Music for Solo Performer
Music For Solo Performer was presented as a final thesis project for my Masters in Music Performance at the University of Washington. It was also performed as a part of the Multimedia Series at Montana State University.
Music For Solo Performer is Alvin Lucier's landmark work in the field of Electroencephalogram (EEG) sonification. Developed with the assistance of Physicist Edmond Dewan, it massively amplifies the Alpha brainwaves of a performer and routes that signal dynamically to a selection of instruments. However, since Alpha occurs in the range of 8-12 cycles per second(Hz), (well below the minimum frequency of 20Hz for human hearing), what is perceived by an audience is not the Alpha activity itself, but its resonance with the instruments through which it is being routed. Indeed, to paraphrase Lucier himself, Alpha is not a sound idea, it is instead an energy or control idea.
My objectives with this piece were to learn to use EEG equipment and further explore the dichotomy between the conscious/unconscious landscape of my life as a performer and the externalized experience that is presented to audiences. Music for Solo Performer contrasts to normal performance in that this piece only functions in response to inactivity. It is by letting go that the piece happens. Alpha brainwaves are prevalent only in a mind that is calm and focused.
Paradoxically, "Music for Solo Performer" was not originally performed as a solo. Lucier had a number of assistants to control the routing of Alpha waves and fixed playback. In honor of Lucier's first assistant, composer John Cage, my performances include significant chance operations. I drew inspiration from the i-Ching operations in Cage's Child of Tree/Branches, and created a form for the piece based on an ascending and descending Fibonacci sequence. Instruments were then allocated into "sets" to be available during each Sequence-derived section and a pseudo-random number generator controlled where commands went. In this way I created a piece that was in the spirit of Cage. Each performance is unique.
Signal Routing in Music for Solo Performer.
Creality Ender 3 FDM 3D Printer
Anycubic Photon S SLA 3D Printer
OpenBCI UltraCortex Headset
OpenBCI Cyton + Daisy Controller
The Max/MSP patch to run the piece is available on my Github.
It was necessary to 3D Print the UltraCortex headset.
Music for Solo Performer featured a number of custom built instruments, many of which went through several revisions.
Initial experiments were conducted in Neuromore and SuperCollider, but owing to time constraints a framework was instead developed using Max/MSP and the OpenBCI GUI.
OpenBCI UltraCortex headset with 3D Printed frame and controller housing.
Replacement control board housing. Made on an Anycubic Photon S.
Arduino based control system for old style radios. Inspired by John Cage's Radio Music.