July 31, 2021


World News

‘Can’t get you out of my head’ – Canadian artist turns brain activity into music

Artist and neuroscientist Angie Coombes, known as ‘Angie C,’ has converted her brainwave activity into sounds with TONTO, the largest analogue synthesiser in the world, as seen on November 5, at Studio Bell, home of the National Music Centre in Calgary, Canada. Created in the late 1960s by Malcolm Cecil, TONTO, an acronym for ‘The Original New Timbral Orchestra,’ became famous with Stevie Wonder, who used it to record some of his masterpieces, including his ‘Innervisions’ album. Now, Angie C uses the instrument to produce a wide variety of sounds using a brainwave-reading headset. “What’s really unique about this project, it’s that it is really merging this old analogue instrument that really was way ahead of its time in the late 1960s, and taking this new brainwave headset technology and applying it to TONTO. So it’s a merging of two worlds,” Angie C said. Engineer and electronic music producer Mitchell Claxton created the software that allows Angie C to record brainwave-controlled music by turning the headset’s brainwave data into a control voltage, which goes into TONTO and manipulates the sound. Angie C explained how this technology is ‘unique to each individual,’ as it produces a different result depending on which emotional parameters fluctuate the most in each baseline recording of the person’s brainwave function. “For myself, things like engagement and excitement were really strong modulating parameters,” Angie C said. Angie C’s project was essentially designed “to be applied to any analogue synthesiser that uses a control voltage,” which means that artists in the near future will be able to use this technology even in a live setting.