Nano-Thought Symphonies: The Well-Tempered Brain

What does thinking sound like?  This month an international team of world-leading young scientists and music artists will join to explore on Saturday 13th August, during the Edinburgh festivals season in a live and interactive world premiere neuroscience and music event: The Well-Tempered Brain.

Neurons in the human brain fire creating electric pulses to interact with each other. This electric data can be recorded as the arrays of Big Data.  It can then be turned into sound by experimental musicians (as previously was done using EEG sensors by Harry Whalley and others around the world).  Project participant Dr Paul Roach (Britain/University of Keele) developed micro device “brain-on-chip” in the lab to capture live the data from 64 neurons from various parts of the brain simultaneously, and now the collected data will be turned into sound and explored. A team of high-flying young scientists from the Global Youth Academy (Sasha Kagansky, Srinjoy Mitra, Borys Wrobel, and Bart Kolodziejczyk,, GYA, the international fellowship of scientists for social good), and a team of prominent musicians from ArtsSci Nexus collective ( ), and many more talented enthusiasts come to Edinburgh from Russia, Croatia, Germany, Poland, and UK, to experiment together LIVE to transform the neurons’ data into a music symphony.

The collaboration will also explore the ways the outputs from “everyday” EEG devices in our ordinary lives, such as Muse headband, that connects to a smartphone, can be converted into sound, and what this shows us about our brains.  If a person is listening to a piece of music, and their brain patterns (EEG) were converted into sound, would it form similar tunes?  Would it have any melody at all?  Or would it turn out to be something completely new?

The Well-Tempered Brain event will mark the launch of the GYA’s Art+Science working group at the Edinburgh’s dedicated Artiscience library space of Summerhall Gallery in the city center during the world’s biggest Arts festival this August.

Dr. Sasha Kagansky, who has gathered everyone for this experiment, says: “It’s important for interdisciplinarity to reach beyond academia, and that’s why GYA formed a new work group dedicated to collaborations between science and arts, with hopes that it will positively contribute to the peace and mutual understanding within the human family and to innovative projects.”

Dr. Paul Roach says: “This fusion approach could lead to new directions in scientific understanding of brain mechanisms, as well as to new directions in music”

Dr. Milly Zimeta, writer and philosopher participating in the project says “Music is said to be the language of the emotions; being able to turn pure thought patterns into sound patterns has the potential to reveal harmonies we never imagined and didn’t know we were making.”

Sasha, Paul and Milly met each other in 2009 during Crucible Think-Tanks organized by NESTA (, and ever since are involved in the interdisciplinary projects around the world.

Candace Goodrich who curates ArtSci Nexus believes that the key to success is an equal contribution from each field in the creative process, while additional benefit is educating its members and public in regards to contemporary culture and science.

Colin Sanderson, Director of the Artiscience Library, says: ‘In harmony with the founding principles of the Edinburgh International Festival and Fringe, this project brings together an international group in a collaborative endeavour.  It is impossible to predict what music or sonic art shall issue from this artiscient project; yet this only raises my sense of excited anticipation.’

For further information please contact: Sasha Kagansky,

The Well-Tempered Brain will happen 16:00 – 22:00 Summerhall,
1 Summerhall place,

List of project participants:

Dr. Sasha Kagansky (Scotland) ArtSci Nexus, GYA Arts+Science WG

Alexander (Sasha) Kagansky is a Chancelor’s Fellow at the MRC Human Genetics Unit, Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine, School of Molecular, Genetic and Population Health Sciences, College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, University of Edinburgh, and leads the research at the Synthetic Epigenetics Lab, Chromosomes and Gene Expression Section of the IGMM. In 2005 – 2012 Sasha worked at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Cell Biology, University of Edinburgh, as a postdoctoral research associate (Robin Allshire lab, until 2010) and then as senior research associate (Bill Earnshaw lab). Research in his lab is aimed at the understanding of the molecular basis of the epigenetic transitions of the mammalian genomes, and at finding ways to control these transitions, which will be crucial for the future of molecular medicine. In his studies he combines genetics, synthetic biology, biochemistry and proteomics. He received his Ph.D. in Molecular Biology in 2004 after spending 3 years in National Institutes of Health in USA. In 1998 he got his MS in Biophysics from from St.Petersburg State Polytechnical University in Russia. Apart from the research in the lab, Sasha Kagansky is regularly organizing public engagement of science activities for different target group: artists, primary school kids, and general public, in different parts of the world, which result in new collaborations between scientists and artists. In 1991 he was a first Russian delegate to the European Youth Parliament. He is also a member of Young Academy of Scotland and Mason Institute for Medicine, Life Sciences and the Law.

Dr. Paul Roach (England) University of Keele

Dr Paul Roach is a lecturer in Biomaterials and Interface Science at Keele University in November 2009. He leads the Surface Engineering and Diagnostics Group, with his current research interests building upon his interdisciplinary background spanning synthetic organic chemistry, materials science, experimental physics and instrumentation, and biological response to surface cues. In 2005 he received a Ph.D. in Chemistry for his investigation of protein-surface interactions, providing new challenges in materials chemistry and biological sensing. Dr Roach was then appointed as a research fellow in the physics team at Nottingham Trent University to design and fabricate “Next Generation Love Waves”. These acoustic sensors can be designed to support bulk shear or surface waves, used to detect surface binding events.

