July 18, 2024
1 Solar System Way, Planet Earth, USA
Technology

This is your brain in Pink Floyd

The human brain has long been an object of fascination for art and science, which now blend into “Brainstorming: a great concert in the sky”, a new live interactive experience set to the tune of Pink Floyd.

Interactivity is optional, but memorable. Visitors to the exhibition can choose to sign up (and pay extra) to have their brain activity recorded while listening to Pink Floyd's classic album “The Dark Side of the Moon” and later displayed as a fascinating cloud synchronized with that same soundtrack in a very large format. Frameless London immersive art gallery room.

Immersive art venues have been popping up around the world, often featuring popular painters whose works combine walls, ceilings and floors around visitors. But combining the concept with music and a live element brings “Brainstorms” closer to “ABBA Journey” For example.

That's not the only thing they have in common: Both programs similarly use technology as a facilitator, not an approach.

This sets “Brainstorms” apart from last year's groundbreaking experiment in which neuroscientists were able recreate “Another Brick in the Wall, Part 1” by Pink Floyd using AI to decipher the brain's electrical activity. This time, It's a show.

In “Aurora,” brain recordings of relaxed volunteers are shown in “a calming blue.”
Image credits: Antonio Pagano

While advanced technology is involved behind the scenes, from Emotional EEG headphones and spatial audio for Unrealistically driven visualizations, the starting point of the Brainstorms project was largely music; more precisely, that of the late Pink Floyd keyboardist, Richard Wright.

Wright's daughter Gala wanted to do something special for the album's 50th anniversary with “The Great Gig in the Sky,” the iconic tune composed by her father, featuring Clare Torry's no less memorable vocal composition. “So we started putting ideas together,” composer and music technologist JJ Wiesler told TechCrunch during the premiere.

Wiesler is the co-founder of Pollen Music Group, a San Francisco-based creative outlet recognized for its musical scores and sound design. With a music studio and a lab where he works with VR/XR headsets, phones, home devices, and more, Pollen is no stranger to experimentation. But “taking it to the world of exhibitions is a small change,” he said.

It was Gala Wright who had the idea to focus on neuroscience and the study of the human brain's reaction to music. This led her and Pollen to partner with Dolby to record the brain activity of 125 volunteers listening to “The Great Gig in the Sky,” synchronized with ad hoc software, Wiesler said.

Conducted last year, the experiment forms the basis of “Aurora,” a creation in which the moon casts a glow over the Arctic tundra, progressing to become an aurora borealis.

“Aurora” takes up the entirety of Frameless’ largest gallery, but there are four in total, which wasn’t part of the original plan. With 30,000 square feet at their disposal, the Brainstorms team came up with more than just fill. Keeping “great concerts in the sky” as an overall theme, he took on a room of his own with “Eclipse” and recruited London music artist Imogen Heap for a bird-inspired room.

Get off my cloud

A musician known for attractive with technologyHeap appears twice in “Murmur,” which is set to his ambient theme Cumulus, while two flocks of starlings (murmurs) represent his brain activity and his daughter dancing in the sunset.

In “Murmur,” flocks of starlings represent the brain waves of music Imogen Heap and her daughter dancing under the sunset.
Image credits: Antonio Pagano

Perhaps more clearly than in any other room, this visualization gives us insight into how the same music can affect different people. That's the scientific part of Brainstorms: during the visit, participants will learn that the visualizations reflect what others felt while listening to Pink Floyd.

In “Aurora,” interaction triggers red tones of the aurora, relaxation adds “a calming blue” and emotion animates the movement of the aurora, the exhibition panels explain. Meanwhile, in “Eclipse,” the brain's raw electrical energy fuels solar activity, causing flares and ejecta, while regional brain activity spatially aligns with activity on the sun's surface.

For visitors who opt for EEG readings, it's more personal: a couple of days after your visit, you'll receive a summary of your brain activity. It comes with science-based explanations about gamma, beta, alpha, and theta brain waves and what they say about your mental state, but it's arguably the personalized visualization you'll remember most.

“We created a visualization engine that was about how clouds form, because Richard Wright was an amateur photographer who took thousands of photographs of clouds,” Wiesler said. Cross that with data and neuroscience and you get Cloud Gallery.

The Cloud Gallery is one of four Brainstorms rooms at London's Frameless immersive art centre.
Image credits: Antonio Pagano

“Enjoy your cloud,” the PR person tells me before walking into the large room to see my brain on the screen, moments after Imogen Heap did the same. Due to measures taken to preserve anonymity, only you will know which cloud is yours, but the look in her eyes may be indicative.

From ASMR to brain-themed museum exhibits, there's growing interest in what music does to our brain, but there is something about Pink Floyd's music that makes it perfect for such an exhibition. “Due to popular demand,” “Brainstorms” has already added new dates to its London residency, its organizers said, and I wouldn't be surprised if it eventually hits other cities and immersive venues around the world.

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