Cobi is an interdisciplinary artist who has presented over 40 works worldwide, including concerts and exhibitions in Japan, Korea, USA, Ireland, UK, Germany, South Africa and Greece. Her innovative art/science hybrid projects involve the creation of new technological interfaces or software to enable artistic ideas. She explores diverse avenues of listening as art-making space that she describes as ‘expanded listening’. Works include interactive musical experiences such as sensor enabled gumboot dance (Ephemeral Gumboots); sensor enabled Bluetooth skateboards with a Max/MSP gesture recognition system that map skateboard moves to musical gestures (Skatesonic); network connected live acoustic spaces (Audio Tunnel & The Persistence of Sound) and infrasound music experienced through lying down on a bed (Infrasoundbed). The most recent works revolve around microtonal drone music that explore difference tones and beating patterns (Gala and Mutation II), sonic illusions (Fata Morgana for female choir and computer), and recursive layers of convolution reverb in Goodbye Anthill (2018) for voice and computer to expand the textural qualities of the drone. A large section of her PhD thesis was dedicated to spatiality in sound as well as the use of acoustics as a prominent musical parameter.


Working with the acoustics of actual heritage spaces, lends a focused context and purpose to the music that she feels is often missing in electronic music. Cobi has been awarded a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship at the University of York and will be based in the Department of Theatre, Film and Television (TFTV) from 2020-2022 with her project ACOUSTIC ATLAS - Cultivating the Capacity to Listen. This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.

She completed a PhD in Music Composition at the Digital Arts & Humanities Program of Trinity College, Dublin, an MFA Art Practice degree at Stanford, USA; and a BHons in Music in History and Society (Musicology) at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.​ Van Tonder has also produced commercially for cinema, television, radio, and mobile media before commencing academic studies.  

About me:

From an early age, I realised how thin a layer the conceptions of 'reality' and 'self' are and that beauty occurs in sensing the inherent structures that makeup objects/occurrences/patterns and the unexpected, rather than things themselves. Thus a recurring obsession to pay attention to how the invisible (larger structure) is revealed in the experience of movement.  Movement in terms of colour, form, texture, density, and space. Vibrations, reflections, iterations, shifts, transformations, and process.

My Ph.D. was on plastic continuity in Microtonal music.  Strongly influenced by the work and philosophy of abstract expressionist painter Mark Rothko, I took his ideas about the experience of movement in terms of colour, form, texture and space via methods of abstraction, and applied them to my compositional framework.  For this I created a system of generating and storing tunings in Max/MSP; a multi-channel router app and tuner that I could use for real-time tuning of microtonal values to midi plus pitch-bend values for use with synthesizers as well as a method to store and display in real-time micro-tonal frequency values.


The main focus of my final MFA Masters project ‘The Audio Tunnel’ was, in turn, a literal take on spatial audio:  rooms, each with microphone and loudspeaker, were daisy-chained in a directional live audio tunnel via the use of a Supercollider Patch, JackTrip, Jamlinks (audio network units) and a Max Router Patch - each individual space, was a node and able to receive audio from another node through the internet and play it into the space through a loudspeaker, record the reverberations and other ambient sounds of the environment and send it back over the internet to the next similar device. The tunnel was live and interactive: the participant becomes the transmitter and is transmitted/ displaced (in sound) in many actual places in fractions of milliseconds. A recursive eavesdropping became possible in this unseen territory. Live sound travels from location to location, reverberating in each space. A borderless territory designed for listening.


In general, projects range from music in the traditional sense: electronic or instrumental as well as synthesis, field recording, installations, interactive projects, sensory enclosures or objects, and video.

Material consists of lines and curves, auditory illusions, pitch fields, waves, pulses, flickering morphologies, glows, and slow transformations.  This material originates from focusing on the internal properties of sounds, for example, the use of microtonal intervals that are clustered to produce beating patterns, third tones, and unique colors.  Macro forms are determined by this material and range from drone to simplistic, repetitive gestures. The final approach is a focus on the experience of sound in and as space:  attention to artificial acoustics as a prominent part of the material and overall texture.

My influences range over a vast field, notably Abstract Expressionist Painting, Japanese Zen Gardens, ‘surface’ ideas in electronic music, extreme duration, and immersion in Drone music, continuity, ordered dissonance – microtonal worlds, audio physical experience of sound and acoustics, spatial audio.

Sound Art Works explore ideas about existence, identity, translation, architecture, spatiality (specifically in sound, acoustics and sound perception), networked sound installation as a means to recombinant sound space, audio/other sensory hybrid experiences such as audio/visual, audio/tactile (the audio physical experience of sound) and audio/light, sensory deprivation/absence of sensory input as material.

I am also fascinated by new technologies, Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, and ideas about consciousness and inspired by Science Fiction.