The Xth Sense: Making Your Own Biophysical Sensor 3/8 – 3/9

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Hands-on training in augmentation of the body for musical performance with Marco Donnarumma. Creating your own low cost biosensing wearable device for muscle sounds. 


The course offers both an hands-on experience and theoretical training in the performance of biophysical music and video with the Xth Sense (XS). Participants build from scratch their own XS sensor and learn how to generate visceral music and control live videos using the muscle sounds of their bodies.

Developed by the author within a research project at The Edinburgh University, the XS is a DIY biotechnological musical instrument. With it one can produce music with the sound of her muscles. It is free and open source, and it was named the “world’s most innovative new musical instrument” by the Georgia Tech Center for Music Technology (US, 2012).

The XS amplifies the muscle sounds of the human body, and use them as control data and musical material. When a performer contracts any muscle low frequency sounds are produced. By capturing these sounds with the XS microphone sensor and live sampling them with a computer visceral music is generated in real time. It’s like connecting a guitar to an effect pedal; but here is the body to be connected to an adaptive computational system. One has complete control over the sound shape by simply contracting muscles in different ways.

The XS biosensor is designed to be easily implemented by anyone. No previous experience in electronics is required. The applications of the Xth Sense are manifold: from complex gestural control of audio/video synthesis and sampling, through biophysical generation of music, to bodily control of extended traditional instruments, or control of external vjing software.

Ominous | Incarnated sound sculpture (Xth Sense) from Marco Donnarumma on Vimeo.

Firstly, participants will be introduced to the XS Technology and led through the assembling of their own biophysical wearable hardware using the materials provided.
  Next, they will become proficient with the XS software framework: all the features of the framework will be unleashed through practical exercises.

Theoretical background on the state of art of gestural control of music and new musical instruments will be developed by means of an audiovisual review and participatory critical analysis of relevant projects selected by the instructor. Eventually, participants will combine hardware and software to learn how to master the XS system in a performative context.

At the end of the workshop, participants will be able to keep the XS biosensors they built, and the related software for their own use.

No previous experience in electronics or programming is required, however participants should be familiar with digital music creation.


Participants need to provide their own headphones, external soundcards and laptops with Pd-extended 0.42.5 already installed. Free download is available at

We will work either on Linux or Mac OSX (system have to be 10.6 or newer. If you don’t have access to none of them, please download a live distribution of Apodio at:

Musicians interested in augmenting their favourite musical instrument by means of body gestures are encouraged to bring their instrument along.

Regular: $300
Student (with ID): $270


workshop fee


Performer, body tinkerer, biotech creator, and writer Marco Donnarumma explores the dimensions of the body in relation to real, virtual and cultural space. He uses his wide range of body-based creations, open biotechnologies and bodily interactive systems in intense physical performances that combine sound, light and video, Butoh, dance and media theatre. Currently, as a PhD student at Goldsmiths, he investigates how body theory can provide perspectives on the design of combined biosensing and machine learning technologies for music and the performing arts.

Marco is a Harvestworks Creativity + Technology = Enterprise Fellow (New York) with support by the Rockefeller Foundation and has performed and spoken in over 50 countries. His works have been selected at leading art events (ISEA, Venice Biennale, WRO Biennale), specialized festivals and venues (Transmediale, FILE, Panorama, NYEAF, Sound Art China, CYNETART, Piksel; STEIM, EMPAC, Stanford CCRMA) and major academic conferences (CHI, NIME, ICMC, Pd Con, Linux Audio). He is the editor of Biotechnological Performance Practice (eContact! 14.2), a comprehensive publication on biotech in the performing arts. He was awarded 1st prize in the Margaret Guthman Musical Instrument Competition in 2012 (Georgia Tech) for the biophysical instrument Xth Sense, and the 2nd prize in the Transitio New Media Art Contest (Mexico) for the private installation Nigredo, created with Marije Baalman, in 2013.