Liveness Through the Lens of Agency and Causality

Berthaut, Florent; Coyle, David; Moore, James W. and Limerick, Hannah. 2015. 'Liveness Through the Lens of Agency and Causality'. In: The 15th International Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression, 31 May-3 June, 2015, Louisiana State University, USA. Louisiana, United States. [Conference or Workshop Item]

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Abstract or Description

Liveness is a well-known problem with Digital Musical Instruments (DMIs). When used in performances, DMIs provide less visual information than acoustic instruments, preventing the audience from understanding how the musicians influence the music. In this paper, we look at this issuethrough the lens of causality. More specifically, we investigate the attribution of causality by an external observer to a performer, relying on the theory of apparent mental causation. We suggest that the perceived causality between a performer’s gestures and the musical result is central to liveness. We present a framework for assessing attributed
causality and agency to a performer, based on a psychological heory which suggests three criteria for inferred causality. These criteria then provide the basis of an experimentalstudy investigating the effect of visual augmentations on audience’s inferred causality. The results provide insights onhow the visual component of performances with DMIs impacts the audience’s causal inferences about the performer.In particular we show that visual augmentations help highlight the influence of the musician when parts of the musicare automated, and help clarify complex mappings between gestures and sounds. Finally we discuss the potential wider implications for assessing liveness in the design of new musical interfaces.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)

Additional Information:

This project was partially funded through the Marie Curie
FP7 framework (Grant Agreement PIEF-GA-2012-330770


Digital Musical Instrument, Liveness, Agency, Augmentations, Apparent mental causation

Departments, Centres and Research Units:




Event Location:

Louisiana, United States

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

10 Sep 2015 14:23

Last Modified:

04 Jul 2017 10:13


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