In my book Microcosm and Medium I wrote rather extensively on the brainwave research of neurophysiologists from the 1960s and 1970s. One of the most intriguing of these areas was their research into what I called "electro-encephalographic dictionaries." Essentially, these researchers discovered, through careful trial and error and the accumulation of a wide and broad statistical database, that the brainwaves of English-speakers, for example, could be scrutinized for recognition of individual words, and that these patterns, in turn, could be used to "read" or "listen in" on the mental conversations of individuals. As I reported in the book, by the end of the 1970s, these researchers had compiled an "electro-encephalographic dictionary" comprising the brain wave patterns of about two thousand words.
That was the 1970s.
Imagine how many words exist in that dictionary now.
But there's more. As I also pointed out in that book, this technology was quickly wedded to yet another technology, that of microwave interferometry, a technology that not only allowed remote reading of an individual's brainwaves, i.e., the ability to read them without the need to physically couple electrodes to someone's skull, but the very same technology allowed the brainwave patterns themselves to be modulated into the microwave signal to the extent that one could literally beam those patterns, and hence a whole "conversation", into someone's head.
Indeed, the whole concept was made into a science fiction movie (a very good one in fact), called Brainwave, starring Oscar winning actress Louise Fletcher, Christopher Walken, and Cliff Robertson.
The whole thing sounds like science fiction, but it's entirely real, and has now taken yet another step, according to this article found and shared by J.T.:
But note the following limitations:
As the chords of Pink Floyd's “Another Brick in the Wall, Part 1,” filled the hospital suite, neuroscientists at Albany Medical Center diligently recorded the activity of electrodes placed on the brains of patients being prepared for epilepsy surgery.
The goal? To capture the electrical activity of brain regions tuned to attributes of the music — tone, rhythm, harmony and words — to see if they could reconstruct what the patient was hearing.
More than a decade later, after detailed analysis of data from 29 such patients by neuroscientists at the University of California, Berkeley, the answer is clearly yes.
The phrase "All in all it was just a brick in the wall" comes through recognizably in the reconstructed song, its rhythms intact, and the words muddy, but decipherable. This is the first time researchers have reconstructed a recognizable song from brain recordings.
The reconstruction shows the feasibility of recording and translating brain waves to capture the musical elements of speech, as well as the syllables. In humans, these musical elements, called prosody — rhythm, stress, accent and intonation — carry meaning that the words alone do not convey.
Because these intracranial electroencephalography (iEEG) recordings can be made only from the surface of the brain — as close as you can get to the auditory centers — no one will be eavesdropping on the songs in your head anytime soon.
But for people who have trouble communicating, whether because of stroke or paralysis, such recordings from electrodes on the brain surface could help reproduce the musicality of speech that's missing from today's robot-like reconstructions.
One wonders, however, if that's really the case. If they were doing experiments of a similar nature in the 1970s with brainwave patterns for words, I rather strongly suspect that brain mapping for music has gone considerably beyond Pink Floyd's The Wall. I rather suspect the real goal here is something else, and that the real mapping concerns neurophysiological effects not only of different styles of music, but of instruments, timbres, and even the subtle rhythms of different natural human languages.
The goal? One of them is rather obvious: greater precision in mind manipulation and entrainment technologies, and as I pointed out in Microcosm and Medium, music is front and center, especially in the Baroque doctrine of Affekt, i.e., the manipulation of specific types of musical-rhetorical gestures to conjure specific emotional-intellectual affects not only in the listeners, but the performers and even composers of music. It is a doctrine all but overlooked in modern attempts to perform music of that era, but it is crucial to an understanding of the music of that culture. Even the keys in which compositions were composed were deliberately selected for this overall affect: want something pastoral? Try F major. Want something glorious and majestic yet joyous? D Major. And so on.
But beyond this, there's yet another possibility: recent research has pointed out the similarities between cosmic plasma filaments, and the neurons and synapses of brains, and in particular, of human brains. Which makes one wonder: is there indeed a music going on in those cosmic plasma filaments, and if so, what does it sound like? More importantly, might it conceivably be manipulated - the ultimate in Affektenlehre - by beaming music into it? (Cruciform churches, tesseracts or hyper-cubes, and pipe organs anyone?)
On a more mundane level, fond as I am of Pink Floyd's The Wall - really, it's not just a "music video" it's a rock opera - I shudder at the thought of "electro-encephalographic music". For us classical and baroque music lovers, life itself is a constant struggle against the one dimensional musical banality of the USSA and the West, beamed at us 24/7, in virtually every commercial, and the bumper music for virtually every radio show. One talk show host is so suffused with the banality he demands his guests "riff" on such and such a subject. It's all a guitar or drums solo...
Sigh... I like tuna salad and hamburger helper just as much as the next guy. But not as a steady diet...
See you on the flip side...
Help the Community Grow
Please understand a donation is a gift and does not confer membership or license to audiobooks. To become a paid member, visit member registration.