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Brain Pulse Music

Music recorded from EEG waves helps to heal tsunami victims

by James Thorne in Tech on 27 February 2012

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In the wake of last year's devastating tsunami, artist Masaki Batoh sought to address the emotional wreckage caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake. The multi-talented Batoh has combined two decades of acupuncture work with his career as head of the musical group Ghost to create an album dedicated to those affected by the event. Dropping tomorrow, Brain Pulse Music (BPM) sets traditional spiritual tracks alongside music recorded from the brain waves of patients.

"Music and acupuncture treatment are really one and the same to me, an extension of my spiritual expression," explains Batoh. "It's a very natural thing." The musician wanted to produce an album that would help the healing process in the same way that acupuncture relieves stress. "The Japanese were hurt and beaten down by the great quake, very frequent aftershocks, no fuel at gas stations, no safe food and the explosions of nuclear reactors hit by the quake and tsunami," he recounts. "This is the requiem for dead and alive victims."

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Two of the tracks on the album were created by recording signals from a modified EEG machine. The songs are purely improvisational, created by non-musicians in therapy-session settings. This method comes from Ghost's history of using improvisation, during which band members would be kept in separate compartments to minimize communication. Batoh specializes in treating developmentally disabled patients, and the machine is designed to help them normalize brain levels. By providing an audible response to cognitive changes, they are able to learn to gain some control over their mental activity.

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The machine itself involves a headgear sensor that communicates with a motherboard. EEG waves are sent via radio to the motherboard, which outputs the signal as a sound image. Eventually, the "performer" learns to control the signal and can actually create music from their mind. The goal is to quiet the mind to a meditative state and allow the sensors to interpret the slight pulsations from the brain. Created by an electric pedalboard company, the custom-built machine is modeled off of medical EEG recording equipment.

The other tracks on the album come from the Kumano manuscript, Batoh's name for his replications of religious melodies heard in his youth near the sacred Kumano Kodo pilgrimage route. Hoping to effect positive change in the recovery of his countrymen, Batoh is donating profits from BPM towards a fund for orphaned children. Additionally, the Brain Pulse Machine has been reproduced and is available for purchase.

Check out the video of Batoh's BPM Machine at work, along with the two brain wave tracks from the album.

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