Last august me and my girlfriend went to Burning Man for the second time. We were there sharing a camp called “Pay it forward”, with some 20 other people. Short story is that the idea of this camp is to offer a booth out on the playa where people come to talk and share. I spent a few sessions out there with my Muse headband, recording brainwaves from the visitors and in parallell recording the sound of our conversation. Back at home I then created an musical representation of how their brainwaves fluctuated during the conversation using different instruments for each brainwave, and sent it back to them together with the sound from the conversation.
How is this done?
Muse records 5 brainwaves: Delta, Theta, Alpha, Beta and Gamma (check in here again soon for a scientific article on what each of the five brainwave represents). Each of the brainwaves then got an instrument to represent them, and the volume of that instrument represents how strong that particular brainwave is at any given moment. So you get a soundscape where the volumes fluctuate up and down, and then this is merged together with the recorded sound from the conversation. There is a quite a lot of data processing and algorithms to make the brain waves comparable and then turned into volumes but this is quite nitty-gritty. If you’re by any chance interested in knowing how this is done, drop me an email.
So is this really reliable and scientifically sound?
To be honest, this is definitely more art than science. There are factors in this process that has to be approximations given how it’s done, so it’s rather a fun exercise in how to use and process the brain wave data from Muse than a scientific experiment. First and foremost we are not sitting entirely still during the session, secondly we have our eyes open, and just the signals from the eye muscles will have a much stronger impact on certain frequencies than the brain waves ever could, which is true for other movements as well.
Also, the algorithm for creating the volumes from the brainwave data makes a lot assumptions and approximations to make the brainwaves have a similar volume between them. If we go even deeper into the data processing we run into further issues. So in short: yes, this is an audio representation of brain waves, but with lots of noise.
Given that; it is still a beautiful soundscape created with brain wave readings from a conversation in the middle of the Nevada desert during a Burning Man festvial.
What it sounds like
Click play below to hear the sound file. There is first an intro presenting the different brain waves and their respective instruments. From 2:40 you can hear samples from one of our conversations with the brain wave music on top. To keep some anonymity of the person talking and to spare you from boredom the sound file is cut down to a few minutes.