Articles‎ > ‎

The Mind Magnificent

posted Mar 7, 2014, 9:50 PM by Ellen Pearlman


Soundmachines, a work in progress

There is a lot of frothy activity in the somatization of performance, sound and visualization using the brain, so I will clusterbump a number of recent developments together in this post. Soundmachines, an Italian company is making a commercially viable modular synthesizer and MIDI machine to work with the Neuro Sky headset. Soundmachines originally began their commercial work selling different types of modular synthesizers. It is still in development, so I can’t give a detailed explanation of what it is, but stay tuned.

 Professor Eduardo Miranda is using an EEG cap that gives him readings more sophisticated than the Neuro Sky apparatus. He is using thoughts translating them to music, and premiered his work at the Peninsula Arts Contemporary Music Festival 2014 in Plymouth, UK. It is part of his project  ‘Brain-Computer Music Interfacing for Monitoring and Inducing Affective States.’ The subjects choose different circles on a screen and that is translated into musical notes that the musicians play. Miranda coincided the performance with the release of his new book book "Thinking Music," about the process of making his composition.


Two subjects wearing EEG brain caps staring at the screen to select musical phrases that are translated into scores that the musicians can play live time


Different levels of pulsation with the blue dots lets a subject select different musical phrases just by thinking about them. These phrases are translated into a score the musicians read. From the video "Activating Memory".

However, in truth it is not a direct brain to computer to music interface. Thoughts are mapped to pre-selected musical phrases. The person wearing the EEG Cap becomes an operator or practically another instrument by selecting one of the blue dot phrases shown above. 



Lisa Park working out her brainwaves

Euonia, is a  piece by Lisa Park who wears a Neuro Sky headset. The headset reads her brainwaves, which are translated to sound that vibrates in 15 inch speakers placed beneath 24 inch flat pans of water. She modulates the sound by translating her thoughts to Processing and then to Max/MSP which then generates sound through Reaktor, a modular synthesis studio. Metal conducts vibrations in water quite easily. The five metal pans represent the emotions of happiness, anger, sadness, hatred and desire. The volume, frequency and switching of the sound are all calculated variables. Park thought if her emotions were stilled, the sound (vibrations) would cease. The tension between the cessation of sound and the continuance of sound and vibration is what makes this piece so compelling.


Performance of Euonia by Lisa Park

And then there is the "Emotional Arcade" by Firestarters, a contest for generating emotional states, or a Jeopardy for the cognescenti. In the photo below, imagined feelings of “lust ” read by the Neuro Sky headset are used to blow up a balloon among four contestants. The one who is the most lusty gets their ballon to pop, thus winning the contest. The actual device is powered by an Arduino Mega reading the Bluetooth device inside the Neuro Sky headset. Enhanced readings determined whether or not to trigger solenoids that let air flow through blowing up the balloons by triggering certain switches according to either levels of meditation or attention.


Getting lusty on stage to blow apart the balloon with the most naughty thoughts

There was also a “love” competition, that could be understood through facial recognition software. First the system took a base level or neutral measurement of the contestant’s face. Then the “contestants” had fifteen seconds to feel love or what they substituted for love. That feeling, whatever it was, was measured tracking involuntary physiological responses detected by the facial recognition software.


Baseline reading onstage of participant who did not win, (he thought of his wife) but looks happy and loveable nevertheless

According to the game hosts, when you feel love neuroscientists say your amygdala produces dopamineoxytocinserotonin and vasopressin. Also one’s pupils dilate, heartbeat increases and one’s face is flushed. The 15 second contest looks for blood vessel dilation on the facial muscles. One of the contestants thought of his wife, the other thought of someone they just met. The person who was thinking of someone they just met won the contest. However, according to the game producers, you can train someone in 20 minutes to feel any of these things so they can’t really work as lie detectors. I hope the guy who lost explains that to his wife.