Saturday, April 25, 2009


For music afficionados it's not unusual to attend a musical performance played by a symphony orchestra. The blending of the various instruments can make for a relaxing and pleasing experience. The Multimodal Brain Orchestra made its musical world premiere on Thursday led by an "emotional conductor" in addition to a traditional one. What makes this performance unique is that music and video change in time with the performers' brain waves and heart rate. In other words - the end result is for your brain and emotions.

The project, a creation of the Synthetic, Perceptive, Emotive and Cognitive Systems (SPECS), the orchestra's premiere performance closed the Science Beyond Fiction conference in Prague.

The piece that the orchestra performed, Xmotion, was scored, giving it an underlying structure, however it's the performers controlling variations of visuals, sounds, frequencies, and volumes in the overall piece.

According to Anna Mura, a biologist and producer of the project, "everything is built to fulfil the circumplex model, which was worked out by psychologists that study emotions. How we feel and what we feel fits into a circle cut into four quadrants, labelled by 'arousal' and 'valence', that is, how much you're excited and how badly or positively you're excited."

Got that? I didn't but then I'm a gotta-hear-it regular-but-simple type-music lover. Anywaaaaay...

Four performers were fitted with caps littered with electrodes that take a real-time electroencephalograph - an image of the brain's electrical activity. Furthermore and according to Dr. Mura, there's a first, second violin and so on, except that instead of the real violins playing, it is a brain performance.

The graphs of those brain waves are projected onto one of two large screens above the orchestra. The performers launch sounds or affect their frequencies and modulations based on two well-characterised effects seen in EEGs: the steady-state visually evoked potential (SSVEP), and the so-called P300 signal.

"People believe that to understand how we feel will help us to understand what consciousness is all about. This is the technology that is going in that direction; we cannot explain consciousness with this but we are at least exploring the surface of it."

Read more about this "artistic interpretation of the biometric technology" here:
and here:
Personally, I'll opt for a down-to-earth, hear-the-inststruments-in-person concert but then that's just me.

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