Michel Waisvisz

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Born 1949 in Leiden, Netherlands. Contributor to the electronic and experimental music disciplines. Based in Amsterdam and head of the STEIM foundation for electronic performance arts.


He was amongst the first play with synthesizers on stage and very early developed and performed using gestural controllers. His approach is typically based on the re-animation of carefully deconstructed technology. He is the inventor of the The Crackle Box, The Hands, The Web and other instruments based on touch interaction. The Hands is an instrument that consists of small multi-sensor keyboards attached to the hands. By moving arms, fingers and hands one can play an entire electronic 'orchestra'. The instrument was a breakthrough in a time when electronic music was still merely a studio-art. Waisvisz motivates the physical approach in the design of this electronic music instruments by stating that machines are precise with numbers, but the human hand is more precise with musical time. Before the World Wide Web existed on Internet Waisvisz developed The Web as a musical instrument. Waisvisz envisioned the concept of a mechanical web, with each thread as a sensor, as a physical metaphor for handling the big quantity of information needed to manipulate electronic sound in an organic and human way. In Waisvisz' musical WEB an extended complex of wire-sensors that are inter-connected in a WEB-structure can be manipulated by a single finger movement. By feeding the many sensor signals to a computer music system one person can create and manipulate complex combinations of electronic sounds in an extremely spontaneous and intuitive way.

Together with Frank Baldé he has designed live performance software instruments like The Lick Machine, LiSa and JunXion. He initiated - together with Tom Demeyer and Steina Vasulka - the development of Image/ine, an image sampler/manipulator that has become the forerunner of VJ software's like Arkaos, Nato, Jitter and Isadora.

In 1981 he staged theatre play The Slungels entirely performed by real living robots, at the Holland Festival.


In the late seventies he choose exclusively for live performance; since than he did not publish any of his performances on CD or other media. Until recently he wanted his electronic music only to exist in the reality of the concert hall. Waisvisz toured internationally and played in a great variety of social entourages: from the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, various clubs and smaller venues in Europe, the Mutek festival in Montreal, the Philharmonie in Berlin, the Exploratorium in San Francisco, the inflatable Colourspace in London, The Kitchen in New York, big open air rock/jazz festivals in Rotterdam and Moers, church towers in Groningen and Utrecht to a subway station in Hannover and a dungeon in Bologna. In the summer of 1996 at the inauguration of the new tower of the IRCAM in Paris he performed on the square next to the Centre Beaubourg and created music with the sounds contributed by passing audiences and street musicians. He also performed in a packed 2500 seat hall at a Shinto sponsored festival in Nagoya in Japan. In the main auditorium of the Louvre in Paris Waisvisz performed a live film sound track to the original version of 'The Hunchback of the Notre Dame'. He performed with Gunter Hampel, Najib Cheradi, Laurie Anderson, DJ Spooky, Truus de Groot, Shelley Hirsch, Maarten Altena, Lodewijk de Boer, Moniek Toebosch, Richard Teitelbaum, Fausto Senese, Steve Lacy, Shusaku, Peter Brötzmann, Frans Zwartjes, Patrizia van Roessel, Willem Breuker, John Cameron, Misha Mengelberg and Paul Hubweber. Gave the closing plenary at CHI 2005 in Portland.

Physical Philosophy

Waisvisz is the founder of 'Physical Philosophy' a science where axioms are replaced by physical objects. In Physical Philosophy, instead of using spoken or written language, the phenomenon of the physical act of manipulation of instrumental objects is considered the shortest and most precise expression of the axiom’s of philosophy. 'The act is it’s metaphor; the act overrules its description’.


He is head of STEIM since early 1980s. As an organiser Waisvisz has contributed to, or founded, many of the new music festivals and electric art manifestations in the Netherlands: Claxon Sound Festival, Pandora’s Music Box, Rumori Festival, STEIM’s ‘Secret Concerts’ etc.


  • Interviewed extensively in Sonic Acts: From Stockhausen to Squarepusher (1998) by Frank Scheffer