Anton Koch and Mark Matthes (Germany), ArtSci Nexus

Anton Koch and Mark Matthes are dealing with experimental artistic practice in the field of musical composition and performance. Their primary focus lies in recomposing and re-contextualizing classical music in a conceptually connected audiovisual installation. At the same time it can function as an interface to the computer creating algorithmic composition based on sensor input turning the performance into an interactive installation.

The developed set-up will be used in experimental/improvised audio/visual performance.

Dr. Sergei Kostyrko (Russia) , ArtSci Nexus

Sergey Kostyrko is a Russian musician and media artist, based in St. Petersburg and known for his participation in a number of bands performing improvised music (Benzolnye Mertvecy, Mars-96, Coaxil) as well as for organization of shows and visual installations in local galleries and club venues. He is a co-founder of Spina!Rec cassette label, co-organizer of Fulldozer festival (2013, 2014) and Spina!Party club concert series (2014, 2015). With solo project Kostyrko is involved in research of new trends in experimental electronica. His works combines different technologies and approaches to sound synthesis: during concerts and studio sessions he plays modular synthesizers, employs multi-channel sound systems, uses different sound objects and sampling techniques. Recent performers and exhibitions includes Cross Art (St. Petersburg, 2014, 2015), Erarta Motion Pictures (St. Petersburg, 2014), Teni Zvuka (St. Petersburg, 2014), Theses (Kemerovo, 2014), The Night of

the Museums (St. Petersburg, 2014, 2015), Dzialdov Concert Series (Berlin, 2015), Life Zone! (Moscow, 2015), Music of the Present (St. Petersburg, 2015), Open Look/Russian Look (St. Petersburg, 2015).

Plan to exhibit in Summerhall (Edinburgh, August 2016, Fringe festival official program) and Stockholm (May 2017)

Dr. Bart Kolodziejczyk GYA Arts+Science WG

Bartlomiej Kolodziejczyk is a Research Fellow at Carnegie Mellon University. Bart’s interests include nanotechnology, conducting polymers, energy and biosensing. He’s also interested in addressing effects of nanomaterials and nanowaste on biodiversity and human health. Born in Poland, he has spent the last ten years of life living abroad, in France, Hungary, Spain, Iceland, Denmark, Australia, and the United States.

In addition to a PhD in materials engineering from Monash University, he has three Master’s Degrees, in mechanical engineering from Rzeszow University of Technology, in renewable energy from University of Iceland, and project management from Stockholm University. As a researcher and as an academic, he has published articles in a wide variety of high-profile, well-respected publications. His professional work covers a breadth of his personal interests, with focuses on nanotechnology, microelectronics, commercialization and innovation, as well as public and science policy. Previously, Bartlomiej worked for the United Nations, where he published couple of energy-related reports. He co-founded two startups.

He holds a membership in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Australian Nanotechnology Network (ANN), among many other organizations. He has won numerous awards, including International Student of the Year 2014 and 2015, and he was named Future Leader by the World Forum on Ecosystem Governance. As far as media coverage goes, Bart has already made a substantial mark, appearing on SBS Radio, ABC Television, and a handful of interviews with Polish TV stations where he talked about his research and energy related issues.

On top of all that, he has also played an important role in the past with the European Commission, obtained a number of original patents, authored reports on renewable energy and innovation, and served on the boards of a few different think-tanks.

Dr. Borys Wrobel GYA Arts+Science WG

Borys Wróbel’s background is biology and computer science, and he works at the intersection between the two fields. His current research interest are computational properties of artificial gene regulatory networks and other biologically-inspired models of computation, such as spiking neural networks, which includes building artificial life software platforms that use high performance computing and neuromorphic hardware. Borys graduated from the University of Gdansk (Poland) in 1997, was a Fulbright Visiting Researcher in the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in San Diego, CA, and later FEBS and EMBO Fellow at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Israel), Marie Curie Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Valencia, and Sciex Fellow in the Insitute of Neuroinformatics at the University of Zurich and ETHZ (Switzerland). He is a member of The Young Academy of the Polish Academy of Sciences,

Dr. Srinjoy Mitras GYA Arts+Science WG

Dr. Srinjoy Mitra received his B.S. degree in physics and electronics from Calcutta, India and his M.Tech. degree from the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, India. After spending a short time in the electronics industry he received his Ph.D. from the Institute of Neuroinformatics, ETH Zurich in 2004. During his PhD he worked on neuromorphic systems, a research track that uses state-of-the-art electronics technology to build artificial systems inspired by the brain. Between 2008 and 2010 he worked as a post-doctoral researcher at Johns Hopkins University (JHU), Baltimore, USA. At JHU he was part of a DARPA funded project that intended to provide sensory feedback to amputees with prosthetic limbs. He then joined the medical electronics team at IMEC, Belgium and worked there as a senior scientist until January 2016. At IMEC he had taken up lead roles in various industrial and public funded projects primarily related to bio-potential recording. Electro-encephalography (EEG) measurement ICs developed by him have been successfully validated in clinical environment and is now commercialized. For the last few years Dr. Mitra led multiple projects on neural implants for central and peripheral nervous system. This resulted in the development of generations of CMOS neural recording probes with the highest electrode density.
Dr. Mitra recently joined as a faculty member in the Biomedical Engineering division at the University of Glasgow where he will undertake similar research activities. He has widely published in several prestigious conferences and journals.  He is also the co-inventor in 3 patent applications. He is the recipient of  Swiss National Science foundation (SNF) Prospective Researcher award in 2008.

