How important is the scientific aspect of your work? Zach Layton



Zach Layton

To be completely honest, the scientific aspect is more important as a source of inspiration rather than a fundamental and rigorous element that must be completely accurate. I have done a great deal of independent research and have begun speaking with a leading neuroscientist about biofeedback and EEG data and its potential value in the artistic process. I hope to delve much deeper into the matter in the future once I have a stronger grasp of the issue. I’ve read some articles that David Rosenboom wrote on the subject, particularly his essay “Extended Musical Interface With the Human Nervous System” which I found quite remarkable and I’ve read many scientific journal articles about the history and function of EEGs, but beyond my own personal research I could not honestly say that I’m approaching this as though working in a research lab with trained experts. For me, the trial and error approach is quite satisfying and productive. Sometimes the errors can produce some extremely musical results.

I don’t believe it is completely necessary for the audience to be acutely aware of the degree of scientific complexity involved in one of my performances. I think what made my performance successful at the Brooklyn College CERF Festival was the transparency of the process. If an impulse was evoked in my brainwave, the patch would register this event and respond. It seems somewhat self-evident to me and from the response I got, from many in the audience as well. It was actually a somewhat theatrical experience. Alvin Lucier has also remarked about this theatricality about his pioneering work in 1965 Music for Solo Performer.

Fundamentally, the music is the most important element to me. As long as I can create something expressive with the materials at hand, I’m satisfied. Knowing there is much more to explore and develop is inspiring. It’s very open ended, which is how I like it to be.

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