Prof Atau Tanaka

Staff details

Position Professor of Media Computing
Department Computing
Email a.tanaka (
Phone +44 (0)20 7919 7850
Twitter @atautanaka
Prof Atau Tanaka

Atau Tanaka conducts research in embodied musical interaction. This work takes place at the intersection of human computer interaction and gestural computer music performance.

He studies our encounters with sound, be they in music or in the everyday, as a form of phenomenological experience. This includes the use of physiological sensing technologies, notably muscle tension in the electromyogram signal, and machine learning analysis of this complex, organic data.

At the other extreme, he studies user experience through ethnographic methods of participatory design where activities of workshopping, scenario building, and structured brainstorming lead an understanding of a mediums affordances in bottom-up, emergent ways.

He is a member of the EAVI (Embodied AudioVisual Interaction) research group, which focuses on embodied interaction with sound and image. EAVI is a small group of academics, researchers, and PhD students carrying out cutting-edge research across topics including motion capture, eye tracking, brain computer interfaces, physiological bio-interfaces, machine learning, and auditory culture.

Atau has previously been Artistic Ambassador at Apple, researcher at Sony Computer Science Laboratory, and professor and guest professor in Japan, France, and northeast England. His work has been supported by the European Research Council (ERC), Horizon2020, and both science and humanities sections of Research Councils UK (RCUK).

Academic Qualifications

  • Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA), Stanford University
  • Bachelor of Music (BM), Peabody Conservatory, Johns Hopkins University
  • Bachelor of Arts (AB), Harvard University


Professional projects

Atau is a composer and performer of live computer music, taking research out of the lab onto the stage. He uses muscle sensing using the EMG signal in musical performance where the human body becomes musical instrument. He has created large scale installations bringing together sound/image, mobile, and network technologies.

Atau’s first inspirations came upon meeting John Cage during his Norton Lectures and would go to on re-create Cage’s Variations VII with Matt Wand and :zoviet*france:.

He formed Sensorband with Zbigniew Karkowski and Edwin van der Heide and in the Japanoise scene he has played alongside artists like Merzbow, Otomo, KK Null and others.

He has been artistic co-director of STEIM, the Studio for Electro-Instrumental Music.

His work has received awards from Ars Electronica, Fraunhofer Institute, and the Fondation Daniel Langlois, and been presented internationally at Sonar, Transmediale, SFMOMA, ICA, Eyebeam, NTT-ICC, and ZKM

Research Interests

  • Music interaction
  • New Interfaces for Musical Expression (NIME)
  • Human-Computer Interaction (HCI)
  • User-centred Design (UCD)
  • Interactive machine learning applications
  • Embodiment, the body and phenomenology

Publications and research outputs

Book Section

Zbyszynski, Michael; Di Donato, Balandino; Visi, Federico and Tanaka, Atau. 2021. Gesture-Timbre Space: Multidimensional Feature Mapping Using Machine Learning & Concatenative Synthesis. In: Richard Kronland-Martinet; Sølvi Ystad and Mitsuko Aramaki, eds. Perception, Representations, Image, Sound, Music. Springer International Publishing. ISBN 9783030702090

Zbyszynski, Michael; Tanaka, Atau and Visi, Federico. 2020. Interactive Machine Learning: Strategies for live performance using Electromyography. In: Hugo Silva, ed. Open Source Biomedical Engineering. Springer.

Tanaka, Atau. 2019. Embodied Musical Interaction. In: Simon Holland; Tom Mudd; Katie Wilkie-McKenna; Andrew McPherson and Marcelo Wanderley, eds. New Directions in Music and Human-Computer Interaction. Cham, Switzerland: Springer, pp. 135-154. ISBN 9783319920689

Tanaka, Atau and Donnarumma, Marco. 2018. The Body as Musical Instrument. In: , ed. UNSPECIFIED 1 Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780190636234

Tanaka, Atau and Parkinson, Adam. 2018. The problems with participation. In: Simon Emmerson, ed. The Routledge Research Companion to Electronic Music: Reaching out with Technology. Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 172-193. ISBN 9781317043607

Tanaka, Atau and Ortiz, Miguel. 2017. Gestural Musical Performance with Physiological Sensors, Focusing on the Electromyogram. In: M. Lesaffre; P-J. Maes and M. Leman, eds. The Routledge Companion to Embodied Music Interaction. Oxon: Routledge, pp. 422-430. ISBN 9781138657403

Tanaka, Atau and Knapp, R. Benjamin. 2017. Multimodal Interaction in Music Using the Electromyogram and Relative Position Sensing. In: Alexander Refsum Jensenius and Michael J Lyons, eds. A NIME Reader Fifteen Years of New Interfaces for Musical Expression. Srpinger, pp. 45-58. ISBN 978-3-319-47213-3

Parkinson, Adam; Cameron, David and Tanaka, Atau. 2015. HapticWave: presenting the multiple voices, artefacts and materials of a design research project. In: , ed. Proceedings of the 2nd Biennial Research Through Design Conference.

