João Coimbra, Henrique Portovedo and Sara Carvalho

INET-md — University of Aveiro, Portugal;;;


The use of the studio as a composition process using acoustic, analog, and digital instruments have been the basis of my artistic practice. This process promotes the interaction for different elements that make up the studio to favor composition through timbre as musical material. The way I’ve been using my studio has suffered constraints due to my need to add new sound materials for my composition. This Ph.D. project aims to answer this problem by constructing and mapping a digital musical instrument that uses gestures to produce sound. The Physical Computing Instrument (PCI) will restructure my composition process, adding new materials to the studio, while maintaining the use of the current ones. As a composer who uses performance as a procedure for real-time composition, gestural expressiveness is key when thinking about the creation of a musical instrument. Bodiless instruments are great examples of timbre generators but with no direct correlation between physical gesture and sound, as it happens for instance with acoustic instruments. To this project, the definition of a Digital Musical Instrument (DMI) it’s constricted to a musical instrument with a sound generator, detached from its control interface, and with musical and control parameters related to mapping implementation. Technological context makes it easier for composers and performers to develop their instruments and systems designed for a given musical context, meaning different ensembles, an interactive installation, or software-based work. However, these endless possibilities are also constraints since they offer infinite possibilities. Having this in mind, and as a research path, I adopted a strategy of design constraints, through mapping, hardware implementation, and idiomatic writing, to create the Physical Computing Instrument. Six pieces will be composed and performed to help build its final design. At the NCMM conference, I will be presenting compositional sketches to illustrate how these concepts will contribute to the implementation of the PCI. I also aim to demonstrate how the PCI may be useful for the growing community of musicians, composers, and academics who carry out research in this area, and for those not familiar with technology but eager to expand their artistic practice – experimenting with an instrument that will have a soft learning curve, will be portable, and that could be used to ‘augment’ an existing instrument. This project will also promote the sustainability of materials used in the PCI’s construction, and through the implementation of technical solutions, that will contribute to making the instrument a self-sufficient device, in terms of its energy consumption.

Keywords: Gestural interface; Digital Musical Instrument; Human-Computer Interaction.


João Coimbra Studied Journalism, Jazz, Drums, and Piano. Did his master’s in Theory and Composition at Porto Superior Music School. Currently, he is doing his Ph.D. in Composition at Aveiro University, funded by FCT. His work has been published internationally by labels such as EMI, Universal, Sony Music, and Manners McDade and has received commissions from DG Artes, RTP, Antena 3, Porto City Council, SPA, and GDA, among others. The use of the studio as a composition tool using acoustic, analog, and digital instruments have been the basis of his artistic practice and research, a process that promotes the interaction of its elements to favor composition through timbre as musical material. In 2020, he released VIBRA, a project whose main objective was to combine the volumetry and geometric idiosyncrasies of pivotal Porto’s spaces – Casa da Música, Fundação de Serralves, Metro do Marquês, Rio de Vila – in the composition of musical pieces.

Henrique Portovedo was awarded with a Summa Cum Lauda PhD in the field of Science and Technology of the Arts (Performance and Computer Music) at the Portuguese Catholic University funded by FCT. Portovedo was Fulbright Researcher at the University of Santa Barbara Califonia, Erasmus Researcher at the University of Edinburgh, visiting researcher at the ZKM Karlsruhe and visiting researcher at McGill University Montreal. Master in Music Performance with Distinction by Trinity Laban London and Master in Music Pedagogy by the University of Aveiro, he was awarded with several prizes including by the Portuguese National Centre of Culture and the British Society for Education Music and Psychology. As saxophonist and intermedia artist has presented multidisciplinary creations in festivals worldwide, while being soloist with some of the most relevant contemporary ensembles in Europe. Currently Portovedo is professor at University of Aveiro, Guest Professor at the Real Conservatorio Superior de Musica de Madrid and coordinator of the Creation, Performance and Artistic Research’s group at INET-md.

Sara Carvalho is a senior lecturer at Aveiro University, Portugal, and a fellow researcher of INET- MD. She is a composer interested in creative processes associated with gesture, musical narrative, audience as performers and performer-composer collaboration. Her folio has over 70 pieces that are played regularly both in Portugal and around the world. Several of her pieces are available on CD, and in 2012 Numérica edited her monographic CD “7 pomegranate seeds”. Several scores are published by the Portuguese Music Information & Investigation Centre (MIC.PT), Babel Scores and Wirripang Pty. Ltd, Australia. She is regularly invited to be part of international composition juries. Her research work is presented at national and international conferences, and is published in different journals and book chapters, such as ASHGATE/SEMPRE Studies in The Psychology of Music Series and London: Imperial College Press. Between 2005-2017 she served as Independent Expert for the “Culture” and “Creative” Programmes (EU).