Music of the Hemispheres
Music has forever been the soundtrack to everything in our experience. It is a driving force, a power chord that carries voltage to all thoughts, brings all bulbs to light, and keeps the meter running. It is these types of ideas that have led me down the path of documenting the scientific connection between music and our brains. The video above describes some beautifully amazing scientific theories that our brains ARE music. Help us explore these ideas further by supporting the production of our film Music of the Hemispheres on Kickstarter,
Music of the Hemispheres is a feature-length, “non-fiction-science-fiction” film, currently in beginning stages of production, examining the Music of Thought Hypothesis; a theory outlined by neuro-philosopher Dan Lloyd, that consciousness operates within a musical structure -> you are music. Lloyd’s method undertakes converting brain activity into music, creating real musical representations of actual human minds at work: “Brain Music”, and analyzing different thought systems for inherent musical properties.
Inside each of us, at every moment, a symphony plays. It’s the symphony of consciousness, but at the same time it’s the symphony of the brain. It plays on millions of instruments over millions of channels. – Dan Lloyd
When I first came across Dan’s work a couple years back, it knocked me to pieces: this idea of the sonification of the human experience, of thinking about the musicality of perception, of experience as art. And further, its not just a pretty metaphor, but a viable theory of consciousness with scientific relevance. Lloyd writes further:
Scientifically, Mind as Music uses brain scans gathered by functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to explore the resemblance of fMRI signals to musical forms. In an fMRI scan, each part of the brain resonates at different frequencies. Although these resonators can’t be heard, all the concepts of music apply. We can look at harmonies and timbres, at consonance and dissonance, at melodies, and more. Along the many dimensions of music, we can ask whether the activity of the brain is more like music than some other contenders: Is brain activity more like music than it is like language? Is it more music than noise? … Increasingly, it seems the answers to these questions is Yes.
The philosophical implications of this work are both joyous and endless, and the beautiful challenge of making this film is how to express the elation of this idea from one moment to the next while remaining rooted in FACT –> to poetically activate scientific information and find visual models and systems that elucidate the gray-matter syntax (MUSIC) of all conscious moments.
In order to describe our quest here is to capture truth and beauty all at once… to create a soundtrack which is both comprehensible but is also driven very tightly by the data itself. - Dan Lloyd
Right now we are about 20% of the way into production of the film, which up to this point have been extensive interviews with Dan, his students, as well as with other scientists, and composers working with real data sets. One of these composers is Aaron Einbond. Similar to Dan, Aaron uses recordings of naturally occurring systems to find musical information which he transcribes for live instrumentation via custom designed algorithmic rule sets.
(I know what you’re thinking, this sounds like stereo instructions – but have you ever read instructions? They’re quite beautiful. There is a cadence and rhythm to instructions that I find borderline erotic. A constant guiding light in finding structure to this film, has been to imagine how T.S. Eliot would go about writing stereo instructions.)
Aaron’s work is tremendously beautiful. His systems of choice however are not the brains of humans, but naturally occurring sound environments ie: café’s, courtyards, passageways, jungles, glaciers, rain, snow. One very exciting aspect of this project is that it lends itself to tons of multi-media, and interdisciplinary experimentation. This last fall Dan, Aaron, neuroscientist Zoran Josipovic, and myself set out to create a unique neuroscientific study to play with the music of the mind, and give Dan a wildy different type of data set for the conversion into one of his awe-inspisring pieces of brain music, and then, of course, be presented in a live musical setting. Samples from Aaron’s compositions were presented to subjects in the fMRI, they were prompted to imagine and listen to different samples from field recordings and their respective musical mappings, as created by Aaron – and if that’s not wild enough they were instructed to do so by an image of Aaron, but also an image of their own self. From this data Lloyd created, what I think, are some of his most stunning sonifications to date (and I don’t just say that because my brain was in the mix, pun intended).
Watch wild eyes and brains from the night here:
Listen to the tracks in their entirety here: \”Imagine Rain: 3 Subjects in 3 Movements\”
We had the show at ISSUE Project Room, in Brooklyn, which is the home to a 12-channel overhead speaker system. After Dan Lloyd’s “Brain Music in Three Movements”, ensemble Yarn/Wire took the stage and played two pieces: Aaron Einbond’s Passagework, and a new rendering of Alvin Lucier’s word-score Memory Space; both pieces utilized the same field recordings, and musical samples fed to the subjects in the fMRI and so the audience experienced the same data sets as interpreted through notated composition, live improvisation, and human mind perceiving as composer itself.
This night was one beautiful strand of the massive head of hair that is this project. The short film at the top of the page was created specifically to open the night, which was met with a sold-out crowd. The final film will be a truly genre-bending movie crossing non-fiction, music, science, and experimental cinema. I’m looking to Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, 3-2-1 Contact, and of course Dr. Dan Lloyd, whose writing style manages to take dense, esoteric information and spin it into elegant and playful fables, which I cannot wait to adapt for the screen…
“In 1895, radio communication emanated for the first time from the workshop of Guglielmo Marconi; since then radio signals have propagated 115 light years in all directions, passing through several thousand star systems. If alien astronomers happen to detect Marconi’s first tentative broadcast, and the myriad following, what could they infer about its source?
The alien astronomers can carve up the radio signal many different ways… The example is fanciful, but analogous to a mystery signal that ripples through real (earthly) science every day: the magnetic resonance (MR) signal emitted by brains in scanners around the world.”
- Excerpt from Dan Lloyd’s Mind as Music paper, which you can read here.
The pledge drive is up to help us raise $16,000 which will launch our next phase of production. Please visit our Kickstarter page and make a donation. The rewards offered are unique, and musically mind-blowing -> we have records, downloads, video portraiture, and for the flush and curious an fMRI session with our team + “your brain into music” by Dan Lloyd himself. We have a slate of incredible composers and philosophers, narrative sequences bringing to life different musical structures and metaphors, and of course a ton more live music to shoot, brains to scan, and minds to melt. Be a part of it.