Maria Mannone: Physics, Music, art, gestures and on being fascinated

Maria Mannone describes the links between her professional backgrounds as physicist, musician, composer, conductor, and how it inspired her to define links between proportions found in nature, and mathematics toward music and the visual arts. This includes projects exploring sonification, a method to render data audible, in the medical domain.

Maria Mannone / Interview by Luca Forcucci – November 2021 / Berlin – Palermo

Maria Mannone is a theoretical physicist and composer. She gained her MSc in Theoretical Physics and three masters in Piano, Composition and Orchestral Conducting in Italy, her Master 2 ATIAM at IRCAM-UPMC Paris VI Sorbonne, and her Ph.D. in Composition in the US, at the University of Minnesota. Her interdisciplinary research deals with music, mathematics, and forms of nature. She invented the “CubeHarmonic”, a new musical instrument based on the Rubik’s cube. She is currently postdoctoral researcher at the University of Palermo and “subject expert” at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice. Her most recent books are “Mathematics, Nature, Art” and “Simmetrie fra Matematica e Musica” (Palermo University Press).

Links to her work

– A Fight for Light:
– Gondola in musica:
– Musiche per una scena di Buster Keaton:
– Improvvisazione libera:
– Improvvisazione su paesaggio sonoro:

Laser Nomad Palermo / Consciousness, Representation and Embodiment

07.11.2019 /14:00 – 17:30 / Edificio 12 – Aula Magna / Viale delle Scienze, Palermo

Edificio 12 – Aula Magna / Viale delle Scienze, Palermo

Laser Nomad Palermo

We explore Consciousness, Representation and Embodiment with the contribution of researchers from the University of Palermo. These keywords are observed through the lenses of human cognition. Why and how do I know that I am experiencing something ? Moreover artificial systems are pervasively entering multiple aspects of our life, what if instead of artificial we focus on extended ones ? Does embodiment applies to artificial forms ?

14:00 – 14:10 Intro Laser Nomad
14:10 – 14:30 Salvatore Tedesco
14:30 – 14:50 Carmelo Calì
14:50 – 15:10 Davide Rocchesso
15:10 – 15:30 Maria Mannone
15:30 – 15:50 Antonio Chella
15:50 – 17:30 Laser NOMAD Discussion / Q&A pubblic

Prof. Antonio Chella

Consciousness and Creativity


The research field of conscious AI systems concerns the computational models of consciousness. The talk will outline the current state of research of conscious AI systems and it will discuss its relationships with creativity, with particular emphasis to musical creativity. The field of conscious AI systems is tightly related with topics as information integration, embodiment, adaptation, emotions, which are all of interest in order to model musical creativity. On the one hand, facing the problem of consciousness could be a decisive move towards the design of effectively creative systems, on the other hand the study of models of creativity could be helpful in order to better understand human consciousness.


Antonio Chella is a full professor of Robotics at the Department of Engineering of the University of Palermo, where he is the founder and director of the Robotics Laboratory. He coordinated several Social Robotics projects including Cicerobot, a museum robot guide at the Archaeological Museum of Agrigento; Robotics and Autism, in collaboration with the Child Neuropsychiatry of Palermo; Robotics and ALS, in collaboration with the ALS Center of the University General Hospital of Palermo; RoboDanza, in collaboration with the cultural association Tavola Tonda; Robot Orchestra Conductor in collaboration with the Alessandro Scarlatti Conservatory of Palermo. In 2017 he was awarded the “James Albus Medal” by the BICA Scientific Society (Biologically Inspired Cognitive Architectures). He is a member of the Academy of Sciences, Letters and Arts of Palermo. His main research concerns the study of consciousness in robots and machines; he is the co-author of the main reference text in the field. He is the author of more than 200 international publications.

Prof. Davide Rocchesso

Designing Sound with Vocal Primitives


What are the fundamental elements of sound? What is the
best framework for analyzing existing sonic realities and for
expressing new sound concepts? These are long standing questions in sound physics, perception, and creation. In everyday life, it is our body that helps establishing bridges between distal
(source-related) and proximal (sensory-related) representations of
sound. In particular, it is our vocal apparatus that offers body-based
representations of sound, so that vocal imitations can be used as
probes into the world of sound at large.


Davide Rocchesso received the Ph.D. degree from the University of
Padova in 1996. He is professor of computer science at the
University of Palermo. He was the coordinator of EU FET
projects SOb (the Sounding Object) and SkAT-VG (Sketching Audio
Technologies using Vocalizations and Gestures). He had been chairing the COST Action on Sonic Interaction Design. His main research interests are sound modelling and synthesis, interaction design, evaluation of interactions.

Maria Mannone

Can Beauty be Translated? A Journey between Mathematics, Music, and Nature


Contemplating the majesty of a tree, listening to an orchestral piece, and studying a mathematical equation might not be too far activities. Mathematics can constitute a bridge to compare objects and transformations between them, as well as to map them from a domain to another one. In particular, musical structures, with their themes and transformations, can be investigated through the language of mathematics (and categories in particular). The same formalism can be applied to nature, comparing shapes and their variations. I present methods of investigation and examples, including trees, ammonites, and flowers. They can be analyzed and translated into music, keeping some essential features and considering specific cognition criteria. From organized musical structures to the sound itself, the presentation includes some hints of how the quantum mechanics formalism can be applied to the analysis of human voice. Might a melodious soprano voice be not too far from the Schrödinger equation’s solutions?


Maria Mannone (Ph.D.) is a theoretical physicist and a composer. She graduated in Italy, France (IRCAM-Paris VI Sorbonne), and in the US (University of Minnesota). Her research involves mathematics, music, and images. Author of books, she gave talks and invited lectures in America, Europe, and Asia, where she is collaborating with the Tohoku University for the development of a new musical instrument, the CubeHarmonic. Currently, she is a subject expert (‘cultore della materia’) at the Department of Mathematics and Informatics in Palermo.

Prof. Salvatore Tedesco

Aesthetics and Embodiment


Construction of form, emotions and aesthetic appreciation can usefully be rethought in the context of an interaction between philosophical knowledge, theoretical computer science and new technologies for production and control of images and sounds. The short report proposed seeks to clarify the terms of reference and to suggest some interpretations.


Salvatore Tedesco teaches Aesthetics at the University of Palermo, and coordinates the Dams course of studies. His main research projects deals with Morphology, evolutionary aesthetics, history of aesthetics, contemporary theories of literature. He has published 11 monographs on various aspects of modern and contemporary aesthetics, more than 80 papers, and is currently editing (with Federico Vercellone) a “Glossary of Morphology”.

Carmelo Calì

Perceptual Grammar of Sounds


Music cognition complies with the perceptual grammar which consists of the properties of sounds as units and the grouping factors as preferential rules. The units have emerged through the interaction with the environment as crucial features in conveying information. The rules are the heuristics that enable the cognition of the environment in the forms of the auditory modality by solving problems of ordering and structure derivation. The specialization of the perceptual grammar of sounds plays a foundational role for music cognition. It provides composers and listeners with shared capacities to build and extract meaning from musical shapes and their relevant qualities in space and time. Musical examples will be presented to argue that the specialization of the perceptual grammar is consistent with historical and geographical variability of musical systems and styles, which draw from the expressive potentialities it affords with a high degree of freedom.


Carmelo Calì is associate professor at the University of Palermo.
His main research interests are theories and models of visual,
auditory and tactile perception, cognitive foundations of aesthetics,
human-robot interaction and industrial design.

Chair: Luca Forcucci