Jorge Sousa and Henrique Portovedo

[J.s.] University of Aveiro; [H.P.] INET-md — University of Aveiro, Portugal;;


We live immersed in a digital world and for this reason, seeking for a distinction between the digital and the non-digital becomes increasingly blurred. The term post-digital emerges from this reality of immersion in digital technology. Coined by Kim Cascone in 2000, the concept has evolved, from a moment of disenchantment and loss of fascination with the digital and the exploitation of the flaws arising from the use of technology. The post-digital aesthetics reveals itself in a concern for the development of the digital world, of software and hardware, since this development presents itself as a necessary premise today, crossing it with the non-digital world, the physical world, embracing what belongs to both domains. Consequently, this hybridization has enabled the emergence of new performance practices that use musical systems in unorthodox ways, where the starting point is not the concern with an evident distinction between digital and analogue, but rather a scrutiny of the omnipresent impact of digital media in our daily lives. As a “catalytic agent” of contemporary music creation, post-digital aesthetics is present in music for saxophone. The interaction between technology – saxophone – performer fascinates several contemporary composers and it represents a framework to be watched through the surrounding post digital culture. The aim of this paper is to highlight the main characteristics of post-digital aesthetics, in relation to the composer’s general intentions and/or technical and aesthetic motivations, in three contemporary works written for saxophone in interaction with electronic media. The selected works are: Second Study for Alto Saxophone, Electronics, and Video: pulp by the American composer Jason Buchanan; Somnambulicq (alto saxophone, electronics and video) by the Russian composer Alexander Khubeev; POV (for soprano saxophone, VR glasses, video and electronics) by the Spanish composer Óscar Escudero. In order to collect data, semi-structured interviews were applied to each of the composers. As part of artistic research, from qualitative research angle, interviews are useful tools for obtaining in-depth data on the motivations and procedures made by different persons. 

The results of this study reveal more significant traces of post-digital culture in the aesthetic and technical design of the works, as the composers assume to feel immersed in a digital culture, which influences and guides their thoughts as creators. For them, the intersection between music and digital technology allows to meet a certain “unpredictability”, as well as to make the fusion music-technology-live performance a “poetic analogy” for our daily existence with computers. The unified relationship between image and audio, made possible by technology, provides an immersive environment. The post-digital music detailed here seeks in the relationship between the previously created elements (audio and video) and the live generated material an increase of the range of artistic possibilities, enabling a mutual interaction, hardly “repeated”. Although undertheorized, post-digital aesthetics has an obvious impact on our contemporary culture. Therefore, the selected works concern to the “neo-analog and hybrid digital/analog media designs” related to this aesthetic.

Keywords: post-digital; contemporary music; saxophone.


Jorge Sousa holds a master’s degree in New Technologies of Contemporary Music: Creation and Performance from Real Conservatorio Superior de Música de Madrid, a Master’s degree in Music Education from University of Aveiro and a Bachelor’s degree from ESMAE – School of Music and Performing Arts – Oporto (Music Performance –
Saxophone). Currently, he teaches at Academia de Música de Costa Cabral, in Oporto, and at Espinho Professional School of Music. Besides, he is a member of the Portuguese Symphonic Wind Band and of the Symphonic Wind Band ARMAB. He is attending the PhD program in Music at University of Aveiro (1st year student). He is endorsed by Henri SELMER Paris Saxophones.

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.