“Compositions for Involuntary Strings” by Michaela Davies

  • ©, Michaela Davies, Compositions for Involuntary Strings
  • ©, Michaela Davies, Compositions for Involuntary Strings


    Compositions for Involuntary Strings

Artist(s) and People Involved:



Artist Statement:

    Are the musicians in this string quartet playing – or being played? Their movements are controlled by custom-built electric muscle stimulation (EMS) devices which trigger strange, paroxysmal movements via electrical impulses, resulting in an other-worldly aesthetic. Inserting robotic elements into the highly formalised, traditional paradigm of a classical quartet exaggerates the man/machine interfacing that is central to most contemporary music creation, production and performance, highlighting our growing reliance upon machines to perform repetitive or difficult tasks that we used to do ourselves. The work questions assumptions about creative agency and free will both in and beyond the context of musical performance. By controlling performers’ limbs to execute complex rhythms and techniques which they would be unable to perform of their own volition, the work speaks to the ‘democratisation’ of music and art making with the advent of user-friendly technology. Imposing external control over physical agency, it also questions assumptions affirming the physical realm as an expression of an intentional inner self.

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