Xth Sense: Make your own biophysical sensor for interactive music and video

March 15th, 2014 10:00 am until March 16th, 2014

Marco Donnarumma - Xth Sense

This weekend course offers hands-on experience and theoretical training in the performance of biophysical music and visuals with the Xth Sense (XS). Workshop participants will build from scratch their own XS sensors, then learn how to analyze and map the data from their muscle and body movements to generate music, visuals, and do live processing of sound. Attention will also be paid to aesthetic considerations when using the XS system in artistic contexts.

At the end of the workshop, participants will take home the XS bioacoustic sensors they built, and the related software for their own continued creative use.

Some topics covered in the workshop include:

  • Theoretical background on the state of art of gestural control of music
  • Introduction to the Xth Sense (XS) framework (technical overview, capabilities)
  • Building the sensor
  • An introduction to the open source artistic programming language PureData, tips and tricks for using PureData in live settings
  • Explorations of bioacoustic sound design capabilities
  • Building audio modules and signal processing chains
  • Aesthetics of bioacoustic sensor-based performance
  • Mapping muscle energy to control values and real-time processing
  • Designing an aesthetic vocabulary for body-sensor performance

DATE: 15-16 MARCH, 2014
TIME: 11-17h each day
COST: €110 (includes €25 sensor kit & parts)
LOCATION: STEIM Concert Space, Utrechtsedwarsstraat 134, Amsterdam

About Xth Sense
The XS is a DIY mechanomyogram-based musical instrument which allows an artist to use muscle movement to control music and visuals. In contrast with most bio-sensing technologies which are expensive and closed to modification, the XS sensor is designed to be open, low-cost, and easily implemented by anyone, regardless of past electronics experience. The Georgia-Tech Center for Music Technology (US) named the Xth Sense the “world’s most innovative new musical instrument” in 2012.



This workshop is open to anyone with an interest in sound and music. Musical background and education does not matter so long as you have a willingness to challenge your usual perspectives on musical performance.
No previous knowledge of electronics and programming is necessary for this workshop, however participants should be familiar with basic digital music creation.



Participants must bring their own laptop computers with headphones and external soundcards.* Your computer must be running Linux** or Mac OSX (10.6 or newer). You must also have Pd-extended 0.42.5 already installed on your computer. A free download of Pd-extended is available at http://puredata.info/community/projects/software/pd-extended

Musicians interested in augmenting their favorite musical instruments with body feedback are also highly encouraged to bring their instrument along for the workshop.

* STEIM also has a limited number of computers with soundcards available for participants who cannot bring their own. If you would like to use one of STEIM’s machines during the workshop please contact us no later than one week before the workshop by email at knock [AT] steim [DOT] nl.

** Those interested in using Linux for artistic purposes might want to take a look at the Apodio distribution, which we highly recommend.



Performer, body tinkerer, biotech creator and writer Marco Donnarumma explores the dimensions of the body in relation to real, virtual and cultural space. Using natural and technological media, his works disrupt the flesh to uncover unknown traits of human nature. He is known for his wide range of body-based creations, that include intense physical performance, sound, light and video, Butoh, dance and media theatre. He makes open biotechnologies and bodily interactive systems. Currently, as a PhD student at Goldsmiths London with Atau Tanaka and Matthew Fuller, he investigates how body theory can provide perspectives on the design of combined biosensing and machine learning technologies for music and the performing arts. He is a Harvestworks Creativity + Technology = Enterprise Fellow (New York, US) with support by the Rockefeller Foundation.

Marco has performed and spoken in over 50 countries including US, South America, Europe, India, China, South Korea and Australia. His works have been selected at leading art events (ISEA, Venice Biennale, WRO Biennale), specialized festivals and venues (Transmediale, FILE, Panorama, NYEAF, Sound Art China, CYNETART, Piksel; STEIM, EMPAC, Stanford CCRMA) and major academic conferences (CHI, NIME, ICMC, Pd Con, Linux Audio). He is the editor of Biotechnological Performance Practice (eContact! 14.2), a comprehensive publication on biotech in the performing arts. His writings have appeared in the Leonardo Electronic Almanac (MIT Press), in the book “New Art/Science Affinities” (CMU, Studio for Creative Enquiry), and several times in specialised conference proceedings.

He’s the recipient of several awards, most notably, the 1st prize in the Margaret Guthman Musical Instrument Competition (Georgia Tech, US) for the biophysical instrument Xth Sense, and the 2nd prize in the Transitio New Media Art Contest (MX) for the private installation Nigredo, created with Marije Baalman. He has been artist in residence at STEIM (NL), Inspace (UK), and National School of Theatre and Contemporary Dance (DK). His work has been funded by the European Commission, British Council, Creative Scotland, New Media Scotland, and the Danish Arts Council. His projects have been reviewed on BBC, Forbes, Reuters, Wired, RTVE, El Pais, ResonanceFM, Weave, Create Digital Music, We Make Money Not Art and Digicult.

Marco Donnarumma - Moving Forest