Thomas Gardner

Senior Lecturer for School of Media Member of CRiSAP

London College of Communication

Research interests

Composition and group interaction, interfaces and programs for digital performance, interfaces between sound signals and text, historically informed performance practice, evolutionary musicology.

Research statement

Thomas Gardner's recent research includes the 'Ouija Board' - a new form of group musical instrument. Based on the real-time video analysis of the shadows of a group of people, it reframes many of the conventions of traditional tactile instrumental control. It allows the relationship between sound material from loudspeakers and the embodied act of performance to be investigated more deeply. This occurs both in a formal research process and during performance, where the Ouija board acts as a bridge between acousmatic and traditional instrumental / vocal techniques.Its research background lies in evolutionary musicology: The evolutionary perspective gives cultural, interpersonal and biological factors an equal footing, and provides a useful standpoint from which to understand the effects of technologically mediated sound production.

The tactile quality of traditional acoustic instruments is in contrast to this remote, shadowy form of engagement. It is a negative instrument, between two worlds, casting a human shadow on the acousmatic curtain. 

Thomas's compositional research has also resulted in new pieces, including 'Lipsync' for cello and live electronics. The text of the Heine poem 'Der Tod, das ist die kühle Nacht', is enunciated by the cellist while they play. The divided body of the performer - one part speaking the other part playing - is taken as a starting image. Various levels of synchronisation are explored, between action and speech, poetic idea and sonic image, acousmatic sound and live processing.

These separate elements are fused by the guiding romantic conceit that death is a heightened and transcendent state. The composition, performance and computer programming for this piece involves many novel features.

  • From a compositional point of view it is the reinterpretation of Romantic musical techniques (both structural and instrumental) in the light of contemporary acousmatic and spatial compositional practice. 
  • From a performance point of view, it is the seamless integration of cellistic technique with speech and lip control. (Plosives act to control some of the electroacoustic processes, and the projection of cellistic material.) 
  • From a technological point of view it is the development of new programming concepts (balancing between a message based name space and a signal processing network) for centering the timing of the 6 channel sound processing around the performer.

Students

Sunil Chandy, Extending listening strategies for the public reading of Christian Scripture.

Julie Groves, Physical Composition: Investigating the notion of the physical as a compositional tool by defining the term and its use through creative practice.

Kevin Logan, How to (Re)Do Things with Sounds: Mediating the Sonic-Deed.

Selected research outputs