Book © 2022

Reviews November 2022

Embodied Human-Computer Interaction in Vocal Music Performance
Franziska Baumann

ISBN: 978-3-031-17984-6

Based on decades of accumulated practice-based knowledge, Franziska Baumann offers the reader profound insights into vocal performance practices with live electronics. Different from other books in this area, Baumann develops her theory not from the side of technique or technology but from the performing vocalist’s perspective, which helps the reader to situate and contextualise new experiences of ‘radical vocality’ on stage, born from the profusion of new digital audio technologies. This book is a treasure trove for practitioners, students, aficionados and scholars alike.  Baumann builds on musicological and phenomenological discussions of embodied (Chapter 1) and mediated voice (Chapter 2), with the deep understanding that the body is always the primary medium in this new type of ‘embodied interface performance’ (Chapter 3). In the final chapter, she delves deeper into creative composing processes with movement patterns kinaesthetically, enriched with insights from other pioneering practitioners such as Kristin Norderval, Alex Nowitz, Pamela Z and Atau Tanaka. Ultimately, she presents the reader with a dynamic framework, a ‘networked assemblage’ of no more than seven co-players that these practitioners report whilst authoring and constructing musical meaning through this unique blend of embodied human-computer interaction. This book feels deeply personal, instructive and inviting towards future generations to find their own voice in this exciting, still expanding field while acknowledging continuities with the work of experimental vocalists of the first hour, like Meredith Monk, Laurie Anderson or Diamanda Galas.

Dr. Pieter Verstraete, University of Groningen-NL and Free University Berlin-D

In vocal expression, the multitude of inherent levels of meaning is more evident than in any other kind of sound production. They shape its musical meaning either consciously or unconsciously. Therefore, it is well worth taking an in-depth look at this topic, as is done in this book.  F. B. sets her artistic practice as a vocal performer, improviser, and composer in relation to the current academic discourse in this field. She complements this with interviews in which other performers share their experiences, thoughts, and reflections. The result impressively shows how artistic practice and academic reflection can mutually stimulate each other and is, therefore of interest to musicians and scientists alike.

Prof. Daniel Weissberg, composer, Co-founder of the Sound Arts degree program at the HKB (Bern Academy of the Arts), Switzerland

In her book, Franziska Baumann examines the potential of the contemporary voice within mediated practices as well as the underlying practices, principles, and sensor technologies that support creativity in embodied human-computer interaction in music performance. Starting with her experiences as a composer-performer, she investigates the complex relationship between vocal expression, body presence, and technical appearance of the interfaces and asks about the phenomenological aspects of the gestural vocabulary and the meaning-making potential of the mapping strategies. A valuable enrichment of the theoretical approach originates from interviews Baumann conducted with several vocal performers who work in similar technological settings. In its entirety, the publication provides essential insights into the process of performance as well as a deeper understanding of – in the author’s words – „how meaning is generated in human-computer interaction by the mutually constituent domains of voice, body, gesture and disembodied sound“.

Dr. Prof. Stefan Drees, Musikwissenschaftler, Journalist
Hochschule für Musik HANNS EISLER, Berlin


The book by vocal and media artist Franziska Baumann is a rare study that has emerged directly from individual artistic practice. It is extraordinary when complex artistic experiences are put into words, analysed reflectively, and placed in theoretical contexts. It is “artistic research” in the best sense of the word. The performer gives a precise insight into the improvisational and compositional work with her voice, which she defines as an embodied and abstract instrument for perception. The artist shows how iridescent vocal improvisations and sound compositions experience intensification, spatialisation, doubling and physical alienation through their mediatisation. The (self-)manipulation of the voice is presented as a game with and between vocal, sound articulation, emerging virtual identities, different emotions and regions of expression, and linguistic-communicative areas. The analysis of the special potentiation of this coupling of man and machine through specific interfaces and gestural systems such as the SensorGlove shows how insightfully the artist has researched her practice.

Dr. Christa Brüstle, Musikwissenschaftlerin
University of Music and Performing Arts Graz, Austria

Franziska Baumann