Joseph W. Rovan Director of the Brown Arts Initiative, Professor of Music

Joseph Butch Rovan is a media artist and performer on the faculty of the Department of Music at Brown University, where he serves as Chair and directs the MEME (Multimedia & Electronic Music Experiments) program in Computer Music. Prior to joining Brown he directed CEMI, the Center for Experimental Music and Intermedia, at the University of North Texas, and was a compositeur en recherche with the Real-Time Systems Team at the Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique (IRCAM) in Paris. Rovan worked at Opcode Systems before leaving for Paris, serving as Product Manager for MAX, OMS and MIDI hardware.

Rovan has received prizes from the Bourges International Electroacoustic Music Competition, first prize in the Berlin Transmediale International Media Arts Festival, and his work has been performed throughout Europe and the U.S. Most recently his interactive installation Let us imagine a straight line was featured in the 14th WRO International Media Art Biennale, Poland.

For more information see

Brown Affiliations

Research Areas

scholarly work

Recordings / DVDs

2013          of the survival of images, released on Computer Music Journal Vol. 37:4 special DVD Sound and Video Anthology.

2010          Floating Point, Gray Code electro-jazz CD, released on Circumvention Music. Available on and

2007          bleak texas thing, Envyloop CD, released on the EMF (Electronic Music Foundation) label. Available on and

2001          Miró Sketches, for solo piano, released by pianist Guy Livingston on Don’t Panic! 60 Seconds for Piano. WERGO records. 


Publications in Books & CDROMS     

2013          Photographic images from Let us imagine a straight line featured in the article "Ecodaptive Skins: Morphology of Movement," in Unconventional Computing - Design Methods for Adaptive Architecture (editors: Rachel Armstrong and Simone Ferracina) published for the ACADIA 2013 Adaptive Architecture Conference, October 2013 at the University of Waterloo, School of Architecture in Cambridge, Ontario.

2012          Photographic image from Let us imagine a straight line featured in Genealogy and Ontology of the Western Image and its Digital Future (Routledge Advances in Art and Visual Studies), by John Lechte (New York: Routledge, 2012), 175.

2012          Photographic image from Let us imagine a straight line featured in Intuition in Medicine: A Philosophical Defense of Clinical Reasoning, by Hillel D. Braude (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012), 103.

2009          “Living on the Edge: Alternate Controllers and the Obstinate Interface.” In Mapping Landscapes for Performance as Research: Scholarly Acts and Creative Cartographies. Shannon Rose Riley & Lynette Hunter, eds. (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), 252-259.

2002          “Artistic Collaboration in an Interactive Dance and Music Performance Environment.” With Robert Wechsler, in Anomalie Digital Arts: Digital Performance, ed. Emanuele Quinz (Paris: Les Editions HYX, 2002),  50-61.

2000          "Typology of Tactile Sounds and their Synthesis in Gesture-Driven Computer Music Performance." With Vincent Hayward, on Trends in Gestural Control of Music CDROM, Marcelo Wanderley & Marc Battier, eds. (IRCAM 2000). 

research overview

Rovan's award-winning work deals with the use of human gesture in interactive performance, including musical composition, software, and hardware design. His research interests include human-computer interface design, haptic feedback systems, and theories of human gesture. Current projects include wireless sensor systems and a set of interactive media works based on the work of French physiologist Etienne-Jules Marey.

research statement

Rovan's research includes new sensor hardware design and wireless microcontroller systems. His research into gestural control and interactivity has been featured in IRCAM's journal Resonance, Electronic Musician, the Computer Music Journal, the Japanese magazine SoundArts, the CDROM Trends in Gestural Control of Music (IRCAM 2000), and in the book Mapping Landscapes for Performance as Research: Scholarly Acts and Creative Cartographies (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009).

funded research

2000 : Council on Research and Creativity Grant, Florida State University Research Foundation (internal), $850,000