Music is your own experience, your own thoughts, your wisdom. If you don’t live it, it won’t come out of your horn. They teach you there’s a boundary line to music. But, man, there’s no boundary line to art. 1
Jazz Saxophonist and Composer Charlie Parker
As a creative alternative to visualization, my final year project sonifies brain wave activity in real-time and allows these sounds to be performed through an interactive musical instrument.
Why did I choose to work with brain waves?
Brain waves give me a mysterious feeling. One is not aware of their presence through any of the five senses, yet they are always active. I wanted to explore how I could transform them from scientific data to an interactive experience that would allow the end-user to become familiar with and enjoy their presence.
Figure 1a. Gamma, Beta, Alpha, Theta and Delta brain wave forms.
In cognitive psychology, I studied how neurons communicate and learned how an electroencephalograph (EEG) device measures the brain’s electrical activity. Electrodes placed on the head pick up signals from neurons that fire together and present them as waves.
I learned how neurologists use the Subtraction Method to identify what parts of the brain are active in response to a stimulus. The process applies three steps: (a) Control, (b) Stimulation and (c) Activity due to stimulation.
I would like to apply the Subtraction Method to the project’s interactive experience by introducing the end-user to different stimuli. I am curious as to whether changes in mental states, such as being relaxed, generally alert or extremely focused, might be revealed through changes in the sonfication of their brain waves.
Figure 1b. Electrode placement on scalp.