News / Asia

    In Australia, Brain Power Fuels Emotion-Driven Music

    Neurophysiologist Vaughan Macefield works with volunteer Ben Schulz at the lab at the University of Western Sydney, Australia, 2012. (P. Mercer/VOA)
    Neurophysiologist Vaughan Macefield works with volunteer Ben Schulz at the lab at the University of Western Sydney, Australia, 2012. (P. Mercer/VOA)
    Phil Mercer
    SYDNEY – A team of Australian researchers is tapping into the nerves and bodies of volunteers to create a raw musical performance driven purely by emotions.  In a world first, the data is fed into special software, which will create music that will be played by small robots.  The research team comprises a neurophysiologist, a roboticist and an artist. 
     
    What sound does a singing body make?
     

    To measure these inner feelings,  Sydney researchers are carefully mapping volunteers' blood pressure, breathing and sweat release.
     
    They are also inserting small needles into the nerves to listen into the electrical signals coming from the brain.
     
    "So amongst other things, I study the sympathetic nervous system, which is the branch of the nervous system involved in emotional expression," explains neurophysiologist Vaughan Macefield, professor of integrated physiology at the University of Western Sydney's School of Medicine. "And that is what we are looking at today.  So I have a needle inserted into Ben’s knee, the common peroneal nerve at the side of the knee, and as you can hear if I stroke Ben’s foot, we can hear this noise, which actually reflects the activity of sensory endings in the skin.”       
     
    The information is fed into a central computer, which decodes the data and translates it into music that fits the emotional state of volunteer, Ben Schulz.
     
    “Currently, I have got all sorts of wires coming in and out of me," Schulz says,  "so I have got something to measure my pulse and my blood pressure, and I have also got a small, little needle inserted into my leg, going into a nerve to actually sense the nerve endings in my feet.”
     
    Professor Macefield says the experiment aims to produce unique music.
     
    “The whole idea of this project is to tap into these nerve signals, and with Erin over there, [a] Montreal-based performance artist, we are wanting to use these signals, which are very sensitive markers of the state of emotion, to drive a performance,” he explains.  
     
    The experiments at a laboratory at the University of Western Sydney are the start of something far more spectacular.  The team aims to put their emotions-driven show on stage, where the inner feelings of two volunteers will generate live music performed by a fleet of small robots.
     
    “This project for me is all about a spirit of wonder and discovery," says Erin Gee, a Canadian sound and new media artist. " I anticipate that people could be as amazed as I am to hear these emotional rhythms.

    "I have a prototype software where I am experimenting with that right now" Gee adds  as she demonstrates how emotions are being portrayed and how they will sound when inserted into the robot. "I am translating this into glockenspiel instruments because to me I thought that something percussive, something glockenspiel, it reflects the nature of the data because the data is, you know, either on or it is off.   That is like a xylophone being hit.  Ding.”  
     
     The end product is a mix of rhythms.

    “Because you will definitely hear natural rhythms of the body being reflected in rhythms of xylophones being hit," Gee notes, "but every once in a while there will be an emotional fluctuation, so it will sound, kind of, like a gamelan orchestra of xylophone, bell sounds.”           
     
    The project is supported by the University of Western Sydney and the Concordia University in Montreal, Canada.

    You May Like

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora