Examining the use of neural controllers in collaborative composition and performance by a quartet of d/Deaf and autistic musicians.
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This presentation explores and demonstrates Digital Syzygies, a set of neural-controlled musical compositions and performances. This was undertaken as part of the 'Digital Score' research project, funded by the European Research Council, led by Professor Craig Vear at De Montfort University.
Digital Syzygies was led by the composer Andrew Hugill, who is both autistic and has severe hearing loss. It involved three other d/Deaf and/or neurodivergent participants: Anya Ustaszewski, an autistic composer and musician who works with a variety of sounds and instruments and has a particular interest in immersive and abstract narrative sound experiences
Elisabeth Wiklander, a classical cellist with the London Philharmonic Orchestra who is also a Cultural Ambassador of the National Autistic Society
and Simon Allen, a composer and percussionist, who experienced a slow change in his hearing up until 1993(?) which has brought 50% loss from the top down in terms of area on the audiogram, accompanied by hyperacusis, tinnitus and two hearing aids.
The project used the Emotiv Insight EEG Brain Interface to connect these four musicians, who were remotely located (in Sweden, Sri Lanka/London, Brighton and Leicester). The system functioned as a digital score and was powered by a Python application built by Craig Vear that allowed the brains of the musicians to dictate the course of musical events, subject to responses measured by six performance metrics: engagement, excitement, focus, interest, relaxation, stress.
This resulted in some extraordinary correspondences and revelations, which emerged at every level: musical, technical and personal. This is evident in the resulting album, which contains sixteen syzygies (alignments) that explore the individual brains of each musician and their relationship with each others' worlds.
About the speaker
Andrew Hugill is a Professor of Creative Computing at the University of Leicester, where he is also Deputy Director of the Digital Culture Institute. He is also a composer, musicologist and Professor of Music. His books include 'Aural Diversity (Routledge 2022) and 'The Digital Musician' (Routledge 2016), now in its third edition.
Recent musical compositions include 'Spectrum Sounds' (2021) commissioned by the BBC, and 'Thirty Minutes for diplacusis piano' (2019) commissioned by the Arts Council and GNResound Ltd. He leads the Aural Diversity network and is a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.
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