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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Mickey Hart Is Playing His Brain as a Musical Instrument and it Sounds Weeeiiirrddd

Posted By on Thu, Sep 12, 2013 at 3:33 PM

Mickey Hart and the brain machine.
  • Mickey Hart and the brain machine.

So how's this for trippy: Mickey Hart, former drummer for legendary cranium-rearrangers the Grateful Dead, is now actually playing the arrangement of his cranium. Mostly as a light show, but partly as a musical instrument.

Hart, who turned 70 yesterday, has teamed up with a professor from UCSF to make a brain-cap thing that captures the activity of his noodle's neurons and translates it into a light show. With sound. You can see his brain light up in different colors on a big screen, and noise comes out of this contraption, although it's not terribly musical. Hart's live performances rely on more conventional instruments like guitars and drums to enter the realm of Actual Music. The "brain noises," as NPR explains, aren't really brain noises anyway -- just musical notes randomly assigned to different brain waves. But maybe this is comforting? Dunno about you, but when we're thinking, we generally do not notice the clicks and pops our brain makes, much less whether they land in the key of B flat.

This science project might one day yield some breakthroughs in the realm of musical therapy. Hart's interest in the project stems from watching his grandmother struggle with Alzheimer's. He noticed that when he played a drum for her, it seemed to help her memory.

The video below explains it all reasonably well -- with sound. Also, it is filled with a number of unintentionally funny phrases, some of which we have helpfully excerpted for you below:

"Jamming. That's what the brain does, it jams."

"This mystery mind that we have can be used for other things than dancing and pleasure. It can be used as medicine."

"... the concept of 'good vibrations' as a healing tool -- as well as something you can dance to ...."

"This is live recording right now, from Mickey's brain... "

[In song:] "Wild rhythm patterns ... wild rhythm patterns ... "

"We started at the Fillmore. And we had these ecstatic trance rituals."

For more on Hart's brain music and his Superorganism project, check out this AP story and this NPR report.

-- @iPORT

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Ian S. Port


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