Music Science

The Multimodal Brain Orchestra performs by way of brainwave controlled sound synthesis –

Two of the performers were given a task to watch a screen in front of them, with flashing rows and columns of letters, and told to look for a particular letter.

When expectation is fulfilled, 300 thousandths of a second later, a signal known as the P300 appears in the EEG.


Two more performers were given boxes with four lights flashing at different frequencies. The SSVEP is a brain signal that comes about when visual stimulus in the retina at a given frequency causes the brain to synchronize, so that frequency appears in the EEG.

Given a cue from the conductor, the performers switch their attention from one flashing frequency to another.

One of them affects the volume of a given sound – known to influence the level of arousal in the circumplex model – and the other affects a certain modulation of that sound, which is known to influence the valence, how positive or negative the arousal is emotionally.

Led by both “emotional” and traditional conductors, the group recently held their first performance at the Science Beyond Fiction conference in Prague. Read more about the project over at BBC News.