Sound Actions

Sound Actions

Conceptualizing Musical Instruments

By Alexander Refsum Jensenius

A techno-cognitive look at how new technologies are shaping the future of musicking.





A techno-cognitive look at how new technologies are shaping the future of musicking.

“Musicking” encapsulates both the making of and perception of music, so it includes both active and passive forms of musical engagement. But at its core, it is a relationship between actions and sounds, between human bodies and musical instruments. Viewing musicking through this lens and drawing on music cognition and music technology, Sound Actions proposes a model for understanding differences between traditional acoustic “sound makers” and new electro-acoustic “music makers.”

What is a musical instrument? How do new technologies change how we perform and perceive music? What happens when composers build instruments, performers write code, perceivers become producers, and instruments play themselves? The answers to these pivotal questions entail a meeting point between interactive music technology and embodied music cognition, what author Alexander Refsum Jensenius calls “embodied music technology.” Moving between objective description and subjective narrative of his own musical experiences, Jensenius explores why music makes people move, how the human body can be used in musical interaction, and how new technologies allow for active musical experiences. The development of new music technologies, he demonstrates, has fundamentally changed how music is performed and perceived.


$45.00 X ISBN: 9780262544634 304 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 79 b&w illus.


  • “A thorough and systematic treatment of new musical instrument research in the digital age, Sound Actions is an interdisciplinary tour de force that will be a key encyclopedic reference for all musickers interested in the empirical study of embodied musical experience.”

    Atau Tanaka

    Series Editor, Goldsmiths Press / Sonics Series

  • “Engaging with instruments both real and imagined, hand-made and mass-machined, this account of embodied musicking techniques is driven by keen scholarship and tenacious experimentation.”

    Sally Jane Norman

    Director of Te Kōkī – New Zealand School of Music, Te Herenga Waka – Victoria University of Wellington, Aotearoa

  • "Well-researched, yet personal in approach, this book emphasizes something that we know as musicians but can forget as technologists: that 'relationships between actions and sound are the core of music making.'”

    Perry Cook

    Professor Emeritus of Computer Science and Music, Princeton University; author of Music, Cognition, and Computerized Sound