Tanaka, Atau. 2014. Creative Applications of Interactive Mobile Music. In: Sumanth Gopinath and Jason Stanyek, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Mobile Music Studies, Volume 2. 2 Oxford: Oxford Handbooks Online. ISBN 9780199913657

Parkinson, Adam and Tanaka, Atau. 2014. Making Data Sing: Embodied Approaches to Sonification. In: Mitsuko Aramaki; Olivier Derrien; Richard Kronland-Martinet and Solvi Ystad, eds. Sound, Music and Motion. Springer, pp. 151-160. ISBN 978-3-319-12975-4

Tanaka, Atau. 2014. Creative Applications of Interactive Mobile Music. In: Sumanth Gopinath and Jason Stanyek, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Mobile Music Studies, Volume 2. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 470-486. ISBN 9780199913657

Tanaka, Atau; Bau, O. and Mackay, W.. 2013. The A20: Interactive Instrument Techniques for Sonic Design Exploration. In: Karmen Franinović and Stefania Serafin, eds. Sonic Interaction Design. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, pp. 255-270. ISBN 9780262018685

Parkinson, Adam and Tanaka, Atau. 2013. Composing for Cars. In: , ed. Proceedings of the Sound and Music Computing Conference 2013. Berlin, Stockholm, Sweden: Logos Verlag, pp. 136-141. ISBN 978-3-8325-3472-1

Tanaka, Atau; Parkinson, Adam; Settel, Zack and Tahiroğlu, Koray. 2012. Survey and thematic analysis approach as input to the design of mobile music guis. In: , ed. NIME2012 Proceedings.

Tanaka, Atau. 2012. BioMuse to Bondage: Corporeal Interaction in Performance and Exhibition. In: Maria Chatzichristodoulou and Rachel Zerihan, eds. Intimacy Across Visceral and Digital Performance. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 9781137283337

Tanaka, Atau. 2011. Processes of Mutuality. In: Irène Hediger and Josep Perelló, eds. Think Art, Act Science: Swiss Artists-in-labs. Barcelona: Actar, pp. 20-27. ISBN 978-8-492-86170-5

Tanaka, Atau. 2011. Situating within Society: Blueprints and Strategies for Media Labs. In: Angela Plohman, ed. A Blueprint for a Lab of the Future. Eindhoven: Baltan Laboratories. ISBN 978-90-815830-0-8

Kazuhiro, Jo and Tanaka, Atau. 2009. The Music Participates In. In: Franziska Schroeder, ed. Performing Technology: User Content and the New Digital Media. UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, pp. 34-50. ISBN 978-1-443-81445-4

Tanaka, Atau. 2009. Sensor-Based Musical Instruments and Interactive Music. In: Roger Dean, ed. Oxford Handbook of Computer Music. UK: Oxford University Press, pp. 233-257. ISBN 978-0-199-79203-0


Correia, Nuno N. and Tanaka, Atau. 2021. From GUI to AVUI: Situating Audiovisual User Interfaces Within Human-Computer Interaction and Related Fields. EAI Endorsed Transactions on Creative Technologies, 8(27), e5. ISSN 2409-9708

Tahiroğlu, Koray; Magnusson, Thor; Parkinson, Adam; Garrelfs, Iris and Tanaka, Atau. 2020. Digital Musical Instruments as Probes: How Computation Changes the Mode-of-Being of Musical Instruments. Organised Sound, 25(1), pp. 64-74. ISSN 1355-7718

Metatla, Oussama; Martin, Fiore; Parkinson, Adam; Bryan-Kinns, Nick; Stockman, Tony and Tanaka, Atau. 2016. Audio-haptic interfaces for digital audio workstations: A participatory design approach. Journal on Multimodal User Interfaces, 10(3), pp. 247-258. ISSN 1783-7677

Tanaka, Atau. 2015. Intention, Effort, and Restraint: The EMG in Musical Performance. Leonardo, 48(3), pp. 298-299. ISSN 0024-094X

Caramiaux, Baptiste; Donnarumma, Marco and Tanaka, Atau. 2015. Understanding Gesture Expressivity through Muscle Sensing. ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction, 21(6), 31. ISSN 1073-0516

Correia, Nuno N. and Tanaka, Atau. 2015. Prototyping Audiovisual Performance Tools: A Hackathon Approach. Proc. of NIME (New Interfaces for Musical Expression) 2015,

Caramiaux, Baptiste; Montecchio, Nicola; Tanaka, Atau and Bevilacqua, Frédéric. 2014. Adaptive Gesture Recognition with Variation Estimation for Interactive Systems. ACM Transactions on Interactive Intelligent Systems (ACM TiiS), 4(4),

Correia, Nuno N. and Tanaka, Atau. 2014. User-Centered Design of a Tool for Interactive Computer-Generated Audiovisuals. Proc. of 2nd Int. Conf. on Live Interfaces,

Caramiaux, Baptiste and Tanaka, Atau. 2013. Machine Learning of Musical Gestures: Principles and Review. Proceedings of the International Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression (NIME), pp. 513-518.

