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Palle Dahlstedt vid en elektronisk instrumentpanel
Photo: Ina Ciumakova

New professor with more than one string to his bow


Palle Dahlstedt is the composer who in his research combines composition, algorithms and interaction design. In his latest research, he has developed a new electronic musical instrument. In addition, he has recently been promoted to professor at the Department of Computer Science and Engineering.

Ett porträtt av Palle Dahlstedt
Palle Dahlstedt is a composer and&nbsp; professor in interaction design.<br /> Photo: Johan Wingborg
Photo: Johan Wingborg

"All the research I do comes from different problems I want to solve in my music" says Palle Dahlstedt, professor of interaction design.

Palle Dahlstedt calls himself primarily a composer. With several degrees in music from different music academies, the plan was to become a freelance composer. But his interdisciplinary vein led him into other tracks.

"I have always been interested in mathematics and programming. Shortly after my master's degree in composition, I was invited to work with an interdisciplinary project at Chalmers called Innovative Design and which overlapped art, science and technology. There I had the opportunity to do my PhD on how evolutionary algorithms can be used in artistic creative processes – that is, that computers help to compose music. As part of my dissertation I held a big concert with a physics professor, a composer and a design professor in the grading committee."

Works in three disciplines

Since then, Palle's research has been connected to various departments. But today he is a professor of interaction design at the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at University of Gothenburg. In addition to his work there, he is also a composition teacher at the Academy of Music and Drama, a freelance composer and guest professor at Aalborg University in Denmark.

"Sometimes it feels like I have three professions with very different criteria. I am an artistic researcher, IT researcher and freelance artist. Since I also only have 24 hours a day, the survival tactic was to overlap these three professions as much as possible in one position."

I make a lot of music for dance and theater performances. In these performances I often use experimental instruments or algorithms that I have developed myself. Then I can use those opportunities as experiments and evaluation – my empiricism is in the artistic practice.

Researching art and technology

What has always connected Palle's three professional lives is his research. He has recently worked on developing experimental instruments where he has programmed new algorithms that determine how the musician's gestures are used and how they become sound.

"One example is a keyboard instrument that I have designed and programmed. The sound that comes out is similar to a string instrument, it is an acoustic sound. But the strings you hear are mathematical, they don’t really exist, they are mathematical models of strings."

Video (12:20)
Palle Dahlstedt håller konsert med sitt instrument

Another part of Palle's research is about how technology transforms the interaction between improvisers – where technology becomes some kind of an invisible co-player that you can’t hear, but that goes in and moderates what the musicians do. Palle calls it "systemic improvisation".

Part of the book "Researcher's dreams"

Palle is also portrayed in the new book "Researcher's dreams" – a book that will inspire young people to enter the world of the academia. There he talks about how his curiosity as a child got him into both the world of music and technology. In the book, he is in good company of 60 other researchers, including Linnaeus, Celsius, Svante Pääbo, Sara Danius and Christer Fuglesang.

"The book was created on the initiative of the Swedish Young Academy, where I was a member before. I am so happy and honored to be in such good company."

Read more (in Swedish): Barnbok ska väcka nyfikenhet för forskning

Palle Dahlstedt

Title: Professor in interaction design
Age: 50
Hobbies: Photography, astronomy, beer brewing, sailing and outdoor life around the family cottage in Lapland