In spring 2019 Vision Forum organised a 4-day event in Stockholm called Transformation. During the short festival composers, musicians, technology developers and researchers met to investigate the aesthetic potential of biofeedback in music. The events and meetings led to a rich surge of reflections, development of new ideas, new research topics, new technological development, new collaborations and new artistic projects. The current project draws from the unique experiences during Transformation. It investigates how bodily signals from muscle and brain as well as audience movements can be further used in musical and performative creation.
The project sets out to build further on the hardware and software development of the biofeedback platform “the EEGsynth.” Huttner and Huhta have been involved in the team of developers since its inception 2014. The current project will strengthen the aesthetic and artistic potential of the EEGsynth. The goal is to develop technology that can be used by performers to create work where sound, moving images and light are merged to a whole performative universe. This technology will consist of above mentioned hardware configurations and might include completely new components, as well as custom created software solutions that will enable composition and performance with bio signals as raw material and sonic and visual results as output.
The technology will also be devised to give the performer, whose bio-signals are measured, expanded possibility of more nuanced and long-term precision in artistic expression. Armed with the knowledge of the previous work, the group is now ready to explore more layered levels of expressions; to increase the level of complexity of the instrument. The goal is to create a more virtuoso performances that, while putting a higher demand on the performer, would offer new depths in the material performed.
The project thus sets out to investigate two inter-linked questions:
1a. How can an artistic understanding of the body be increased and diversified through the parallel use of sound, light and image in performances that are based on bio-signals (brain-waves and muscle signals)? How could such a tool be used to get a better understanding of the artistic potential in such signals generated from the body? – By connecting bio-signals to sound, light and image in tandem, create a deeper understanding of the signal and the body that generates it.
1b. How can the synchronised use of sound, images and light be used to create other collective states of trance in the audience than those induced in more traditional musical concerts and artistic performances? In other words, how can the shared experience of “audiencing” a biofeedback performance where sound, moving images and lights are in sync and based on the same source differ from just a single output? And how could such aesthetic expressions lead to other trance states than just having music, images and lights without the bio feedback
1c. How can the use of bio-signals that are synchronised in sound, light and moving images be used to create performances that challenge the contemporary notions about boundaries between performer and audience?
2a. How can bio-signals be used to trigger and, within limits, control more complex musical compositions than has been possible to date? Can the group develop tools (software and hardware) that enables the person(s) being measured to trigger and develop more complex sounds than the immediate signal that the ones the body produces.
2b. How can the long-term use of such tools open for new aesthetic exploration in contemporary performance and music?
The Quality of the signals
It is important to underline the difference in nature between the two unprocessed signals that we will be working with. The signal generated from brainwaves offers an interesting dynamic for sound production and video control – it can also be influenced voluntarily (to a degree) by the performer who is being measured. But contrary to the raw signal generated by muscle activity, it is continuous and therefore for has qualities that lend themselves for exploring the aesthetic potential in drones and more trance-like artistic expressions. The signal generated by muscle activity is more explosive and can give a different and more emotionally charged expression. Another aspect of the project lies in exploring the inherent possibilities in these differences. The team will also engage in more counterintuitive investigations, like to explore how brainwaves can be used to generate emotionally charged compositions and if muscle signals can generate more meditative expressions
The project has been active since February 2020. The group has performed in various venues in Europe and the Middle East since 2021. They also make theoretical presentations to ensure that there is an ongoing dialogue with the audience and professionals in other fields.
The project will generate:
• New digital tools for biofeedback (for sound, moving images and stage lights) that can be used by musicians, composers, dancers, choreographers and visual artists in performing arts.
• Better understanding about the potential of using biofeedback and bio-signals in the performing arts.
• Better understanding about the potential of drones in music coupled with stage lights, dance and moving images.
• Better understanding about the potential of interdisciplinary work in the performing arts.
• Interdisciplinary learning and exchanges between music, visual art, dance, psychology and neuroscience.
• Public performances where music, visual art and dance use technologies that merge knowledge from music, stage design and neuroscience.
• Public discussions where professionals in music, visual art, dance and neuroscience can share experience and learn from each other to develop new research questions and new knowledge.
• Documentation of the working process and its outcome available online.
Sound examples from 2022
The project is supported by Nordic Culture and the Swedish Arts Council.