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Music from Brain Waves

Posted by Josh Rothman  March 28, 2012 02:26 PM

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Japanese musician Masaki Batoh -- better known as the frontman of the absolutely awesome psychedelic band Ghost -- has released a new album, Brain Pulse Music, on which he uses a special "brain pulse machine" to create music from his brain waves. The instructional video for the BPM -- which is available for sale directly from Batoh's label, Drag City -- is crazy. I especially love how, after telling you that you must stay in a meditative state, Batoh goes on to produce squalls of abrasive electronic noise!

The BPM really is an instrument: To play it, you wear special goggles which display your brain waves; the biofeedback enables you to control, to some degree, the sounds being produced. You can then hook the machine up to different effects pedals and synthesizers. It's not all madcap invention, either: Batoh has used his instrument to create a somber, difficult album of "requiems and prayers" for victims of Japan's massive earthquake. Most of the tracks on the album are improvisational pieces performed with traditional Japanese instuments. Of the two BPM tracks, the best is called "Eye Tracking Test"; for that track, Batoh asked a friend to wear the BPM headset, while he showed her a series of photographs of the quake's aftermath. The music is, on some level, a direct reflection of her otherwise-unexpressed responses.

All the proceeds from the sale of the album -- and, for that matter, from the sale of the BPM machine itself -- go to the Japanese Red Cross. You can listen to the album at Drag City.

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
Brainiac blogger Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Columbia, South Carolina. He can be reached here.

Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.

Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.

Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.

Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.

Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."

Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.

Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.


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