March 1, 2013
Toronto musician Dean Williams scored the final track for our Sonic Tour of the Brain mixtape – a remix of all the recordings we used for our auditory tour of the mind. You can listen to his unprecedented composition here. Learn more about just how he made this spectacularly singular score by using your eyes, not your ears, here…
When Guerilla Science asked if I was interested in composing a small bit of music to accompany their project The Sonic Tour of the Brain, my answer was immediate, profane, and in the affirmative. I was delighted to get a chance to apply some daubs of art to their science and be, if only briefly, aboard their motley caravan of learning and revelry.
I was handed a folder of sound files – some quite strange and beautiful – oddly distant-sound EEG recordings of epileptic seizures; a single auditory nerve firing; bubbling up from a sea of static, to the unsettling sound of computers attempting to recognize words being spoken via MRI technology, to the just plain visceral – a bone saw in use; gelatinous material sloshing in a tray.
Really more an exercise in Frankenstein science than biology, my task was to stitch together something vaguely musical from the sounds at hand.
My self-imposed limitation was to use nothing but the supplied source material – the sounds you hear exhibited in Guerilla Science’s ‘Sonic Tour of the Brain’ – no synthesizers, no drums, no fife or guitar for that matter – just this oddly unsettling collection of sounds. I applied effects such as digital delay, reverb, and equalizers/filters to add a bit of flair.
The use of the bone saw in the opening is a bit apparent, but snippets of it were also used to create the rhythmic clicking in the first few seconds. The first kick drum you hear is a slowed down sample of the ‘brain-like’ substance sloshing in a tray, as is the snare that enters 4 bars later. The ‘melodic’ elements that come in soon after are actually a single EEG blip from the recording of an epileptic seizure, pitched and stretched somewhat to be recognizable as something musical. The chords that swell up shortly after are actually layered loops of the 12000hz frequency tone used to illustrate hearing loss as one ages. One of the most useful pieces of sound in creating percussive sounds was the long recording of the box of matches being used to illustrate binaural sound positioning – this was used to construct a ‘drum kit’ from around the 1:12 mark onward. My apologies if you’re able to hear the quick burst of the ‘mosquito tone’ at about 1:44 – I sadly can’t, as years of hard living have left me unable to hear that frequency.
To be sure, the task took on a life of its own, as I sat highly caffeinated and thoroughly creeped out, bathed in the ghost-light of my monitor, listening to reverberating pulses, struggling neurons, seizures and surgeries; my own brain adding phantom notes and I adding these phantom notes as real notes to the composition. All said this was constructed over two 6-8 hour sessions. It was, in layman’s terms, pretty goddamn fun.
Whether or not this was a success in the final accounting is not for me to say – while the brain is unlikely to adhere to a 4/4 rhythm or progress in such a logical arc, if nothing else, you can be assured that what you hear are some of the sounds that it makes. Please know I am sincere in my hope that it triggers the synapses responsible for enjoyment in the sloshing pan of jelly you carry around atop your neck.
By Dean Williams – composer, writer, and nerd.
February 26, 2013
Zoe will be speaking about the her favourite subject – the origins of music – at Superstripe, the first in a series of exhibitions hosted at Pattern Power!
The Evolution of Music
Making music is one of the weirdest things we do, and yet every culture does it. Why? Neuroscience has revealed that music affects the brain like nothing else, prompting synchronized symphonies of electrical pulses. More than mere entertainment, science hints at a primal place for organized sound.
When: Tuesday April 16th, 7pm
Where: Pattern Power, 28 Redchurch St Shoreditch, London
Pattern Power is the first in a series of annual exhibitions and events hosted by Patternity that will explore the powerful presence of pattern and it’s ability to positively connect us all. Taking over the Londonewcastle Project Space - 28 Redchurch Street in East London E2 7DP - London design collective Patternity will immerse visitors into an intriguing and tactile world of stripes as we transport our ethos of ‘celebrating pattern everywhere’ offline and into the real world.
August 30, 2012
It’s rather impossible to say how proud we are of Aaron Horn, also known as Aaron Audio, a very old and very dear friend of ours. Years and years and years of gigging and mixing and mastering have paid off: he’s made it to #1 with his dub ska outfit, Sam and the Womp. Check their smash hit single, Bom Bom! If you’ve been listening to BBC Radio 1, you’ll definitely have heard it by now.
Bass merchant Aaron has been good to Guerilla Science for many years, providing the sublime beats for our short film about our Days of Dirt in the summer of 2011,
as well as the track for our vid about the Decontamination Unit at Glastonbury
and our 2010 Highlights reel.
He not only scores sick tracks, he also sports a seriously shiny jacket.
Aaron, we love you.
May 16, 2012
This summer we are collaborating with tech artists MzTEK to create the world’s first Hacked Human Orchestra! Together we are transforming rags to riches, blending soft fabric electronics with creative technologists to produce a mobile electronic human orchestra, an idea first conceived with Studio XO, a fashion and technology brand based in London who focus on interactive digital fashion for leading musical artists.
MzTEK is a nonprofit collective with the aim of encouraging women artists to pick up technical skills in the fields of new media, computer arts, and technology. Together we will be hosting a workshop for women to come and learn how to create a musical instrument in a wearable technology workshop with guest electronic engineers.
When: Saturday 30th June 10am – 5pm
Centre for Creative Collaboration
16 Acton Street
This is a women only workshop
Tickets are £8 (+ £1 booking fee)
Register here: https://mztek.eventwax.com/
In the second act, later this summer at Wilderness and Shambala we will hack these instruments into outfits, stitching synths into shirts, turning trousers into trumpets and redesigning dresses into drums. For the final act, we will assemble en masse for an impromptu orchestral performance unlike any other, led by composer Florian Lunaire who will score our singular soundtrack as we wind our way throughout the festival.
This event is generously sponsored by the Royal Academy of Engineering.
To book your place, sign up on Eventwax.