Brainwave Music

I recently attended a conference and there was something on the agenda that I found very interesting. The title was Brainwave Music. Incredible, this guy was making music with his brain alone!

Can you image that you create music by your thoughts alone? That really sounds like Science Fiction, but Ulf Schöneberg is exactly doing that. I witnessed his performance at Tech Open Air in Berlin 2016 and I was really astonished by how this working.

Brainwaves and how they translate to music

Ulf has been interested “in the brain”, as he put it, since he was a child. He build this incredible setup where he would measure his brainwaves with an EEG, filter this information for noise and then put that information into a composition machine that would render music out of it.
He would measure and then classify his waves into different kind of states and then match it with composition machines that he had trained for different types of moods and feed them some of the data he was collecting with his EEG.

How brainwave music sounds

Brainwave – Different types and states

Ulf explained that there were different types of brainwaves that you could measure:

  • Delta brainwaves – .5 to 3Hz
  • Theta brainwaves – 3 – 8 Hz
  • Alpha brainwaves – 8 to 12 Hz
  • Beta brainwaves – 12 to 38 Hz

Depending on what frequency is predominant in measuring brainwaves, you can conclude in what kind of state the person. For example delta brainwaves are predominant in a very deep, dreamless sleep, whereas beta brainwaves are predominating our awake state. Depending again on the frequency, you can make assumptions about the state the respective person is in… you can say, the higher the frequency, the more highly complex activities and thoughts are carried out.

Filtering the brainwave to get music

So, there was another problem Ulf needed to solve. An EEG basically captures electrical impulses that the brain emits. Unfortunately, there is not just the brain emitting those electrical signals, but muscles for example, too. So, when the person attached to an EEG moves, there will be some electrical “noise” from the muscles as well, which need to be filtered out before feeding it to the composition machine to create music out of it.