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The Interface-Score. Electronic Musical Interface Design as Embodiment of Performance and Composition

Enrique Tomás
Research Grantee University of Art and Design Linz | Dissertation Completion Fellowship 2015/16


My research studies our contemporary music creation in relation to the changes produced in its instrumentalism after the introduction and use of custom electronic music instruments.

In particular, I lay my emphasis on a type of electronic instrument developed for a very specific musical composition. These instruments are usually only played when interpreting the work they relate. It is the case of musical instruments necessary to bring to creation well defined compositional musical ideas that cannot be achieved by other instruments means. These instruments seem to embed a substantial part of the composition within their configurations, therefore making them impossible to separate from the traditional music notation. This instrument-notation hybridization reaches the possibility of defining the instrument as the only score: the instrument would define the sounds to produce but how and when too.

This kind of instruments would appear in music with an opposite instrumental direction to those traditional or acoustic created to interpret the biggest variation of compositions.  Their compositional modus operandi finds its roots at least on the so called moment of “composing inside electronics” around 1960 and with the same importance in America and Europe. Collectives like the Sonic Arts Union (Lucier, Ashley, Behrman, Mumma) developed initially this vision of instrument-score and it has been continued by prominent artists and composers like Nicolas Collins, or it has been compared to the “augmented instrumentality” by Helmut Lachenman.

In my doctoral thesis I ask explicitly if it is possible to define a theoretical design framework for these type of instruments by embedding scores within their spatial configuration, in their physical and electronic configuration, and by making evident that this information can been understood by practitioners as another kind musical notation.


Enrique Tomás (1981) is an artist and researcher based in Linz working in the intersection of media art, sound and performance. His works have been presented internationally in prestigious museums and galleries like S.M.A.K. or KUMU and in festivals like Ars Electronica or Sonar.