Hemispherics creates a sonic connection between two duos: one artist who’s EEG is measured (the Performer) and one or two persons who translate and interpret the EEG with the EEGsynth (the Operator) and a modular synthesizer (the Musician).

The performance space has at its center a large (semi-)rectangular table on which on opposite sides two synthesizers & EEGsynth setups are installed. Chairs for two, three or four people are added, depending how many are needed to operate the EEGsynths and synthesizers. Two audio monitors allow the performers to monitor their sound. On two opposite sides of the room, two large speakers are placed perpendicular to the axis of the synthesizers. In front of those speakers two chairs for the EEG-artists are placed. The audience is allowed to sit and move at different sides of the perimeter.

The doubling of performers increases the possible cross-connections between the performers and sonic modalities exponentially. Not only will performers, operators and musicians connect within their two- or three-some, they can crossover to each other as well when, e.g., the performers respond to the sounds created by the other set, or when the musicians are influenced by the music generated by the other set. In this way, new and more complex systems emerge where causality become increasingly circular.

Both the audience and the performers experience the increased complexity and heightened sense of interaction of the performative system. This is especially the case because the role of each performers in the sonic landscape can become less clear compared to performance setups where the causal chain is simpler. Causality can be brought back into focus during the performance by purposeful movement of the EEG-artists within the performative space wherein the stereo speaker setup mirrors the position of the synth-artists, creating a ‘home base’ for the performers. The spatial organization of the performative space is therefor very important.

Movement of the performers is necessarily limited however, and the majority of the performative dynamics occur within the sonic space where the use of two modular synthesizers provide obvious challenges and opportunities for sonic coherency and attunement. For the sake of both the performers and the audience, the performance should start very simple with the pitch of both synthesizers tuned to each other, playing at low volume. The amount of influence of the two EEG-artists on e.g. pitch and volume is then slowly increased. This gradually establishes a simple neuro-feedback situation in which the EEG-artists can try to attune to themselves (establish control of the sound), and each other (establishing communication). Later, with increasingly complex modulation, the attunement can also be in terms of timbre, attack or speed, as well as in more music ways through harmony/dissonance, tonal distance, phase of change, or timing of audio-playback. Moments of increased connection are exhilarating for both the performers and the audience, and show a deep musical potential of brain-music-interfaces.

The presence of four people on stage also makes more narrative structures possible. For instance, the performers can take turns, and respond to each other in a dialogue. In improvisational jazz such playing together through question-and-answer is well-known, but not often encountered in modular synthesis, and let alone in EEG-performance.

Hemispherics at IKLEKTIC

May 3rd, 2018, London, UK