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03.11.2014 // Music + the Mind

What music does the mind make? On March 11th, ArtLab tuned into the sound of synapses with Music + the Mind: a live music-infused experiment in neuroscience. The evening featured the Brainwave Music Project, which translates brain activity into electronic music—a project conceived by Columbia professors David Sulzer and Brad Garton.

Singer + multi-instrumentalist Lora Faye and jazz drummer William Hooker strapped on mind-reading EEG headbands to record the electrical impulses coursing through their brains, making music with their minds as they make music for the crowd. As they performed, they fed off neurofeedback, improvising to the beat of their neurons firing.

Rounding out the evening, ArtLab explored the art and neuroscience of making brainwave music through moderated discussion and active audience participation. For just a taste of the night’s conversation, enjoy the video below!

Very big thanks to Noemi Charlotte Thieves for filming the event, Josh Brechner for editing the audio, and Cameo Gallery for providing such an amazing venue.

about the guests

David Sulzer is Professor of Neurology and Psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center where he investigates how different parts of the brain communicate with each other. Sulzer doubles as a musician under the moniker Dave Soldier, whose work ranges from composing chamber operas in collaboration with Kurt Vonnegut to conducting a chorus of 14 elephants, known as the Thai Elephant Orchestra. [Learn more.]

Brad Garton is Director of the Computer Music Center at Columbia University where he models human musical performance on various virtual instruments, and has helped to establish computer music studios throughout the world. [Learn more.]

William Hooker’s body of uninterrupted work beginning in the mid-seventies defines him as one of the most important composers and players in jazz. As bandleader, Hooker has fielded ensembles in an incredibly diverse array of configurations. Each collaboration has brought a serious investigation of his compositional agenda and the science of the modern drum kit. As a player, Hooker has long been known for the persuasive power of his relationship with his instrument. His work is frequently grounded in a narrative context. Whether set against a silent film or anchored by a poetic theme, Hooker brings dramatic tension and human warmth to avant-garde jazz. [Learn more.]

Brooklyn native Lora Faye is a singer and multi-instrumentalist with a deep understanding of the power in the strange and idiosyncratic in American folk and rock traditions. Her songwriting and performance draws from such disparate sources as Gillian Welch and Jeff Buckley, Blind Willie Johnson and Anais Mitchell, Harry Smith and Andy Warhol. In 2012, Lora-Faye’s songwriting won her such accolades as the Grand Prize Award at NPR The Mountain Stage New Song Contest, Hudson Valley Songfest’s “Best New Artist,” and a winning slot at The New Jersey Folk Festival’s Songwriting Competition. [Learn more.]

The event was presented as part of Brain Awareness Week, which featured brain-themed events all across New York City.