Tim Murray-Browne

Photo of Tim Murray-Browne

I’m an artist, coder and researcher creating interactive installations and technologically augmented performances. An interactive system constructs a world. It defines not only what you experience but what actions you can take and what consequences ensue. In my work, I explore how these experiences affect us at a preverbal level of intuition and embodied cognition. I’m interested in the dynamics of power implicit within interactive system, and much of my work is a speculative investigation into a more humane future. For example, in Cave of Sounds (2012-18) collective belonging emerges without hierarchy; Post-Truth and Beauty (2017) manifests the limitations of a single perspective on the world; Sonified Body (2021) offers a deeply relationship with AI that is embodied and deeply personal yet democratised, diversified and decentralised.

I graduated with a first in Maths and Computer Science from Oxford University (2008). I completed a PhD on interactive art and music at Queen Mary University of London (2012) where I examined technological expression through the lenses of narrative and agency. I’ve completed residencies with Sound and Music/Music Hackspace, ZU-UK, Temp Studio and Studio Wayne McGregor. From 2017-18, I was associate artist of Music Hackspace at Somerset House Studios. I was awarded the Sonic Arts Prize (2014), shortlisted for the New European Media Art Award (2017) and nominated for Ars Electronica’s STARTS prize (2019). Over the years, I’ve worked with a number of creative studios including Random International and Field. In 2019, I founded Preverbal Studio to manage the production of my own work and support other creative studios. I’m also a part-time researcher at the Dyson School of Design Engineering at Imperial College London supporting research into interactive audio technology.

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.

Presently, my research happens through my artistic practice. Previously, I explored this as a PhD and post-doctorate researcher at the Centre for Digital Music at Queen Mary University of London.

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.

Murray-Browne discusses these ideas further in an interview with Create Hub.

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.

PhD

Interactive music: Balancing creative freedom with musical development

Murray-Browne completed his 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 François 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.

Show Abstract

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.

Publications

  • 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)

Workshops and Teaching

  • Interactive Digital Art, four day lecture series for Masters students at Filmuniversität Babelsberg Konrad Wolf, Potsdam, Germany, 2017.
  • Music and Movement, two day workshop at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 2017.
  • Creative Coding, four day lecture series for Masters students at Filmuniversität Babelsberg Konrad Wolf, Potsdam, Germany, 2017.
  • Beginning Processing, three day workshop, Space, London, 2013.
  • Webcam instruments, Music Hackspace, London, 2012.

Talks

  • Thinking without words, Hackoustic, Iklektik, London, 2018.
  • Thinking without words, Flux: New Social Sculpture, London, 2018.
  • Interactive sound, light, space and the moving body, Media and Arts Technology, Queen Mary University of London, 2018.
  • Post-Truth and Beauty, New European Media Conference, Musia Reina Sofia, Madrid, 2017.
  • The Evolution of Interactive Art, invited panel speaker, Zealous Meetup, London, 2017.
  • Bodies and Algorithms with Jan Lee, Interfaces, The Trampery, London, 2017.
  • Guest lecture with Jan Lee at Buckingham New University, High Wycombe, 2017.
  • Interactive sound from the moving body, Interactive Music Summit, Google Campus, London, 2016.
  • Interactive sound and visuals from the moving body, Creative Coding Meetup, TechHub, London, 2016.
  • Body Sound Space (with Jan Lee), Music Hackspace, London, 2016.
  • Keeping it real when the audience make the music happen, Interactive Music Meetup, London, 2016.
  • Interactive Sound Spaces, Artful Spark, Google Campus, London, 2016.
  • This Floating World, VJ Meetup, London, 2015.
  • This Floating World, Music Hackspace, London, 2015.
  • Inauguration Party, Music Hackspace, London, 2015.
  • This Floating World, Digital Performance Weekender, Watermans Arts Centre, London, 2014
  • Block Surfer, talk and demo at Music Hackday, London, 2013.
  • Who’s who, talk and demo at Art+ICT Connect Hackday, Nantes, France, 2013.
  • The Cave of Sounds, Music Hackspace, London, 2013.
  • The Cave of Sounds, Mini Maker Faire, London College of Communication, 2013.
  • The Cave of Sounds, Music Tech Fest, Ravensbourne University, London, 2013.
  • The Ensemble Project, Music Hackspace, London, 2013.
  • Ensemble, Sound and Music Programme Launch, Somerset House, London, 2013.
  • IMPOSSIBLE ALONE: An interactive sound installation exploring the space between musical improvisation, creative movement and games, Digital Music Research Network Conference, London, 2012.
  • The Sound School workshop on technology in music education (invited panel speaker), Google Campus, London, 2012.
  • The Hackspace Ensemble: An exploration into musical collaboration, Music Hackspace, London, 2012.
  • 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
  • Cellular Automata on the LaunchPad, talk and demo at Music Hackday, Barbican Centre, London, 2011.
  • How can interactive music engage audiences for longer?, InterFace, London, 2011.
  • The Serendiptichord: Balancing predictable control with chance discovery in a wearable instrument for dancers, Sound, Sight, Space and Play, Leicester, 2010.