Today on Blogcritics
Home » Culture and Society » Science and Technology » Musical Bio-feedback

Musical Bio-feedback

Researchers have created music that responds and alters itself depending upon the state of mind of the listener:

    The application, under development at MIT’s Media Lab Europe, uses biometrics to control what the listener hears.

    As the listener relaxes more, different instruments start to play. The system could be employed as a useful stress-management application in the future.

    State of Nirvana

    “The project is based around the idea of drifting deeper into music according to a positive biometric state, said Phil McDarby, research associate with the Mind Games groups at the Dublin labs.

    “The piece consists of seven distinct layers, including bass, piano, strings and flutes,” he told BBC News Online.

    “As the user relaxes the layers are peeled back and they drift deeper into the music.”

    Slipping on two biometrics onto the fingertips is the easy part. They detect specific changes in conductivity that happen – a Galvanic Skin Response (GSR) – dependent upon a person’s state.

    The difficult part is concentrating on relaxing in order to “unlock” the seven different layers of the music, and some who have tried the system have only heard a bass line, indicating their stress management is ineffective.

    ….Called Peace Composed, the project grew from previous work the Mind Games research group had developed which used bio-feedback technology in a game.

    Relax to Win was developed to help children with problems like anxiety, phobia, and post-traumatic stress, and has now been installed at Mater Misericordiae Hospital.

    ….it could also be used as an innovative form of music production.

    “Imagine a number of people each had wireless GSR sensors and each controlled a ‘part’ of the song.

    “Or an entire orchestra, who instead of their instruments, had a GSR sensor on which would reveal their pre-recorded segment according to their physiological state,” he said. [BBC]

So there are two things going on here: the music can be used as a bio-feedback training technique to help people learn to relax and control their internal tension level; and it can be a new form of interactive and collaborative composition.

About Eric Olsen