Interactive art and sound research

My research examines interactive art — computer-driven works that change in response to the behaviour of their audience, focusing on music and audiovisual works. I have previously explored this in academia as a PhD and post-doc at the Centre for Digital Music at Queen Mary University of London.

Presently, my research happens through my artistic practice. I'm interested in how we interact with others and the world around us, how these interactions let us make sense of who we are and our place in the world. Through my work, I look to construct interactive spaces that challenge or provoke this relationship, often through seeking out new contexts for people to connect with each other and express themselves creatively.

Here is a short quote from an interview I did for Create Hub where I discuss these ideas further.

This is what draws me to working with interactive technology so much — particularly when it involves the moving body with music and abstract imagery. Music and dance have this strange way of saying so much while also saying nothing. The abstraction lets us explore our human activities together before we get focused on the specific personal details of our lives. In some sense, you can reduce human experience down to this dialogue between what we do and what we sense. Mixing interaction, music and dance lets you create an abstract microcosm of experience. This is a space where you can explore this complex relation between identity and environment.


  • T. Murray-Browne, Dom Aversano, S. Garcia, W. Hobbes, D. Lopez, P. Tigas, T. Sendon, K. Ziemianin, D. Chapman, "The Cave Of Sounds: An Interactive Installation Exploring How We Create Music Together," In Proceedings of the International Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression, pp. 307-310, London, UK, 2014. (pdf, bibtex)
  • T. Murray-Browne, Mark D. Plumbley, "Harmonic Motion: A Toolkit for Processing Gestural Data for Interactive Sound," In Proceedings of the International Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression, pp. 213-216, London, UK, 2014. (pdf, bibtex)
  • T. Murray-Browne, D. Mainstone, N. Bryan-Kinns and M. D. Plumbley, "The Serendiptichord: Reflections on the collaborative design process between artist and researcher," Leonardo 46(1):86-87, 2013. (pdf, bibtex)
  • T. Murray-Browne, D. Mainstone, N. Bryan-Kinns and M. D. Plumbley, "The medium is the message: Composing instruments and performing mappings," in Proceedings of the International Conference on New Instruments for Musical Expression (NIME-11), Oslo, Norway, 2011. (pdf, bibtex)
  • A. Otten, D. Shulze, M. Sorensen, D. Mainstone and T. Murray-Browne, "Demo hour," Interactions, 18(5):8-9, 2011. (pdf, bibtex)
  • T. Murray-Browne, M. D. Plumbley, N. Bryan-Kinns, "An empirical study measuring the effect of delayed feature introduction on the user experience of an interactive music system," Technical Report, Centre for Digital Music, Queen Mary University of London, 2011. (bibtex)
  • T. Murray-Browne, D. Mainstone, N. Bryan-Kinns and M. D. Plumbley, "The Serendiptichord: A wearable instrument for contemporary dance performance," in Proceedings of the 128th Convention of the Audio Engineering Society, London, UK, 2010. (pdf, bibtex)
  • T. Murray-Browne and C. Fox, "Global expectation-violation as fitness function in evolutionary composition," in Proceedings of the 7th European Workshop on Evolutionary and Biologically Inspired Music, Sound, Art and Design, Tübingen, Germany, 2009. (link, bibtex)


Interactive music: Balancing creative freedom with musical development

I completed my PhD in 2012 at the Centre for Digital Music, Queen Mary University of London, under the invaluable supervision of Mark D. Plumbley and Nick Bryan-Kinns. It was examined by Atau Tanaka and Francois Pachet.

My thesis explores how we can create interactive music experiences that let you be creatively involved in what you hear, but also draw you in to the composer's musical world, maintaining the hypnotic connection we are familiar with from linear music. For me, interactive music experiences are at their best when they are a shared creation between composer and audience where music is something that happens with you rather than to you. In this way, composing interactive music is as much about musical actions as it is about sound. It requires you to move and to consider how your behaviour affects the environment around you.

Creating a captivating interactive music experience is challenging. How can we create a musical narrative and shape our audience's experience without reducing their sense of creative freedom? Addressing this question has led me to examine musical structure and the perception of skill through perspectives rooted in information theory, social psychology and human-computer interaction. My thesis draws upon a number of fields and methodologies and considers composed instruments, interactive music systems, narrative structures within interactive art, the perception of agency within music and a brief analysis of conversational interaction.


This thesis is about interactive music—a musical experience that involves participation from the listener but is itself a composed piece of music—and the Interactive Music Systems (IMSs) that create these experiences, such as a sound installation that responds to the movements of its audience. Some IMSs are brief marvels commanding only a few seconds of attention. Others engage those who participate for considerably longer. Our goal here is to understand why this difference arises and how we may then apply this understanding to create better interactive music experiences.

I present a refined perspective of interactive music as an exploration into the relationship between action and sound. Reasoning about IMSs in terms of how they are subjectively perceived by a participant, I argue that fundamental to creating a captivating interactive music is the evolving cognitive process of making sense of a system through interaction.

I present two new theoretical tools that provide complementary contributions to our understanding of this process. The first, the Emerging Structures model, analyses how a participant's evolving understanding of a system's behaviour engages and motivates continued involvement. The second, a framework of Perceived Agency, refines the notion of ‘creative control’ to provide a better understanding of how the norms of music establish expectations of how skill will be demonstrated.

I develop and test these tools through three practical projects: a wearable musical instrument for dancers created in collaboration with an artist, a controlled user study investigating the effects of constraining the functionality of a screen-based IMS, and an interactive sound installation that may only be explored through coordinated movement with another participant. This final work is evaluated formally through discourse analysis.

Finally, I show how these tools may inform our understanding of an oft-cited goal within the field: conversational interaction with an interactive music system.

(pdf, bibtex)

Transcripts of interviews referred to within the thesis may be found here.


  • T. Murray-Browne, T. Chan, N. Bryan-Kinns, M. D. Plumbley, "IMPOSSIBLE ALONE: An interactive sound installation exploring the space between musical improvisation, creative movement and games," poster presented at the Digital Music Research Network Conference, London, 2012.
  • The Sound School workshop on technology in music education (invited panel speaker), Google Campus, London, 2012.
  • T. Murray-Browne, "Can interactive art encourage creative self-expression in its audiences? (Or are they just kidding themselves?)," talk given at Reasons to be Creative, Brighton, 2012
  • T. Murray-Browne, D. Mainstone, D. Meckin, N. Bryan-Kinns, M. D. Plumbley, "The Serendiptichord: A wearable instrument for dancers," poster presented at the Digital Music Research Network Conference, London, 2010.
  • T. Murray-Browne, "The Serendiptichord: Balancing predictable control with chance discovery in a wearable instrument for dancers," presentation at Sound, Sight, Space and Play, Leicester, 2010.
  • T. Murray-Browne, "How can interactive music engage audiences for longer?" presentation at InterFace, London, 2011.