This documentation presents the ideas, development, results and reflections of the artistic research project “The music of language and the language of music” by Daniel Formo. This doctoral research project is a part of the Norwegian Artistic Research Fellowship Programme, and has been carried out at the Music Department of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim, Norway. The main supervisor for this project has been Øyvind Brandtsegg, professor in Music Technology at NTNU. In addition, Diemo Schwarz, researcher at the Institut de Recherche et de Coordination Acoustique/Musique (IRCAM), and composer Trevor Wishart, have acted as secondary supervisors.

Documentation Format

This project was carried out within the Scandinavian context of artistic research, emphasising artistic over theoretical practice, and at the core of the project is the creative artistic work from the practitioner’s point of view. In the still young academic field of artistic research the norms and forms have not quite settled yet, but at least in the Norwegian context a pattern is starting to emerge with artistic research expositions being presented as web sites,  on web platforms like the Research Catalogue or the peer reviewed Journal for Artistic Research. Although a doctoral project has certain additional concerns, a web site at has been chosen as the primary documentation format for this project as well, seamlessly integrating sound and video examples crucial for understanding a project about music and performance. It also helps to make clear the distinction from other academic traditions like the text-based dissertations common in humanities.

To guide my priorities as too how artistic research should be conducted, I have looked into the field’s foundations: in general how research is justified politically as the primary way of producing knowledge within a field, and in particular how the field of artistic research came into being (in Europe at least) partly as a direct result of EU free market standardisation of higher education. I have discussed this in an essay on artistic research where I come to the conclusion that if artistic research is meant to produce new knowledge for art practitioners, it has to be relevant for the wider art field regardless of academic affiliation. On this background I do not view the field of artistic research as isolated from artistic practice in general. This work is therefore addressed to anyone interested, both inside and outside academia. The project is fundamentally interdisciplinary and relates to many subjects, and though some topics like signal processing or linguistics are necessarily narrow, the aim has been to present the work in an accessible form.

Content and structure

This documentation is structured as a set of main chapters giving an overall account of the different parts of this project. In addition, I have kept the original research blog where I documented the project’s progress during its development. These posts serve as stills from the development process with detailed descriptions of events and performances, and as such provide a valuable supplement to the overall perspective provided by the main chapters.

I have tried to organise the content into three main categories: the first part covers the project’s background, giving an account of the ideas behind the project, in relation to the context of other musicians in the field. Then the results are presented, describing the technical development of a digital musical instrument, and the creative musical processes and outcomes of this project. The last part consists of a series of wider reflections on different topics related to the overall themes of speech and music.


I would like to thank the Norwegian University of Science and Technology for giving me this opportunity for in-depth study, and especially the Department of Music and its unit for Music Technology for an inspiring working environment. I would also like to thank my supervisors for all the help and constructive input during the project, and not least my family for support and understanding.

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