Boomkat Product Review:
First reissue of David Rosenboom’s groundbreaking 1975 experiments in using brain biofeedback to control live electronics, newly expanded with an additional LP containing an unreleased 1977 live recording of Rosenboom’s “On Being Invisible”, in which the composer himself performs on an array of electronics that are fed information from his brainwaves. Another diamond from Black Truffle.
David Rosenboom was a key member of that 1970s fraternity of electronic music explorers who prized early forms of live electronic music performance, often seeing it as superior to the laborious process of electronic composition on clunky computers, and much closer to the ultimately expressive forms of classical instrumental virtuosity.
With ‘Brainwave Music’ Rosenboom pushed that idea into new dimensions, using electrodes and monitoring devices attached to players in order to receive and gather information about their brainwaves, body temperature, and galvanic skin response, which was then analysed and in turn used to modulate the parameters of his oscillators and filters. In theory, the system allowed for a greater level of connection between the player’s sub/conscious intuition and psychophysiological response, or in-the-moment action.
On the A-side’s ‘Portable Gold And Philosophers’ Stone’ this notion manifests as a warbling smudge of phasing, keening microtones as the brainwaves of Pat and Alan Strange and Marilyn and Frank McCarty feed into Rosemboom’s electronic systems in a wholly absorbing and inimitable flurry of ostinatos, eddies and whorls that make our eyes go funny. However, with the B-side’s ‘Chilean Drought’ and ‘Piano Etude I (Alpha)’ he works with Jacqueline Humbert to specifically focus on the three states of brain waves, Alpha, Beta, and Theta at once, with uncanny results that will sound different to each listener depending on their listening environment and mental state, leading their brain to subconsciously pick up on the voices speaking to their mind’s appropriate frequencies.
Recorded contemporaneously, Rosenboom’s 1977 previously unreleased live recording of ‘On Being Invisible’ is initially, aesthetically closest to the A-side of ‘Brainwave Music’, but find Rosenboom better getting to grips with his system, with immeasurably intricate, complex results that sound like a pre-echo of Florian Hecker’s acid trax one minute, and like Dolphin chatter the next, then like intercepted alien transmissions.
Suffice it to say this was the first record of it kind, and a truly historic piece of electronic composition.