Modular synth workshop at ICM in Paris


by Stephen Whitmarsh

The ICM’s PhD and PostDoc association AJITES, of which I am now a proud member, organizes an annual workshop. During three days (October 24-26), we learn about each other’s research and practice our project development skills. This year we were joined by UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology (ION) from London. I presented the early results of my research project with Valerio Frazzini, on intercranial EEG recordings of anatopathology in focal epilepsy patients. However, word had also gotten around about our (1+1=3) exhibition and demonstrations at the Charcot library of ICM, and I was invited to organize workshop as part of the event. I was very happy to do so, as it provided me the opportunity to further develop an idea of a workshop which started some years back.

I developed the material for a 1.5 hour lecture and demonstration, in which I introduced the basics of sound synthesis and modular synthesizers, and connected it to neuroscience analysis. We then ended with a demonstration using the EEGsynth, where we recorded EEG from a participant and sonified it with my modular synthesizer. I also invested in a small modular oscilloscope, which I projected behind me using a webcam.

Although the scope turned out to be very useful for me in preparations, it definitely wasn’t  optimal for the audience – it’s just too small! Next time I might either use an external oscilloscope – a ‘real’ one -, buy an even more expensive Mordax Data, or find a way to provide the audience a better close-up. Then again, I already use more equipment that I can transport in a single trip by myself. Also, the point of the workshop was to explore the brain via sound. Although the visual explanations I created are very illustrative, next time I would like to explore the sonic experience in a more performative manner, e.g. to work in full darkness: It’s so hard not to get hijacked by our dominating visual system.

For now I’d like to thank the board of AJITES, and in particular Jean-Baptiste Hure and  Lindsay Rondot for the opportunity to organize the workshop. I enjoyed it very much, and what I gathered from some reactions, so did the audience. It created much food for thought, new ideas and realizations, and I am looking forward to the next opportunity to explore neuroscience and sound together in fun and original ways.