Brain-wave music to go | Bleader

Brain-wave music to go



In the liner notes to his recent Brain Pulse Music (Drag City), Ghost guitarist Masaki Batoh writes of a decades-old dream to create music from brain waves. Composers such as Alvin Lucier and David Rosenboom, among others, have been making music from brain waves for decades, and assuming Batoh knew that, his dream was probably about access to equipment that can translate alpha waves into sound. His application of the technology is highly personal and fits well with the more primitive, ceremonial side of his music with Ghost. Oddly, of the album's seven pieces, only two include brain-wave music; most of the tracks use traditional Japanese percussion instruments and shakuhachi.

The device he used on these tracks, called a Brain Pulse Music Machine, was developed by a Japanese electronics firm called MKC Inc. It uses a complex headset, motherboard, and generator to convert activity in the frontal and parietal lobes into sound. I'm not sure how much the equipment used by Lucier and Rosenboom would cost (they typically worked with university sound-research labs), but MKC's device is a cool $699.99 and presently available from Drag City mail order. For such a high-tech device, its price seems quite reasonable—I don't know what the average Joe would do with it, but Batoh envisions real musical potential.

Brain Pulse Music Machine
  • Brain Pulse Music Machine
Batoh also addresses last year's earthquake and tsunami in his notes, and all proceeds from the sale of the album go to Red Cross Japan and earthquake victims. He's devoted to acupuncture and Eastern medicine, and he explains of the potential use of the BPM in treatment of patients suffering from various developmental disabilities—if they learn to identify brain activity through the different sounds it makes, they can potentially control it. He writes that he uses the machine in his own clinic, and that it's undergoing trials in a few Tokyo hospitals.

Below you can listen to "Eye Tracking Test," for which a series of drawings and prints was shown to a woman fitted with the BPM headset. You can also watch a promotional video capturing that action, which looks amusingly like an old-school horror flick.

Masaki Batoh, "Eye Tracking Test"

Today's playlist:

John Tchicai, Archie Shepp, J.C. Moses, and Don Moore, Rufus (Fontana)
Chris Dingman, Waking Dreams (Between Worlds Music)
O'Jays, I'll Be Sweeter Tomorrow: The Bell Sessions 1967-1969 (Sundazed)
Hyperactive Kid, Mit Dir Sind Wir 4 (Jazzwerkstatt)
Bonga, Maiorais (Lusafrica)