Arts Interview: Dr Giuseppe Torre

John Rainsford


John Rainsford

Dr Giuseppe Torre
Born and raised in Verona, Italy, I lived there until the age of 13.

Born and raised in Verona, Italy, I lived there until the age of 13.

Later, I moved to Palermo on the Island of Sicily. My primary school education was obtained in Verona, with secondary school being conducted in Palermo. Indeed, I got my first Master’s Degree (called a Laurea) at the University of Palermo in the area of Music, Arts and Theatre. While enrolled at University I was also studying Classical Guitar in the Conservatoire of Music of Palermo where I got my 5th year Diploma (in the days when a full degree was ten years long!).

In September 2005 I came to Limerick after been successfully admitted to the Masters Degree in Music Technology.

This programme of study was offered by the Department of Computer Science and Information System of the University of Limerick. Back then I was looking to do a Master’s Degree in the area of computer music and UL was (and still is) one of the top colleges in Europe. This was the beginning of my life in Limerick. Subsequently, and just more recently, I got awarded my PhD from UL. I started off working in the Interactive Design Centre (IDC), and moved to the Digital Media and Arts Research Centre (DMARC), which is part of the Computer Science Department. UL is a fantastic university and provides a great environment for conducting research.

Although, I do not come from a family of academics or researchers there two distinct career paths in my family tree.

These are dominated by two main professions, namely engineers and artists, which are both fundamental to my current area of research namely, Digital Arts. Basically, what I attempt to do is to create artworks using computers and/or Digital Hardware. At times the development of an innovative idea also requires the development of ad hoc software tools. In that sense the field of research requires me to be both an artist and a software developer. The most appealing aspect of this research area is the need to combine scientific rigour, which requires you to submit to universal or societal constraints, with artistic rigour, which is self-imposed.

Doing research is great and I have always wanted to be directly involved in it.

The discovery process, which involves deepening the understanding of a specific subject, is exciting. In the past I have worked on the development of several projects mainly in the area of music technology. However, today my interests are mostly multidisciplinary and interactive. Thus, music is just one component of a mix that now increasingly includes video, public spaces, digital artefacts and so on. I would encourage anyone to get involved in research. We need thinkers, in today’s world. We also need to share ideas, fresh ideas, and to competently challenge old ideas. We need passion. Research involves both passion and dedication in equal measure.

Nature inspires me, and in particular, those diverse forms through which it manifests itself (the human brain for example!).

I love travelling and am inspired by the sea. Being a researcher and educator also gives me the opportunity to present my work worldwide. I am currently Treasurer for the Irish Sound Science and Technology Association (ISSTA). This is an Irish Association that aims to bring practitioners (both academics and non-academics) together to further the integration of music, sound, science and technology.

The economic and societal value of the entertainment industry should be evident to anyone who pays to attend a show.

Less clear or tangible, however, are the economic and societal added values accruing from artistic research. In a world in which money is central, the arts research community needs to address, and convincingly answer, the question concerning its added value to society. For example, funding opportunities for the Arts sector remain limited. Even the most recent European Union initiative (Horizon2020) did not directly address or allocate research funding to the Arts/Humanities sector. This is clearly not adequate and needs to be debated. The inability of most people (experts included) to discern between a cultural and an entertaining event is part of the problem. The former is research that engages in discussions about aesthetical or technical issues, while the latter aims at entertaining.

My latest invention revolves around the use of a Data Glove, called ‘Pointing At’ for live audio-visual performances.

Such devices date from the 1960s but can be refined and improved to generate sounds and music in real time when worn and manipulated by a performance artist using hand gestures. My invention can be used in a variety of domains from creative industry to scientific sector. For critical applications, such as medicine much more research and testing needs to be done, however. A number of research parties were involved in its creation including the Interaction Design Centre at the University of Limerick (IDC), the Tyndall National Institute of Research in University College Cork (UCC), the Product Design and Technology School and the Digital Media Arts and Research Centre both located at UL.

More than one person influenced my decision to become a researcher.

The passion for academia and studies was probably fostered, initially, by my Philosophy teacher in Secondary School. It sounds like a scene from Dead Poets Society (1989), but that is actually what happened. The opportunity to become a researcher was first offered to me by Dr. Mikael Fernström and Ms. Annette McElligott at UL. Today, we need more Ph.D researchers for many reasons. For example, we need to provide space where talented people have the time to think thoroughly, slowly and seriously about ideas in science or the arts. We live in a fast paced society and this pace is impacting on the quality of academic work too. Good research needs time but time is money as they say!

For more information about UL’s DMARC please see their website: