Wankiness alert: what you’re about to read is an entry on ‘post-human’ music, an experimental project resulting from the union of noises and neurons. If that’s not your bag, jump out now. You have been warned.
Guy Ben-Ary is the Australian artist responsible for “the world’s first neural synthesiser”. It’s a project four years in the making called ‘cellF’ that he’s labelling a “biological self-portrait”. It’s all a bit complicated, but the gist is that he took some skin from his arm via a biopsy, and using some high-tech equipment, transformed them into neural stem cells.
Once he’d done this, he had to work out a way to feed music into the neurons as “electrical stimulations”. Ben-Ary says “the neurons respond by controlling the synthesiser, creating an improvised post-human sound piece.”
His full explanation can be read on his website, but here’s an explanatory nugget that provides more questions than answers:
“Essentially cellF can be seen as a cybernetic musician/composer. The artwork is performative, where human musicians are invited to play with cellF in special one-off shows. The human-made music is fed to the neurons as stimulation, and the neurons respond by controlling the analogue synthesizers, and together they perform live, reflexive and improvised sound pieces or “jam sessions” that are not entirely human.”
If that’s hard to picture, this might help:
So what does it sound like? Well, the project's live debut took place in October, using the music of Tokyo-based experimental drummer Darren Moore. Video footage of the event will be online by mid-December – until then, make do with the video below, which shows the first time the neurons were paired with their ‘nonlinearcircuits voice synth’. Go on, say you're not impressed.