Harry Whalley, Edinburgh

Originally from Belfast but now based in Edinburgh, Harry Whalley is an award winning composer of contemporary classical, film and electroacoustic music. His works have been performed around the world, from New York to Vancouver as well as around the UK and Ireland. World-class music groups such as the Hebrides Ensemble, Artisan Trio, Red Note Ensemble, Vancouver Miniaturists Ensemble, Gildas Quartet, Edinburgh Quartet, Ensemble Eunoia and many others have performed his music. In addition, he has composed the scores for film and computer games that have been featured at film festivals around the world, including Palm Spring, LA, Berlin and London.
In 2007 he received a first class honors BA Jazz Music degree from Middlesex University, where he studied under Nikki Iles and Malcolm Edmonstone. He received a Bucher-Fraser Scholarship for post-graduate study and was awarded an MMus in composition with distinction by the University of Edinburgh in 2010 and received a fully funded AHRC PhD studentship, which was passed without correction in 2014.
Notable works include Entangled Music (c.55min, chamber Orchestra) based on the underlying concepts in Douglas Hofstdaters Seminal work, Gödel Escher Bach, the performance of which was crowd funded on Kickstarter. Jammerwoch (c.20min, Solo soprano and Orchestra), first performed by Peyee Chen and ECME, conducted by James Lowe in 2013. Clap Together Beta that features an EEG headset as a control device, described in the Scotsman review as “unforgettable” and a number of chamber works, including Compression a winner of the West Cork Chamber Music Festival composition competition and Seven Rocks commissioned by the Norman Nicolson Society and theBritten-Pears Foundation.
He was keyboard player with IOTA between 2000 – 2010, performing in venues such as: Jazz in the Round, Bedford (Residency), Hampton Court, Café Cairo (Residency), Arts Theatre Club, Soho (Residency), Brixton Mass, Harty Room – Queens University Belfast, and Club Mono – Dublin and has featured heavily on Kathy Muir’s Albums Far from Entirely and Book Cover Judge

Dr. Mahlet (“Milly”) Zimeta

Mahlet (traditionally also known in the Amharic language as “Milly”), is an Ethiopian-British writer and philosopher.  As a writer she has covered issues in ethics, society and international relations for Prospect, The Atlantic, and The Paris Review, among others (byline MG Zimeta).  Her work has been chosen for inclusion in TIME’s Global Briefing and in the PEW Centre’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, and she has appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour and BBC Radio 3’s Free Thinking.  As a philosopher she specializes in philosophy of mind and philosophical aesthetics, and has a soft spot for Nietzsche, Werner Herzog, and the Ancient Greeks.  She studied at Oxford, Cambridge, and York, where she also served as President of the British Postgraduate Philosophy Association, and was awarded a Royal Institute of Philosophy Jacobsen Bursary.  She wrote a chapter of her PhD on jokes, and continues to consider it a subject of utmost importance.

Colin Sanderson, Artiscience

Scottish member of the human race. Graduated in Botany, University of St Andrews, 1973; studied Art History at the University of Edinburgh, 1975-1978; and the Courtauld Institute, London, 1978-1988, specificially on the Russian constructive artist, Naum Gabo, as a case study of an artist reputedly knowledgeable about and inspired by the “creative spirit” in all fields: artistic and scientific, &c. This laid a platform for more extended study of arts and sciences in all senses of those terms; in all periods of history; and across multiple languages and cultures. Director, ASCENT, 1988-2007. Director of Encyclopaedia Europaica Ltd, working on a “European and International Dictionary of the Arts and Sciences: Focusing upon historical and contemporary relations between them” (EIDAS). Currently Director of the Artiscience Library (holding some 25,000 items), Summerhall, Edinburgh, in close association with ASCUS Art & Science.

Robbie Grant says Music is Magic!

The Oscillating Modulating Waveforms that reach our brain via our ears give us an incredible insight into the realm of sound. The meaningful arrangement of these sounds is what makes music. Our ability to understand and enjoy this complexity is a special gift. Our lives would be so much poorer without Music.

Robbie Grant AKA DJ Sinner-G has been running the SONICWOMB SOUNDSYSTEM/STUDIO for over twenty years. SONICWOMB started life in the basement of a tumble down mill on the banks of the river Eden in Fife, Scotland. Since then it blossomed in Goa, India, playing lounge and chill, House, funk and Trance before returning to Scotland with a vengeance. It is now rebuilt a recently refurbished basement, back in the same place as it all began.

You can check out what Robbie is up too on SoundCloud

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