adriana  sá
trans-disciplinary   music


The advantage of a parametric visualisation model

Parametric visualisation models are informed by particular research frameworks, which open particular windows of discussion. The one of this research relates to previous models, which focus on human-computer interaction [Birnbaum et al. 2005, Magnusson 2010] and electronic music performance as audio-visual experience [Ceciliani 2014]. This new model is unique in parameterising sonic expression, sensory dominance and spatial presence. It reflects concerns that govern my personal practice - the development of an audio-visual instrument and performance language, as well as decisions about the physical performance setup. Yet, each artistic language has their reason-to-be, and in scientific research it is not very useful to promote one sphere of concerns over the other.

The model does not aim to promote a personal artistic sensibility, as much as it aims to provide an operational means for analysing and developing any audio-visual system, and revealing how it converges and diverges with the three creative principles derived from my perceptual approach: sonic complexity, visual continuity and fungible audio-visual audio-visual relationship.

The model

Visualisation of the parameters from which we can infer
sonic expression (blue), sensory dominance (orange) and spatial presence (green)


  • The Sound Organisation parameter represents to which extent the sonic results depend on the performer’s Real-Time Effort, motor and/ or conceptual. Little effort can mean two things: either the relation between deliberate human agency and sonic results is linear and clearly perceivable, or the music does not depend much on the performer’s interaction. Medium effort denotes complex interface behaviours and required expertise, but also a sense of immediacy and/ or technical configurations that rule out undesired outcomes. High effort indicates that the interaction with the system does not feel immediate, and/ or the interaction is demanding in terms of cognitive processing, and/or the system does not rule out any undesired outcomes. Both little effort and very high effort indicate a divergence from the creative principle of sonic complexity.

  • The Discontinuities parameter includes two sub-parameters: one for the range of Sonic Discontinuities and the other for the range of Visual Discontinuities. To represent the sonic and visual dynamics we use my taxonomy of continuities and discontinuities related with attention, which distinguishes Steady Continuities (SC), Progressive Continuities (PC), Ambivalent Discontinuities (AD) and Radical Discontinuities (RD). A sensory modality exhibiting radical discontinuities prompts automatic attention. A lower level of discontinuity means that deliberate attention is required. Radical visual discontinuities convey visual dominance, indicating the work’s divergence from the creative principle of visual continuity.

  • The Performer Visibility axis shows whether the performer appears Integrated or Separated from the visual projection, or if she is Hidden. The parameter shows to which extent physical gesture influences our assessments on ecological fit. It also provides cues about the scale of the instrument/ system, which influences the sense of spatial presence.

  • The Ecological Fit parameter shows to which extent what we see fits with what we hear. It represents whether concepts of causation are more conclusive or inconclusive, enabling inferences about sensory dominance. Low fit means a weak sense of causation. High fit means conclusive concepts of causation. Medium ecological fit means inconclusive concepts, and convergence with the creative principle of fungibility. The parameter includes two sub-parameters: one for the Fit Between Sound and Image, and the other for the Fit Between Physical Gesture and System Output. In this way, the model can show to which extent conclusiveness/ inconclusiveness derives from the audio-visual mappings, or the audio-visual relationship in space.

  • The Global Semantics parameter extends Pressing’s characterisation of sounds [1997] to the audio-visual domain. The semantics of an audio-visual performance work depend on the semantics of the sound, the image and the audio-visual mapping, on the performer’s visible gesture, her location, and the distribution of sound sources in space. The Informational dimension of a work prompts causal and semantic percepts. The Expressive dimension indicates a focus upon the performer’s personal expression and skills. The Environmental dimension indicates a focus upon space and context.

  • The Performative Arena parameter relates the physical and psychological space of the work. It distinguishes three types of arena, corresponding to different modes of spatial presence. Local denotes a focus upon the performer, corresponding to Ceciliani’s centripetal performance tendencies [2014]. It denotes a sound source placed next to the performer, and/ or her physical location next to the visual projection. The local arena relates to the expressive semantics of the work. Distributed means that the sound source(s) and/ or the visual projection(s) are distributed in space. It corresponds to Ceciliani’s centrifugal performance tendencies [2014]. The distributed arena relates to the environmental dimension of the work. Extended means that the sense of spatial presence exceeds the physical performance location. The extended arena denotes the audience’s mental transportation to another space. This depends on the informational load of the sound, the image and the audio-visual relationship - regardless of whether the sounds and images are more expressive or environmental. Extending spatial presence to a virtual world beyond the screen requires at least a medium level of audio-visual fit.
Theoretical work:
Parametric model
Practical work: