Feigning Humanity: Virtual Instruments, Simulation and Performativity

Eve Klein


This article is concerned with the ways virtual instruments simulate acoustic human performance. In particular, it examines two case studies—virtual orchestras and virtual singers—to consider how their design and implementation seek to express human music performance by adopting the micro and macro sonic variations of timing, pitch, dynamics, articulation, and ambience, and other limitations imposed by the physical relationship between the player and the instrument. By feigning the acoustic markers of expressive human musical performance, virtual instrument designers and composer-users encourage the listener to produce, in themselves, the experience of hearing an orchestra or singer. Users also contribute to the recontextualisation of human performance by feeding back into the cultures and development cycles of virtual instrument software, where sonic gestures are recurrently refreshed. The construction of virtual instruments as devices of musical expressivity is, therefore an evolving, mutually constructed, and performative endeavour.


Virtual Instruments; Simulation; Performativity; virtual orchestras; Musical Expressivity; Synthesisers

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