Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The RCM says "the greatest instrument is the brain"...

Source: Wired Magazine. By Scott Thill. Retrieved from:


Robert Schneider, a member of the band Apples in Stereo, has made a new sort of ‘instrument’, dubbed a Teletron, which allows him to make music with his mind. By modding a Mattel Mindflex (a game employing EEG sensors which allow users to move a ball through a maze using only their brains) and attaching it to a synthesizer, Schneider is able to make music using his brainwaves. The way this device works is by strapping on EEG sensors which are attached to two Mindflex units. The participant then reads from a score, which, in the case of Schneider, is comprised of texts and images. The units’ signals are then manipulated through two synthesizers, with each one serving as “separate musical interpolators of [the participant’s] brain waves.” While each synthesizer’s curve of pitch is essentially the same, that which intercepts the left-brain waves is “more logical and dry”, while that of the right-brain is “more dreamy and surreal”. In order to create the Teletron, Schneider took the wire from the Mindflex’s fan and plugged it into the pitch input of a vintage Moog synthesizer. So-called “brain music” is nothing new; Musique concrète pioneer Pierre Henry also employed EEG sensors in his compositions, as did Alvin Lucier who is “arguably the first to transmit alpha waves through percussion in his 1965 composition “Music for Solo Performer””. On his new toy, Schneider commented that, “the Teletron is really cool to play . . . You have to be very conscious of your thoughts, and alter the music by agitating your mind.””


Although Schneider’s Teletron is by no means a revolutionary breakthrough in the field of music technology, it is an indication of one possibility for music’s future. With an increase in understanding of neuromusicology, can come an increase in the modes in which we compose and listen to music. As we uncover these deeper connection between cognitive perceptions of organized auditory stimulus, the methods by which we organize and perceive such stimulus might change accordingly. As noted, such changes in the field of music are not new – they have been happening for decades. Nonetheless, this is an interesting field to pay close attention to. As our control over technology and neurology becomes more defined, we will become more adept at consciously manipulating these realities, thereby creating alternate possibilities of reality and creativity.


Leila said...

Hi Michael. Thanks for your really interesting post. It's amazing how fast it responds to brain activity. I really want to know what he thinks a bout to increase or decrease the pitch of his brain waves! Before watching the video clip, I actually didn't have a clear sight about converting brainwaves to sound. I used to think this machine would broadcast the music you play in your mind! However, I don't think we are very far from that. What do you think?

Michael Kolk said...

Thanks for your comment Leila.
Developing the ability to translate music that one hears in their head into actual sound is a tantalizing thought. I don't expect there to ever be a truly accurate system of doing this, given the difference in internal vs external perception. Maybe something could be developed that could give a rough representation of what we hear in our heads, but going much further than that would be mind reading, in almost a literal sense. Still, it will be interesting to see if anything is developed in this field that attempts to do just that.