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Biomusic: The carrier

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This article investigates the concept of sound, in relation to the new means and sciences from different perspectives, ultimately providing an analysis of the newborn artistic movement of bioart. It is divided into two parts. The first part of the study is based upon reference, investigating the interconnection between art and science. This mechanism is characterized by transformation processes in the interdisciplinary practices that are applied mainly by various artists and movements of the post-Second World War period. The expressive element seeks an unworldly explanation through audio and visual conjunctions. This nature is obvious in Paul Klee’s reflections of musical elements in his paintings, and Rimmington’s attempts to marry audio-visual influences in his ‘colour organs’. The experimentations of composers such as Xenakis and Stockhausen at various locations with light and colour illustrate the continuous quest to render sound by the use of new means. Technology is a vital component of transformation as it enhances syncretic creativity for various art domains such as those that Fluxus deployed. Nam Jun Paik and Dick Higgins introduce radical techniques in their performances as they detach their selves from the parameters that define composition, and use the mind and power of sentiment in order to identify reality aurally and optically. Towards the end of the twentieth century, we witnessed the appearance of new art forms such as bioart. The human body, host of material and immaterial functions, comes to the forefront of art prac¬tice. Its relation to elements such as oscillations and vibrations that express the energy flow is analysed through the model of spiritualism that came from eastern thought. The notion of digital embodiment is presented as a reminder, highlight¬ing the importance of technology in biotechnology and genetics. The second part of the article involves an experiment. This describes how the concept of biomusic is applied with the use of electrocardiography (ECG) data from the MIT PhysioNet database. As sound penetrates the entire human body, it can be analysed in all of its phasma. Using this information, we attempt to translate/transform these biological sound phenomena into music. The sound produced by the elaboration of data that result from biological functions can be described as biomusic. It can be transformed into frequencies related to time and can be expressed in musical themes. Sonification plays an important role in this research as it constitutes a rapid and precise rendering of polymorphic information (in this case the ECG) in musical notes. This modelling and musical attribution leads to two distinguishable results, each concerning different clinical cases (all data belong to a normal heart function and a pathological one). The invention of this novel system is suggested for scientific as well as musical disciplines. It has the ability to be implemented in an experimental form and obtain an educational character. The transformation process avoids compensation throughout the matching process between ECG functions and music, while focusing on the aesthetic factor at the same time. Sound meets art in the world of biomusic as it takes shape through technology, constituting a new medium to further evolve the model of ‘biology into art’ transformation.
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Keywords: ECG; bioart; biomusic; contemporary art; new media; sonification

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: University of Ioannina 2: University of Athens 3: University of Bristol

Publication date: May 17, 2012

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  • Technoetic Arts focuses upon the juncture between art, technology and the mind. Divisions between academic areas of study, once rigidly fixed, are gradually dissolving due to developments in science and cultural practice. This fusion has had a dramatic effect upon the scope of various disciplines. In particular, the profile of art has radically evolved in our present technological culture
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