Brain opera
Tod Machover
Brief description of the work:
Brain opera is a set of musical instruments using sensors that were developed at the MIT Media Laboratory 1995/96
Materials, dimensions, duration:
Instruments of varying shape and design, built-in sensors, network, sound generating software
Location (venue & dates, public/ private):
Presented at Ars Electronica 1996, and New York Lincoln Center performances (setting below) 23.07. - 03.08.1996
The Brain Opera then toured worldwide from 1996-1998 (Europe, Asia, United States, South America).
Audience information (size, mode of participation):
The work was shown as different versions: an open session where interested audience members could explore the instruments and improvise with them, followed by a concert, where the instruments were played by trained musicians. A further development to enhance collaboraiton was a multiplayer online version.
Other information (reviews, collaborators, funders):
The Brain Opera will be permanently installed in Vienna, Austria in July 2000, at the new House of Music.
Floorplan, scheme:
New York Lincoln Center performance setting
Visual/ audio-visual reference:
Rhythm trees with networked drum pads. The player strikes them, signals are sent through the connected circuits, creating an ever-changing variety of sounds and images.
Key theme(s):
Social play; immersive play; self-observation (listening) feeds back into improvisation
Further context:

excerpts from the Brain Opera performance
(4Mb downloads on average)

The rhythm trees used 320 pads, and were conceived for 10-50 players. Multiple pads triggered percussion and voice samples, forming rhythms and words. The network measured the collective behaviour of the players.


Online version of the multiplayer rhythm tree (java applet)