Instruments have always been a necessary conduit between musician and audience, a Rosetta stone converting the thoughts and talent of the former into an appreciable medium for the latter. However, Marco Donnarumma’s creation, the Xth Sense, aims to remove the filter between artist and spectator, by amplifying the muscle impulses and blood flow of the performer’s body into timbres and rhythms that truly convey his feelings.
As Donnarumma explains on his website, “By enabling a computer to sense and interact with the biosonic potential of muscle tissues, the XS approaches the biological body as a means for computational artistry. During a performance muscle movements and blood flow produce subcutaneous mechanical oscillations, which are nothing but low frequency sound waves (mechanomyogram or MMG). Two microphone sensors capture the sounds created by the performer’s limbs and send it to a computer. This develops an understanding of the performer’s kinetic behaviour by listening to the friction of her flesh. Specific gesture, force levels and patterns are identified in real time by the computer; then, according to this information, it manipulates algorithmically the sound of the flesh and diffuses it through a variety of multi-channel sound systems.”
The pieces are as interesting to watch as they are to hear. Performers change the tones and textures of the sound by tensing and relaxing muscles, consciously altering their body’s subconscious rhythms into discernable musical patterns. The sounds produced highlight not only an incredible marriage between humans and technology, but also mind and body. By harnessing biofeedback data normally relegated to hospital charts and ECG readouts, the Xth Sense is a new way for performers to express themselves musically, in perhaps the purest form developed to date.
A more detailed explanation on how the instrument works, as well as instructions on how to build your own are available here.