Listening to the Mind Listening Poster
Listening to the Mind Listening Poster

Listening to the Mind Listening (LML) explored whether sonifications can be more than just “noise” in terms of perceived information and musical experience. The project generated an unprecedented body of 27 multichannel sonifications of the same dataset by 38 composers. The design of each sonification was explicitly documented, and there are 88 analytical reviews of the works. The public concert presenting 10 of these sonifications at the Sydney Opera House Studio drew a capacity audience.

Click here to listen to the ten pieces that were selected for Listening to the Mind Listening Concert.

You can hear intriguing correspondences between the sonifed brain EEG and the music in this mix of Greg Hooper’s sonification (Left) with David Page’s Dry Mud (Right), which was the music that Dr. Evian Gordon was listening to when the EEG recording was made.

The inspiration for the concert came from a conversation with a nueroscientist working with MEG recordings of babies in the womb. These recordings are very noisy and she wondered whether by listening to them we might hear “little tunes” of mental activity through the noise.

In the reviewing of the submissions we found that there were generally 4 main stages in sonification design. Although all were produced from the same data the pieces ranged widely in musical genres as well. There were differences in reviews of the same sonification depending on whether the reviewer was a sonification researcher, music composer, nueroscientist or general listener.


Image 1: Correspondences between musical events and sonification events across all 30 contributions.

For more details see:

Barrass, S., Whitelaw, M., and Bailes, F. (2006). Listening to the mind listening: An analysis of sonification reviews, designs and correpondences. Leonardo Music Journal, 16:13-19.

The concert was produced at the Sydney Opera House Studio using a Lake DSP processor to provide high quality spatial audio rendering through a custom 16.2 dome of speakers arranged to mimic the positions of EEG electrodes on the scalp by Guillaume Potard. Composers were offered several options for spatial formatting, allowing them to either use the original scalp electrode positions, or arbitrarily reconfigure the original dataset within the speaker array. The technical details are described further in this paper….

Barrass S, Whitelaw M, and Potard G. (2006). Listening to the Mind Listening. Media International Australia incorporating Culture and Policy, Special Issue on Practice-based Research, 2006(118):60-67.