Gesture-sound causality from the audience’s perspective: investigating the aesthetic experience of performances with digital musical instruments.

Gina Emerson, Hauke Egermann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In contrast to their traditional, acoustic counterparts, digital musical instruments (DMIs) rarely feature a clear, causal relationship between the performer’s actions and the sounds produced. They often function simply as systems for controlling digital sound synthesis, triggering computer-generated audio. This study aims to shed light on how the level of perceived causality of DMI designs impacts audience members’ aesthetic responses to new DMIs. In a preliminary survey, 49 concert attendees listed adjectives that described their experience of a number of DMI performances. In a subsequent experiment, 31 participants rated video clips of performances with DMIs with causal and acausal mapping designs using the eight most popular adjectives from the preliminary survey. The experimental stimuli were presented in their original version and in a manipulated version with a reduced level of gesture-sound causality. The manipulated version was created by placing the audio track of one section of the recording over the video track of a different section. It was predicted that the causal DMIs would be rated more positively, with the manipulation having a stronger effect on the ratings for the causal DMIs. Our results confirmed these hypotheses, and indicate that a lack of perceptible causality does have a negative impact on ratings of DMI performances. The acausal group received no significant difference in ratings between original and manipulated clips. We posit that this result arises from the greater understanding that clearer gesture-sound causality offers spectators. The implications of this result for DMI design and practice are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)96-109
Number of pages14
JournalPsychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 28 Feb 2018

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  • Audience
  • Causality
  • Digital music instruments
  • Mapping
  • Multimodal

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