The EGM project combines (1) an extension of means of artistic expression in, specifically, interactive electronic music, with (2) an advancement of the comprehension of musical (and intermedial) experience. The shared idea of both, the artistic and philosophical, strands of the project, is to explore for an experience under a concept (e.g. the concept of “embodiment”). The experience needs to be had and observed (explorations), the conditions for such experience situatively supplied (scenario design), and the concept developed, criticised, and applied (philosophical argument). A dancer having the particular experience in question simultaneously and implicitly wears it, externalises it; thus it can be observed as expression.

All this concerns itself with the presence (and absence) of intermodal perceptive phenomena and their interdependence. Knowledge as to this presence is used in the practical aesthetics of an intermedial performance, as well as, in philosophical aesthetics concerning the elucidation of musical experience. This is the basis for (applied) phenomenological research into musical perception, and artistic research for new means of expression, in the forms both undertaken in EGM.

Musicological and philosophical ambition (Peters)

How come we sometimes experience music as profoundly involving, as affecting us psychologically and as engaging us on the level of feeling, as gripping, moving or touching, as self-transforming even? Musical experience – that is, the experience of music as music, rather than a mere sequence of sounds (Roger Scruton puts this extremely well in his The Aesthetics of Music), and, specifically, the experience of it as an involving imagination and communication (following John Dewey’s concept of experience as expoused in his Art as Experience) – is an often discussed but still largely obscure subject in aesthetics and other discourse on music.

The pleasure of listening, of musical appreciation, is not confined to intellectual contemplation; music can be deeply satisfying to the senses as well, and, in fact, any musical experience of the abovementioned engaging character encompasses both realms of appreciation. While a growing discourse on the latter point (which up to recently has largely been dismissed as irrelevant to aesthetics) is now taking place in the context of performance research, music psychology, semiotics of music, and current musical aesthetics, the relation between sensual and intellectual qualities in musical experience is still a neglected issue, often marking the enigmatic endpoints of inquiry. One reason for this is that sensual qualities are often associated with “the body”, whereas intellectual qualities with “the mind”, and that, respectively, research appears to often fall into two categories: bodily aspects of musical experience, such as “chills”, are investigated as physical phenomena, empirically; mental aspects (such as semantics, musical “understanding” and imagination) are more likely to be topics of theoretical analysis, hermeneutics, and philosophical argument.

As different from such unilateral approaches, the research endeavour in the EGM project seeks to join the exploration of empirical phenomena with the exploration of aesthetic concepts. The guiding hypothesis is that musical experience is embodied, i.e., in all its cognitive complexity still somehow essentially grounded in the body. A concise way of putting this hypothesis is this: We hear music not only with our ears, but also with our (lived) bodies. The experience of music, in our view, is not a result of the processing of auditory information, no matter how sophisticated; nor is it a matter of an application of subjective imagination to abstract sound materials to effect a mere recognition of expression somehow contained therein. Instead, this project seeks to substantiate (or dismiss) the claim that music becomes meaningful experience via bodily involvement (not affecting the latter as a consequence of cognitive acts, but being created by it, hence turning into cognitive acts).

Artistic ambition (Eckel)

One of the great advances of electronic music in the form it appeared in the middle of the last century can be seen in the liberation of the music production process from the limitations of the human performer. The compositional desire of total control, which had steadily developed over the last centuries in western music, found its ultimate expression in post-war serialism, which was perceived as a solution satisfying this desire. Algorithmic specification of musical structure and the direct realisation of music by the composer in the electronic studio became common practice, aiming at avoiding the subjectivity of interpretation and at overcoming the physical limitations of human performers. For many composers the explicit goal was to create a music not relying any longer on the romantic concept of expression, even opposing and rejecting it. The appearance of conceptual art marks a similar development in the visual arts. With his famous statement "The idea becomes the machine that makes the art", Sol LeWitt managed to capture these tendencies in a nutshell. The mininal and conceptual movement in the visual arts was also motivated by a transcendence of subjectivity and expressionism in the creative process. These tendencies resulted into art practices commonly referred to as generative art today. Generative art is usually understood as being produced through an autonomous process, unfolding without any relevant human intervention and according to an algorithmic description composed by the artist. With the advent of personal computing in the 1980s, generative music started to develop as an important form of computer music, reflecting many concerns of the electronic music composers of the early days.

Whereas performance was mostly excluded from the public presentation of electroacoustic music in general, it started to play a new role in the production process in the studio. Through the manipulation of the machines in the early studio, the bodies of the composers extended into the production of the structural and sonic aspects of their music in an essential way. A new performative relation between humans and the sounds they produce developed, strongly shaping the sonic imagination of the composers. Rapid technological advances in electronics, computing and interface technology massively influenced the development of this new performative relation, which mixed and merged with the traditional instrumental relation. This hybridisation started already in the early days of the electronic music studio when live electronics – the use of studio technology on stage, i.e. during the public presentation of the music – was born. Whereas live electronics is concerned with the embodiment of the technologically mediated production and processing of sound through a performer, an embodied form of generative music aims at empowering the performer to enact the structural unfolding of a compositional idea. Therefore the body of the performer has to extend into (i.e. be able to intervene on the level of) the generative process engendering the music. Inventing performative metaphors allowing for such interventions is the ambition of the artistic research component of this project.