In 2013 electrical engineering, digital arts and music at Wits University partnered up again, this time to take twist up the saying ‘no pain no gain’ and to flex some sonic muscles.

I had been following Daito Manabe, a Japanese visual and music artist for a number of years and continue to do so. At that point he had taken the world by storm with his myoelectric face stimulation videos. In these tests, and the following musical works, Manabe and volunteers electrically stimulated the muscles in their faces, leading to twitching and squirming in synchronisation with the previously made music.

For this project I, along with Cameron Harris, proposed flipping Manabe’s approach around – we used hardware hacked ECG monitors to trigger note on and note off message in MIDI via the contraction and relaxation of muscles. We even managed to achieve volume variation where the harder the muscle contracted, the louder the musical output.

To realise a performance, we proposed spreading a range of notes across a number of performers; each performer had four triggers (2 x biceps and 2 x calf muscles) and they were assigned specific notes in musical notation. Performers were synchronised with a click track and flexed their way through a range of compositions.

This would be a great concept to take into the health space – what about audio triggering in a gym? Drop me a line!

Photos by Christo Doherty