptic feedback in digital musical instruments (more specifically multisensory instrumental dynamics with virtual physical instruments). In my personal artistic work I’ve been using with emergent feedback delay systems for a while, mostly in Max/MSP, in the collective improvisation trio Orcae. I’m also a guitarist and drone metal enthusiast, so I spend a lot of time creating/listening to highly distorted tube amplifier feedback :-)

Juan Mariano Ramos - I’m a music technology researcher and developer, from Buenos Aires, Argentina (UNQ-CONICET). I’m a guitar player, so I’m curious about how others deal with feedback in ways that are more than “an adversary”, but not limited to guitar. My main field of research is musical instrument acoustics, particularly wind instruments, and it’s digital emulation.

Louis Foster - I’m a web developer and enjoy experiencing and creating experimental art. I created the _noisecrypt platform, presented it at NIME 2020. Primarily designed for multi-channel improvised cut up noisescapes, it can be used for any emergent musical purpose and is designed for hacking on to add your own features. I’ve got a degree in Industrial Design and post-grad in CompSci. Also, I practice meditation.

Luc Döbereiner -

Ludvig Elblaus -

Odie DeSmith -

Matthew Noone A self-confessed musical ‘mongrel’, Matthew Noone is an Australian-Irish ex-indie rocker, improviser, composer, thinker and performer of the 25 stringed lute called sarode. He works in a diverse range of disciplines ranging from Irish traditional and Indian Classical music to free improvisation and electroacoustic music. He has collaborated with a host of international artists such as Martin Hayes & Dennis Cahill, Liam O Maonlai, Jiggy, K. Subramaniam, Debojyoti Sanyal, Ed Sarath, Catherine Sikora, Sean Mac Erlaine, Sean Tyrell and the Irish Gamelan Orchestra.  He has released two albums with percussionist Tommy Hayes (An Tara) and two solo albums of contemporary material for sarode using loops, feedback, voice, electronics and ukulele!

Recent article about piano feedback piece:–NIME.pdf

Matthew Yee-King. Academic at Goldsmiths in London. Slightly different perspective on feedback possibly. Have worked on AIs generating feedback on musical performance. Have developed systems to enable feedback between practising musicians Interested in how we can bridge the feedback gap between AIs and people. E.g. if an AI is generating some music or musical control data, how can you interact with it?

Charlie Norton

Revital Hollander -

Rui Guo -

Sara Sithi-Amnuai -

Thor Magnusson

Till Bovermann — is an artist and scientist, working with the sensation of sound and interaction. After his PhD in Computer Science on Tangible Auditory Interfaces, he worked at various european research institutes. Currently, he is a researcher at the University of Applied Arts Vienna in the PEEK funded project “Rotting Sounds”, as well as a freelancing artist and musician working with sound and technology. (music) | (development)

feedback instruments: verber vellum tensegrity nec haven half-closed loop

Tychonas Michailidis - Lecturer in Digital Media Technology at the School of Computing and Digital Technology, Birmingham City University. Haptic feedback to support collaboration, interaction and interactive systems.

5. Resources

Anyone who wishes to learn more about the Feedback Musicianship Network can join the mailing list here:

Eldridge, A. and Kiefer, C., 2016, October. Continua: a resonator-feedback-cello duet for live coder and cellist. In xCoAx 2016: Proceedings of the Fourth Conference on Computation, Communication, Aesthetics and X (pp. 398-401). xCoAx.

Eldridge, A. and Chris K. “The self-resonating feedback cello: interfacing gestural and generative processes in improvised performance”. In:Proceedings of New Interfaces for Music Expression 20172017 (2017), pp. 25–29.

Liontiris, T.P., 2018. Low Frequency Feedback Drones: A non-invasive augmentation of the double bass. In NIME (pp. 340-341).

Polimeneas-Liontiris, T., Eldridge, A., Kiefer, C. and Magnusson, T., 2018, December. The ensemble as expanded interface sympoetic performance in the Brain Dead Ensemble. In Proceedings: ICLI 2018, 4th International Conference on Live Interfaces. Inspiration, Performance, Emancipation. (pp. 117-125). Universidade do Porto.

Overholt, D., Berdahl, E., & Hamilton, R. (2011). Advancements in Actuated Musical Instruments. Organised Sound, 16(2), 154-165.

“What’s Happening in the World of Feedback Instruments”, posted by Chris Kiefer on October 7th, 2019:

H. Úlfarsson. Feedback Mayhem: Compositional affordances of the halldorophone discussed by its users. In Proc. ICMC, New York. 2019.

>> Hanne de Jaegger - engaged epistemology -

Other audio links

Feedback Cell live @ Bournemouth University, 2017

Code links

For instructions on how to connect the stream to the hub (and how to record audio into the stream), see If you feel confused, please contact us or send me an email: [email protected]

a[email protected] (pls notify Alberto de Campo when complete)

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