miya masaoka

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Thinking Sounds
brainwave data graph

Thinking Sounds is an interactive composition for pre-recorded brainwaves, live brainwaves of an audience member, computer and eight musicians. The SF Sound Ensemble premiered Thinking Sounds at Yerba Buena Gardens with additional performances at the ODC Theater in San Francisco. Versions of this piece have also been performed at “Beyond Music,” an electronic music series at the Schindler House in Santa Monica, CA.

Thinking Sounds, employs various musical and interpretive strategies to translate the data of brain wave activity into sound. These include:

  1. A volunteer from the audience wears the EEG brain helmet. The actual voltage output of the brain is made audible with amplification. This electrical activity is then heard in real time by the audience in a pure unadulterated state, and also processed in a computer.
  2. A graphic representation of pre-recorded brainwaves is superimposed upon a musical grand staff to create the pitch relationships and generate a written score. The musicians then “perform” the brainwaves and the expressive, gestural relationships that the waves imply.
  3. The brain wave activity is interpreted via midi and mapped to a synthesizer where the waves are expressed in pitch, time and timbral relationships. The musicians then improvise with the midi output of the synthesizer.
  4. In the final section, players perform an orchestrated rendition of the differentiated data of beta, theta, alpha, delta and eye movement.

The SF Sound Ensemble members are: Matt Ingalls, clarinet; Hugh Livingston, cello; Tom Swafford, violin; David Birthelle, trumpet; John Shiurba, guitar; John Ingalls, saxophone; and Rakesh Khanna, percussion.

Thinking Sounds is dedicated to David Rosenboom in recognition of his tremendous, intrepid research and creative work in brain wave activity.

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