7.28.2015

1+1=3, BrainSynth workshop, Athens 19-24 August, 2015

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With: Jean-Louis Huhta, Stephen Whitmarsh and Per Hüttner

Intro
The BrainSynth will allow anyone to use their own muscles activity, eye-movements, heart beat and brain activity to control music-synthesizer equipment in real-time. The interface is being developed as an instrument for both artistic and scientific exploration, research and expression. The construction of the BrainSynth is done with affordable off-the-shelf components and the development will be done in according to open source and open hardware principles. (More technical details here.)

August 19
- Jean-Louis and Stephen arrive at midnight. Nocturnal swim and discussions about the individual work carried out in preparation for the workshop and what is expected of the days to come and how we can best reach these goals.

August 20
- Breakfast meeting and planning of the day ahead. Stephen talks about the workshop he organised in Frankfurt and Champagne with German neuroscientists. Special attention is given to how he used synthesizers, the BrainSynth and Per’s work. He also goes through some basic principles of neuroscience, EEG, MEG and the congruence between how the brain and music works. Per talks about his reading of Deleuze and Guattari which leads to discussions about deterritorialisation and reterritorialisation and how the concepts relates to music, neuroscience and the project.
- Individual work with developing and fine-tuning the BrainSynth. Further research on deterritorialisation and reterritorialisation.



- Discussions on the proposed public outputs: events in Munich, Besançon, Berlin, Stockholm along with reflections on the future publication/CD. After long discussions it was decided that the project’s focus will primarily be on workshops for and with neuroscientists, artists and musicians. Workshops and their public presentations will allow the ambiguity of working in a grey-zone between the three disciplines will offer interesting outputs that will allow the participants and audience to reflect on deterritorialisation and reterritorialisation in the respective fields.

- Discussions about the possibility of the development of a special BrainSynth for children and what changes, simplifications and tools would be needed for this.

- First practical test run of BrainSynth. Per’s arm was equipped with electrodes and that were connected to the BrainSynth which was connected to Jean-Louis’s modular synthesizer. Stephen continued fine tuning and calibrating of the BrainSynth to get an adequate range in the signal and how this can become automated (to meet the difference in EEG signals in different individuals and body parts.) Together we looked at problem solving in regards to MIDI signals and CV/gate.
- Jam-session with 2 modular synthesizers and electric guitar using the BrainSynth (arm.)

August 21
- Breakfast meeting and planning of the day ahead. Together we look at scenes from Adam Curtis’s “Bitter Lake” and discuss psychiatry, psychoanalysis with focus on symptoms, treatment and drugs. Based on yesterday experience, Stephen explains software development and how this is used for tuning and calibrating of the BrainSynth to get an adequate range of MIDI signals and CV/gate from EEG. Discussions on voluntary movements (hand) and involuntary movement (heart/brain) and how degrees of this will influence the use of the BrainSynth.

- Individual work with the BrainSynth and formulation of texts for upcoming events and funding applications.
- Second practical test run of BrainSynth. Per’s forehead and heart is equipped with EEG and the BrainSynth was connected to Jean-Louis and Stephen’s modular synthesizers. The facial electrode was moved to Per’s arm. Fine-tuning and calibrating of the BrainSynth’s software to get an adequate range.
- Jam-session with 2 modular synthesizers and electric guitar using the BrainSynth (face, arm and heartbeat) and feedback box.

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August 22
- Breakfast meeting and planning of the day ahead. Discussions about how the future workshops are going to function. It is decided that the workshop(s) will focus on creating a sonic Brain that will be made up by four parts. Each part will investigate functions of the brain: action, memory, attention, perception. A group will be formed around the four aspects. Each group includes musicians, artists and neuroscientists who work together and will be given a modular synthesizer to explore their aspect of the brain.

We therefore need to build four modular synthesizers and we discuss at length how the costs for this will be covered. We also decide that the event in Munich is going to be simpler, not workshop-based and include performative talks by Per and Stephen; a jam session with the BrainSynth and a concert by Dungeon Acid.

- Individual work with the BrainSynth and formulation of texts for upcoming events and funding applications.
- Dinner in Athens and meeting with Panos IC and other representatives from the local music scene.
August 23
- Breakfast meeting and planning of the day ahead. Stephen goes through the programming he has made during workshop and what challenges lie ahead. He elaborates on how the time windows in the real-time EEG affect the outputs. We decide that there will be separate patches for muscles, eye-movement, heart and brain.

Jean-Louis and Per express a desire to develop instruments in a similar way with what they did in Mexico in 2014. Arguing that this would add a deeper understanding of the BrainSynth. Stephen is positive to this and it is discussed how these can be created and used in Munich and later. We discuss, with the starting point in Buszáki, how oscillations can be understood in neuroscience, music and general philosophy. For instance how we go from an individual neurons to brain waves.

-Lunch with Greek Anthropologist Leonidas Economou.

- Jam-session with 2 modular synthesizers and electric guitar using the BrainSynth (arm, heartbeat and brain) and feedback box.

August 24
- Breakfast meeting, summery and recap of the day. Discussions about what we have learned, developed: weak points and strong assets. Discussions about what the next steps will be. There was a consensus that we should focus on how oscillations can be understood in neuroscience, music and general philosophy and that Jean-Louis and Per need to develop the artistic potential of the BrainSynth.

- Jean-Louis leaves
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August 25, 26 – Post Workshop
Stephen and Per continue to discuss the topics and reading of Buszáki. Discussions incorporate a broader range and focus on how oscillations exist in all known dimensions – from the quantum realm to the astrological. Oscillations offer a starting point for making sense of the chaotic world around us that incorporates time and temporality implicitly. Discussions also include how reterritorialsation is a recurring historically and how this can be incorporated into the project

We also discuss that possibility of not doing a BrainSynth event in Munich, but focus on doing something at Club Mesmer in October. Stephen and Per depart.

Literature:
Rhythms of the Brain – Györgi Buszáki
A Thousand Plateaus – Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari
Gödel, Escher, Bach – Douglas Hofstadter
The End of Certainty – Ilya Prigogine
Bitter Lake – Adam Curtis

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