DEVIANCE by Emily Howard, Zubin Kanga, Bofan Ma and Erik Natanael Gustafsson

Zubin Kanga (Photographer)

Research output: Non-textual formComposition

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This work for piano, video and electronics began with an experiment about how the brain perceives unexpected changes in music. Using EEG brain-scanning equipment from Cyborg Soloists industry partner ANT Neuro, Dr Christiane Neuhaus (University of Hamburg) conducted an experiment on how listeners respond to Howard’s music, including her orchestral work, Torus, and piano material derived from it. Neuhaus’ experiment found that the volunteers heard the music in two parallel ways: one part of the brain perceived the work as a whole, while another perceived the moments of ‘deviance’: any change to a pattern that had been established by the preceding music. Particularly striking were brain responses to gradual shifts in tempi: accelerandos shifting into rallentandos. Howard’s decided to explore these experimental results across different media, drawing together a number of collaborators. She writes: The 90-section structure of DEVIANCE involves a large-scale accelerando followed by ritardando superimposed upon its inverse: a large-scale ritardando followed by an accelerando. The work can also be viewed as 90 standard durations of 10 seconds. The piano material is entirely created from the original Torus expanding and contracting, between faster and slower deviations: always searching, ever circling. The live piano is fused with two intermittent deviant trajectories: sound design by Bofan Ma and video design by Erik Nataneal Gustafsson, each offering an alternative response to the original experimental brain data. Ma’s electronics use AI-generated audio (created using PRiSM SampleRNN software in consultation with researcher, Christopher Melen) trained on the same piano and orchestral recordings used in the experiment, as well as the sonification of the brainwaves that were recorded by Neuhaus, creating a rich and complex texture through which the piano weaves.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2023

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