Prof Atau Tanaka

Atau researches embodied musical interaction, human computer interaction and gestural computer music performance.

Staff details

Prof Atau Tanaka


Professor of Media Computing




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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

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. 2024. Telematic music transmission, resistance and touch. International Journal of Performance Arts and Digital Media, ISSN 1479-4713

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

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.


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.

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

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