Melody Chua, Master of Arts in Transdisciplinary Studies

Public Lecture Series
DECEMBER 7th, 17:15 -18:30 | Kino Toni, ZHdK | Live stream

The improvisation machine is an elusive figure. It has no universally agreed-upon form but is instead in a state of continuous fluidity of audiovisual representations. Throughout the performance, it shifts between being treated as a distinct musical agent to being regarded as an embodied posthuman extension to its human counterpart. It is always in tension between the attempt to recognize it as a distinctly encapsulated entity and at the same time as a synergy of independent entities, the fluctuations between which are shaped through immersive representations of itself and the performance environment.
The development of and performance with an improvisation machine can, with careful reflection, serve as a practical method upon which to be relinquished from our traditional understandings of embodiment. The form of the improvisation machine—fragmented through spatially separated electronic devices and mediums—is inherently discombobulated. Indeed, the fragmentation of the improvisation machine reflects a mindbody conceptualization offered by media artist and researcher Lisa Blackman: “We are never a singular body, but are multiple bodies that are brought into being and held together through complex practices of self-production.”
In this lecture, I reflect upon the facets of immersion and embodiment as they manifest in the field of improvised music performance between human and nonhuman agents, using my work black box fading as a case study. How do immersive representations of and experiences between such agents on both audio and visual levels instigate different considerations of what embodiment can be? How can these reflect our biases concerning control, (dis)orientation, and vulnerability in immersive environments?

Melody Chua is an interdisciplinary artist working with interactive technologies in improvisation settings as both vehicles of narrative expression and as opportunities to destabilize the normatives present in one’s relationship with such technologies. The aesthetics of her work gravitate towards immersive futuristic fictions with undertones of nostalgia and introspection, pulling audiences into intimate worlds. Awarded a Fulbright-Swiss Government Excellence Scholarship for the development of a sensor-augmented flute (Chaosflöte), Melody has performed and guest-lectured internationally at festivals and institutions such as the Swiss Digital Day, Network Music Festival, Atlantic Music Festival Future Music Lab, La Côte Flute Festival, Performing Media Festival, Montreal Contemporary Music Lab, New Interfaces for Music Expression (NIME) Conference, University of Music and Performing Arts Stuttgart, University of South Florida, and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, among others.