A Continued Musical and Personal Dialogue with the Waves of Epilepsy. In the early hours of the morning several years ago I awoke with paramedics leaning over me. In a state of confusion, my first conscious decision was to enter my music production studio while they attempted to lead me to the ambulance. Music was important to me even in a disorientated post-ictal state (an altered state of consciousness following a seizure). Two weeks later I awoke with paramedics standing over me again. I had started to experience multiple seizures. During the previous weeks, I also experienced numerous incidents of memory loss when delivering presentations at work, feelings of being returned to the room following an absence of consciousness and suffering from temporal disorientation. I also experienced multiple episodes of déjà vu, aromas that were difficult to identify, visual distortions and waves of euphoria like momentary intoxication of an unknown origin. These experiences began to increase in frequency until my first tonic-clinic seizure. Following medical tests, I was diagnosed with epilepsy. It was a confusing period with no history of epilepsy in my family and no physiological causes could be identified. I viewed epilepsy as an overwhelming authority, it takes control of your life and asserts its power upon you, forcibly changing your reality in an instant. When I saw the EEG readouts from my tests I noticed how similar they were to sound waves. As an electronic musician, this project is being used as an artistic and cathartic opportunity to creatively transform the power of epilepsy and reassert my personal identity upon it. Symbolically reclaiming personal control and creatively transforming the psychological perception of personal power that is lost through the experience of epilepsy. Transforming it from an internal destructive force into an external and creative activity in my life. Capturing the cultural and emotional experiences of epilepsy and transforming them into cinematic electronic soundscapes using research and musical experimentation with EEG epilepsy signals. It is an existential exploration, the results will be tangible, accessible and reasonable in the transformation of the EEG epilepsy recordings from the uncontrollable unconscious into the creative conscious. This project will apply transposition, mathematics, research and creative exploration to map epilepsy EEG events into computer synthesized soundscapes, transforming the passive nature of diagnoses and treatment into a proactive and creative process. This thesis shares an individual's research and experiences of epilepsy with a community that have an interest in transforming the passive sufferer into a creatively active and articulate patient. Professor Dan Lloyd (Thomas C. Brownell) Professor of Philosophy at Trinity College states that: “It is observed that fMRI (Brain) activity is more similar to music than it is to language...” Lloyd D. (2011). If, as Lloyd suggests, brain activity is more like music than language then what might epilepsy be saying or possibly singing during these events? What are the audible timbres of these events? Researchers such as Wu et al, Psyche et al, Chafe and Parvizi have previously interpreted EEG data of epilepsy EEG events to aid medical research, but it is not exploring the emotional timbre of epilepsy from a patient’s perspective. The previous research derived musical notes from EEG signals to trigger MIDI instruments and modulate non-epilepsy related audio sources for medical identification purposes. This project examines the possible timbres derived directly from the EEG data to explore and creatively describe the emotional and physical experience from a patient’s perspective. This thesis presents the personal experience of epilepsy, the development of electroencephalography (EEG), the sociocultural history of epilepsy. the sonification and musification of EEG data, plus the concepts involved in the design of timbre and sound effect. For this project, a bespoke granular synthesizer called ‘The Oblique-Granizer’ (programmed with Cycling74's MAXMSP) has been constructed that employs EEG signals, converted to digital audio, to synthesize timbres that explore the description of human experience and emotions related to epilepsy. This thesis includes research that has been carried out into mathematical algorithms to generate musical notes and melodic information in electronic music compositions using EEG epilepsy seizure activity. The aim is to take back personal control by creatively transforming the EEG data and my psychological perception of epilepsy into electronic soundscapes and sonic textures through exploration of sonification and musification techniques.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International License.