Tanaka, Atau; Kazuhiro, Jo and Parkinson, Adam. 2013. Workshopping Participation in Music. Organised Sound, 18(3), pp. 282-291. ISSN 1355-7718

Tanaka, Atau. 2013. Back To The Cross-Modal Object: A Look Back At Early Audiovisual Performance Through The Lens Of Objecthood. Leonardo Electronic Almanac, 19(3), ISSN 1071-4391

Tanaka, Atau; Altavilla, Alessandro and Spowage, Neil. 2012. Gestural Musical Affordances. Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on Sound and Music Computing, 9,

Sinclair, Peter; Tanaka, Atau and Hubner, Yvonne. 2011. RoadMusic: Music for your Ride from your Ride. AutomotiveUI '11: 3rd International Conference on Automotive User Interfaces and Interactive Vehicular Applications,

Tanaka, Atau. 2011. The Sound of Photographic Image. AI and Society, Journal of Knowledge, Culture and Communication, ISSN 0951-5666

Leong, Tuck Wah; Gaye, Lalya; Tanaka, Atau; Taylor, Robyn and Wright, Peter. 2011. The user in flux: bringing HCI and digital arts together to interrogate shifting roles in interactive media. CHI Proceedings of the Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems,

Tanaka, Atau. 2011. CultureLab: A Laboratory for the Future. Musiques and Cultures Digitales,

Tanaka, Atau; Gaye, Lalya and Richardson, Ranald. 2010. Co-production and Co-creation: Creative Practice in Social Inclusion. Cultural Computing, 333(n/a), pp. 169-178. ISSN 1868-4238

Conference or Workshop Item

Peng, Youhong (Friendred) ; Tanaka, Atau and Ward, Jamie A. 2020. 'The Light: Exploring Socially Improvised Movements Using Wearable Sensors in a Performative Installation'. In: UBICOMP / ISWC 2020. Cancun (online), Mexico.

Zbyszynski, Michael; Di Donato, Balandino and Tanaka, Atau. 2019. 'Gesture-Timbre Space: Multidimensional Feature Mapping Using Machine Learning & Concatenative Synthesis'. In: 14th International Symposium on Computer Music Multidisciplinary Research (CMMR). Marseille, France 14-18 October 2019.

Peng, Youhong (Friendred) and Tanaka, Atau. 2019. 'Body and Embodiment in Dance Performance'. In: The 6th International Conference on Movement and Computing. Tempe, AZ, United States.

Di Donato, Balandino; Tanaka, Atau; Zbyszynski, Michael and Klang, Martin. 2019. 'EAVI EMG board'. In: New Interfaces for Musical Expression. Porto Alegre, Brazil 3-6 June 2019.

Tanaka, Atau; Di Donato, Balandino; Zbyszynski, Michael and Roks, Geert. 2019. 'Designing Gestures for Continuous Sonic Interaction'. In: The International Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression. Porto Alegre, Brazil 3-6 June 2019.

Zbyszynski, Michael; Di Donato, Balandino and Tanaka, Atau. 2019. 'The Effect of Co-adaptive Learning & Feedback in Interactive Machine Learning'. In: ACM CHI: Human-Centered Machine Learning Perspectives Workshop. Glasgow, United Kingdom 4 May 2019.

Di Donato, Balandino; Bullock, Jamie and Tanaka, Atau. 2018. 'Myo Mapper: a Myo armband to OSC mapper'. In: Proceedings of the International Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression. Blacksburg, Virginia, United States 3-6 June 2018.

Correia, Nuno N.; Castro, Deborah and Tanaka, Atau. 2017. 'The Role of Live Visuals in Audience Understanding of Electronic Music Performances'. In: Audio Mostly. London, United Kingdom.

Sarasúa, Álvaro; Caramiaux, Baptiste; Tanaka, Atau and Ortiz, Miguel. 2017. 'Datasets for the Analysis of Expressive Musical Gestures'. In: Moco 2017. London, United Kingdom.

