Untitled Biofeedback Project

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Background

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

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. The technology will be devised so that the output is influenced both by the performers biofeedback and/or the audience’s movement in the space. It also aims to give the performer whose bio-signals are measure get a bigger palette to work with musical composition in real time.

The project thus sets out to investigate two inter-linked questions:

•    1a. Can the parallel use of sound, light and image in performance that are based on bio-signals, in turn be used as a tool to get a better understanding of the potential in 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. 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?
•    1c. 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?
•    2. Can bio-signals (brain-waves and muscle 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/or 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.

The Quality of the Signals
It is important to underline the difference in nature between the two 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 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.

Project Timeline
The project will start in February 2020 and will run 12-18 month. During the time the team will meet during short and intense working sessions (2-5 days). In the intervals between these sessions, the participants will work individually with the development of the project in the field of their expertise. Throughout the project the group will perform publically and make theoretical presentations to ensure that there is an ongoing dialogue with the audience and professionals in other fields. The process will start with a one-week workshop. There will be a regular working sessions every month throughout the project. In autumn 2020 the group will start performing and making presentations publically. The will be carried out in conjunction with the

Outcomes
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.

Relevant reading and inspirational material:
•    La Monte Young, Dream House
•    Keiji Haino, C’est parfait
•    Brainwave Music, David Rosenboom
•    Prandit Pran Nath, Raga Malkauns
•    Coil, Time Machines
•    The Eternal Drone, Marcus Boon
•    Background Noises, Brandon LaBelle
•    The Handbook of Therapeutic Storytelling, Stefan Hammel.
•    States of Consciousness, Charles T. Tart