Programme: Sound Design - MScR

Year: 2012

For Marco, enrolling on the Sound Design - MScR programme seemed the perfect opportunity to expand and refine his sound design skills. The part-time study option allowed Marco the flexibility to work in the industry alongside his research. 

Since graduating Marco has completed a PhD which continued on his research from his time at ECA at Goldsmiths College, University of London. He works as an independent media artist, performer, musician, and stage director, often in collaboration with a team of artists, designers, engineers, and scientists.

Why I chose to study Sound Design - MScR

It was partly by chance, admittedly. After a three-year break from university, in 2010 I found myself in Edinburgh, because I loved the city. At the time I was in the early stage of my career as a media artist and performer, and I was not planning to take up academic studies. Then I discovered the MSc by Research in Sound Design at ECA, and I quickly became interested in the richness and flexibility of the program. I visited an open day and scheduled a meeting with Head of Music and Sound Design Programme Director, Dr. Martin Parker, who later became my supervisor. The programme’s content and modules seemed the perfect opportunity for me to expand and refine my skills to become the kind of artist I wanted to be. The fact that I could take the programme part-time over two years was also important for me. This was helpful financially, as I could split the tuition fees over two years and it was also beneficial to my research, as I could spend two years at ECA, and therefore take my time to plan and conduct research.


"I could expand my studies across disciplines and, for example, take courses in cultural studies and focus on writing too. This kind of transdisciplinary research is the scaffolding of my academic and artistic work."

Marco Donnarumma, Sound Design - MScR alumnus

My time at ECA

I have fond memories of my time at ECA and at Alison House in particular, where I used to spend most of my days. I remember being constantly inspired by both the academic staff and the other students. The structure of the MScR allowed me to combine a fixed set of Sound Design courses with others of my choice. This was great because I could expand my studies across disciplines and, for example, take courses in cultural studies and focus on writing too. This kind of transdisciplinary research is the scaffolding of my academic and artistic work.

My research at ECA looked at corporeal performance with new musical instruments. I created a wearable musical instrument, the XTH Sense. The instrument is based on an open-source biosensor that amplifies sounds from the muscles, veins, and bones and, through dedicated software, gives a performer the ability to create music with them. Now, after ten years, I still use the XTH Sense in my performance work. The best part was that, through the research process, I have met generous people who, by sharing their knowledge with me, have greatly enriched the whole academic experience; from Dr. Parker and the academic staff to the folks at Dorkbot ALBA, from the team at the old Inspace to my ECA peers.



My experiences since graduating

As I was about to complete the studies, I was offered a practice-based PhD position at Goldsmiths College, University of London. The research at ECA had opened a whole new horizon of interests that I felt compelled to keep exploring, so I accepted the offer and moved to London. If there is one thing I regret is that I wanted to stay in Edinburgh longer. I loved the city and the network of friends and colleagues I was part of. I am still in touch with many of them though, and I have visited Auld Reekie a few times in the past years too.

Today I am based in Berlin, and I work exclusively as an independent media artist, performer, musician, and stage director. Often in collaboration with a team of artists, designers, engineers, and scientists. I conceive, create, and produce installations and performances that speak of the relation between body, sound, and technology. I strive to create work that is critical of structures and of notions of power. In the past ten years, I have toured worldwide (at least in pre-pandemic times) across different venues, including music festival, concert halls, national and independent theatres, museums and galleries.

I still do academic research, as an independent scholar, through fellowships, or in collaboration with different research networks. Writing has become complementary to my artistic practice, and I try to publish texts on a regular basis to feed and question my own artistic process. More recently, I co-founded the group Fronte Vacuo, pushing experimental forms of live art that enmesh technology, bioart, sound, movement, and body art. It is a new exciting chapter, as we try to work through modes of collective thinking and making.

My advice to new and current students

When you start this September, give yourself time: time to find your group of closest peers, time to think things through and time to be attentive and receptive. Your experience at ECA can be extremely formative, but it is up to you to make sure not to rush through it. For example, making study plans ahead of time and familiarising yourself with your peers early on can help a lot in the long run.


Are you interested in studying Sound Design - MSc by Research at Edinburgh College of Art?

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