Correia, Nuno N. and Tanaka, Atau. 2017. 'AVUI: Designing a Toolkit for Audiovisual Interfaces'. In: ACM CHI. Denver, CO, United States 5 - 11 June 2017.

Ward, Nicholas; Ortiz, Miguel; Bernardo, Francisco and Tanaka, Atau. 2016. 'Designing and measuring gesture using Laban Movement Analysis and Electromyogram'. In: BodySenseUX. UbiComp, Germany 12/09/2016.

Tanaka, Atau and Parkinson, Adam. 2016. 'Haptic Wave: A Cross-Modal Interface for Visually Impaired Audio Producers'. In: CHI2016. San Jose, CA, United States 7 - 12 May 2016.

Parkinson, Adam and Tanaka, Atau. 2016. 'The Haptic Wave: A Device for Feeling Sound'. In: UNSPECIFIED. UNDEFINED.

Gillies, Marco; Fiebrink, Rebecca; Tanaka, Atau; Garcia, Jérémie; Amershi, Saleema; Lee, Bongshin; Bevilacqua, Frédéric; Heloir, Alexis; Nunnari, Fabrizio; Mackay, Wendy; Kulesza, Todd; Caramiaux, Baptiste; d’Alessandro, Nicolas and Tilmanne, Joëlle. 2016. 'Human-Centered Machine Learning'. In: CHI '16 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems. San Jose, United States 7 - 12 May 2016.

Sarasua, Alvaro; Caramiaux, Baptiste and Tanaka, Atau. 2016. 'Machine Learning of Personal Gesture Variation in Music Conducting'. In: UNSPECIFIED. UNDEFINED.

Caramiaux, Baptiste; Altavilla, Alessandro; Pobiner, Scott and Tanaka, Atau. 2015. 'Form Follows Sound: Designing Interactions from Sonic Memories'. In: Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. Seoul, Korea, Republic of.

Parkinson, Adam; Cameron, David and Tanaka, Atau. 2015. 'HapticWave: Presenting the Multiple Voices, Artefacts and Materials of a Design Research Project'. In: Research Through Design. Cambridge, United Kingdom.

Caramiaux, Baptiste; Altavilla, Alessandro; Pobiner, Scott G. and Tanaka, Atau. 2015. 'Form Follows Sound'. In: UNSPECIFIED. UNDEFINED.

Van Zandt-Escobar, Alejandro; Caramiaux, Baptiste and Tanaka, Atau. 2014. 'PiaF: A Tool for Augmented Piano Performance Using Gesture Variation Following'. In: New Interfaces for Musical Expression. Goldsmiths, United Kingdom.

Caramiaux, Baptiste; Bevilacqua, Frédéric and Tanaka, Atau. 2013. 'Beyond Recognition: Using Gesture Variation for Continuous Interaction'. In: UNSPECIFIED. UNDEFINED.

Donnarumma, Marco; Caramiaux, Baptiste and Tanaka, Atau. 2013. 'Muscular Interactions Combining EMG and MMG sensing for musical practice'. In: Proceedings of the International Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression. Dajeon, Seoul, Korea, Republic of.

Donnarumma, Marco; Caramiaux, Baptiste and Tanaka, Atau. 2013. 'Body and Space : Combining Modalities for Musical Expression'. In: Work in Progress for the Conference on Tangible, Embedded and Embodied Interaction (TEI). UPF, Barcelona, Spain.

Tanaka, Atau. 2010. 'Mapping Out Instruments, Affordances, and Mobiles'. In: New Interfaces for Musical Expression. Sydney, Australia.


Tanaka, Atau. 2010. Suspensions.


Tanaka, Atau. 2015. Myogram (2015). In: "Performing Sound", ZKM, Germany.

Tanaka, Atau and Parkinson, Adam. 2010. 4 Hands iPhone. In: "Electron Festival", Geneva, Switzerland, 2010-2011.

Tanaka, Atau. 2008. Variations VII. In: "AV Festival", Newcastle-upon-Tyne, United Kingdom, 2008-2010.


Bulley, James; Sahin, Ozden; Spinelli, Emmanuel; Tanaka, Atau; Hosang, Georgina M.; Cubitt, Sean; Drever, John L. and Kanngieser, Anja. 2014. Sound and the City (Natural History Museum).


Bitton, Joelle; Cavaco, Andreia; Gaye, Lalya; Jones, Benjamin; Mearns, Graeme; Richardson, Ranald and Tanaka, Atau. 2011. Situating Community through Creative Technologies and Practice. Technical Report. Arts and Humanities Research Council, Swindon.


Latham, William; Tanaka, Atau and Leymarie, Frederic Fol. 2014. Creative Machine. In: "Creative Machine", St James Hatcham Church Gallery, Goldsmiths, University of London, 7 - 14 November 2014.

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