Extended musical interface with the human nervous system: assessment and prospectus

1990 to 1997

[PDF AVAILABLE FOR DOWNLOAD] Extended musical interface with the human nervous system, assessment and prospectus is the 1997 revised edition of the original 1990 monograph published by Leonardo as Leonardo Monograph No. 1, International Society for the Arts, Sciences and Technology, (San Francisco: Leonardo/ISAST) and as an electronic document by MIT Press, (Cambridge, MA).


The purpose of this monograph is severalfold: (1) to give a detailed description of some work done in the mid- to late-1970s in which I was able to achieve the spontaneous generation of formal musical architectures with a computer music system by using a detailed analysis of evoked responses to features in those architectures recorded from a performer's brain; (2) to provide an overview of some historical events related to the development of artistic works that are in some way responsive to bioelectrically derived signals; (3) to describe briefly the emergence of the biofeedback paradigm and to discuss biofeedback modeling; (4) to survey accumulated knowledge regarding interpretation of electroencephalographic phenomena with particular emphasis on event-related potentials (ERPs) and their relation to aspects of selective attention and cognitive information processing; (5) to present a speculative model for the general interpretation of electroencephalographic waveforms; (6) to discuss some inferences and speculations relating these phenomena to musical experience; (7) to provide an assessment of some methods and techniques that have been applied to realizing works of art with these phenomena; (8) to describe some specific algorithms for generating self-organizing musical structures in a feedback system that relates a limited model of perception to the occurrence of event-related potentials in a performer's brain; and (9) to discuss the potential of new and emerging technologies and conceptual paradigms for the future evolution of this work. Finally, an actual score containing a conceptual scheme for a biofeedback work involving electroencephalographic phenomena and electronic orchestrations is provided in an appendix to stimulate further thinking and ideas for applications in the arts.

The writing is addressed to those with an interdisciplinary interest in the arts (particularly music) and the sciences (particularly those of the brain, psychology and perception, and the study of self-organizing systems). However, readers whose backgrounds are in the arts or sciences alone, or even other areas such as cognition, philosophy, computer science or musical instrument design, are encouraged to read on as well. Many references are provided with which the reader may enhance her or his knowledge in a particular sub-discipline. Those who may find some of the technical descriptions difficult should first skim through the entire document and then return to individual sections for further study.

It is hoped that the ideas presented herein may contribute in some way toward increasing our breadth of understanding concerning dynamic processes in the arts and sciences.