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From the 1960s to Today: The Evolution of David Rosenboom’s Brainwave Music

From the 1960s to Today: The Evolution of David Rosenboom’s Brainwave Music

Video: Click here for video of David Rosenboom discussing his work with brainwaves and a performance of Portable Gold and Philosophers’ Stones (Deviant Resonances).

Saturday, October 12: a composition using the brainwaves of listener-performers is included among the works featured in Propositional Music: David Rosenboom Portrait Concert at the Wild Beast concert pavilion on the CalArts campus.

Valencia, CA, September 10—For David Rosenboom, the future is now. Only recently has technology progressed to realize the full potential of his early experiments in brainwave music.

In the 1960s, Rosenboom began experimenting with biofeedback to create musical compositions—even John Lennon and Yoko Ono collaborated with him by wearing brainwave sensors to generate music on national television. Now, technology offers infinitely more powerful analytical processes and, over the last few years, he has again employed brain-computer interfaces to create musical compositions. Rosenboom is Dean of The Herb Alpert School of Music at California Institute of the Arts (CalArts).

In 2014, researchers at the University of San Diego Schwartz Center for Computational Neuroscience contacted Rosenboom. After reading about his early work with brainwaves and what he speculated would at some point be possible, they sent him a message, “We think we can do it now. Would you like to collaborate?”

The result was a music and multimedia composition, called Ringing Minds, developed with advanced brain-scanning technologies. Following his experience with collaborators at the Schwartz Center, Rosenboom created a “suitcase-sized” composition, Portable Gold and Philosophers’ Stones (Deviant Resonances), for three performers, a laptop computer and two portable brain monitors. This is inspired by a version of Portable Gold and Philosophers’ Stones originally created in the early 1970s.

On Saturday, October 12, Portable Gold will be featured in Propositional Music: David Rosenboom Portrait Concert on the CalArts campus in Valencia. The event celebrates Rosenboom’s nearly 50-year career as he prepares to step down from his position as Dean in June 2019.

4Columns describes Portable Gold’s “meditative, peaceful quality” and “soft melodies unfolding over a warm bed of drones.” The piece is created in real time by Rosenboom and two performers who employ active imaginative listening. The performers wear small monitors with electrodes that send their brainwaves to a computer. Shifts in the performers’ attention direct the emergence of electronic sound forms. The players may choose to mentally react to particular sound events, or not, as they alter the composition through listening. Rosenboom, on the laptop, directs how layers of sound are added and subtracted and improvises with the brainwaves. Rosenboom calls this an example of listening as performance.

Heralded as an “avatar of experimental music” by the New York Times, Rosenboom refers to himself as an “explorer and an investigator” who welcomes “the freedom to learn from and draw musical insight from everything.” The Wire noted, “Biofeedback, intelligence swarms, solar vibrations and generative opera are among the utopian possibilities proposed by Rosenboom during 50 years of navigating new frontiers of music and technology.” Rosenboom and his work have been featured in concerts and exhibitions around the world including at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, which presented David Rosenboom: Propositional Music, a 50-year retrospective of his work, in 2015.  Rosenboom holds the Richard Seaver Distinguished Chair in Music at CalArts.

More about David Rosenboom:

Interview with Parma Recordings: The Inside Story: David Rosenboom and DEVIANT RESONANCES. 

Press release: Propositional Music: David Rosenboom Portrait Concert


Press Quotes

More information about Propositional Music: David Rosenboom Portrait Concert: 

Propositional Music: David Rosenboom Portrait Concert illustrates the innovative musician’s prolific career through performances by Rosenboom, fellow CalArtians and guests.

Wild Beast Concert Pavilion
California Institute of the Arts
24700 McBean Pkwy, Valencia, CA 91355 

Saturday, October 12, 6 pm 

Free admission

About CalArts
Ranked as America’s top college for students in the arts by Newsweek/The Daily Beast, California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) has set the pace for educating professional artists since 1970. Offering rigorous undergraduate and graduate degree programs through six schools – Art, Critical Studies, Dance, Film/Video, Music and Theater – CalArts has championed creative excellence, critical reflection and the development of new forms and expressions. As successive generations of faculty and alumni have helped shape the landscape of contemporary arts, the Institute first envisioned by Walt Disney encompasses a vibrant, eclectic community with global reach, inviting experimentation, independent inquiry, and active collaboration and exchange among artists, artistic disciplines and cultural traditions.