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.
Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Ann Arbor, Michigan. His last article for Ideas was about choosing Congress by lottery.
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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."
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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.