Speaker: Dr Steffen Whitmarsh, Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris.
Title: The EEGsynth: an exploration of brain-controlled sound synthesis and performance
The idea of controlling and creating sounds by means of electroencephalography (EEG) is certainly not new. Contemporary attempts often seem humble compared to some of the visionary work imagined by early explorers such as Alvin Lucier and David Roosenboom back in the 70s. However, our understanding of neuroscience has increased much since then, and so has the availability of computational power and affordable EEG technology. In that sense, we are only just beginning to explore the full potential of brain-music-interfaces.In fact, neuroscience analysis and sound synthesis share many deep and unexplored connections. On the one hand, neuroscience and sound synthesis rely on similar principles: in synthesis simpler waveforms are combined and transformed into complex dynamics, while in neuroscience complex signals are decomposed into fundamental dynamics (reflecting underlying brain mechanisms). Modular synthesis can also be seen to exemplify an important organizational principle of the brain, namely that it can be understood as a complex system emerging from the interaction between separate computational modules consisting of (groups of) neurons. These and other observations started a long term collaboration with other neuroscientists, musicians and performance artists. This resulted in the EEGsynth (http://www.eegsynth.org): our open-source (Python) approach to translating brain, muscle and heart-measurements into real-time control signals such as CV/gate, MIDI, OSC and ArtNet-DMX. In my presentation I will explain the usability of the EEGsynth. I will do this through walking you through some of our performances (http://www.oneplusoneisthree.org), and the artistic and scientific themes that we encountered in our attempts to explore possible connections between neuroscience, sound, attention and self-awareness.