Inside each of us, at every moment, a symphony plays. It’s the symphony of consciousness, but at the same time it’s the symphony of the brain. It plays on millions of instruments over millions of channels. “Mind as Music” is a scientific and artistic project aiming to let us read the score of this symphony, and to listen to it, to the Music of the Hemispheres.
Scientifically, Mind as Music uses brainscans gathered by functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to explore the resemblance of fMRI signals to musical forms. In an fMRI scan, each part of the brain resonates at different frequencies. Although these resonators can’t be heard, all the concepts of music apply. We can look at harmonies and timbres, at consonance and dissonance, at melodies, and more. Along the many dimensions of music, we can ask whether the activity of the brain is more like music than some other contenders:
Is brain activity more like music than it is like language? Is it more music than noise? Are its musical properties different in different states of mind, and are they different for healthy brains in contrast with schizophrenia and other mental illnesses? Increasingly, it seems the answers to these questions is Yes.
Artistically, the Mind as Music project renders brain signals as audible music, designed to complement and extend visualizations and animations of the brain in action. Ears and eyes together can track more of the complexity of brain activity than either sense alone. The brain is never still, and its patterns of activity form a complex counterpoint in time and space.
Converting this counterpoint into musical sounds harnesses our ability to hear subtleties in music that might otherwise go unnoticed. Mind as Music enables researchers to gain insight into this complexity, especially through the clues afforded by the soundtrack to the ever shifting brain. But more important, the soundtracks of the conscious mind are uniquely beautiful, reminiscent of minimalist music, but different.
Hearing a mind alive in sound reminds us of the inner world that we never see (or hear) except through the narrow windows of language and movement. It demonstrates that we share a common ground bass of consciousness. Once we hear this resonance from a few brains, we recognize it as part of our common humanity, a continual and ubiquitous hum of awareness.
As we look toward others, we might also imagine the harmony within, and the colossal choir that is humankind.
Dan Lloyd’s paper on Mind as music
“Mind as Music” is a scientific and artistic project aiming to let us read the score of this symphony, and to listen to it, to the Music of the Hemispheres.
– Dan Lloyd