Musical meanderings and mind control

Drum beats unite whole armies. Shanties set the pace at sea. Even the worst of songs set our toes tapping and heads bopping. Our brains love music...

By: Amie Knights,   4 minutes


I’m half listening to a friend. I’m genuinely interested but tired and I’m really just plucking out ear-pricking words from a muted underwater warble.


…it’s cold outside

…who’s he to preach?

These are the sorts of things that stick to the edges of my brain on the journey through one ear and out of the other. And with each one a memory is sparked; a word, a lyric, a song.

Lonely, I’m so lonely…baby it’s cold outside…papa don’t preach…and so the song surge continues.

So now I’m humming a myriad of tunes to fill the white noise. And whilst meandering among my cerebral playlist I decide there is something in this. Then, out of a calming static fuzz comes my friend’s face, hands on hips and with startling suddenness the volume’s up again.

Are you listening to me!?

Her tone and the reddening rash she gets on her chest when she’s stressed hints that this is neither the time nor the place for thought fodder, so I pop it in the fridge for later.

My Feed arrived and on swinging open the fridge door I was bombarded by snippets of sounds, a memory bank of backlogged songs clutched from half heard conversations. I’ve been doing it for years. During my teenage days I functioned almost entirely as a song-sourcing system for my internal stereo. Poor mum. But now it’s to time give this ability/irritating habit it’s uninterrupted dues. Time to Feed.

Deciding that setting out to purposefully ignore friendly conversation was probably verging on rude, even if it was in the name of Feeding, I started by doing some research around music and the brain. The effect the former has on the latter is pretty astounding when you look into it. Drum beats unite whole armies. Shanties set the pace at sea. Even the worst of songs set our toes tapping and heads bopping.

Our brains love music.

On that thought, I ventured out into the internet to see what was going on in the world of music and mind control. I googled ‘music brain’ and what popped up was fascinating. Free Brain controlled music event. A 2013 New York-based event that presented music as controlled by brain waves.  I’m pretty much awestruck by anything brain related, but this was, as Zane Lowe would quip, ‘next hype’. Delving further into the realm of brain-fuelled tunes, I discovered that brain tapping has been at play for years now, most notably in the medical field but has only relatively recently met at an intersection with new media.

Drum beats unite whole armies. Shanties set the pace at sea. Even the worst of songs set our toes tapping and heads bopping. Our brains love music.

So what’s available to the average consumer at this crossroads? Remember watching Minority Report when it first came out and thinking it’d be really cool if you could wave your hands about in front of a computer and move things? Well, we’re pretty much there with that. Still, I never contemplated being able to hook up to a brain and create actions and movements remotely. But they’ve gone and ruddy done it haven’t they?

Here’s a few of the purchasable mind tapping devices out there for you to wonder at:

1.  MUSE Brain Sensing Headband. For now MUSE can guide you to relax or focus before you perform any mentally challenging task, like going for an interview for example, but ultimately the purpose of MUSE is to allow you to control your iPhone or Android device with your mind power. You can web browse, send a text and pretty much do anything you would normally do on your device, except using only you mind. Hands free, next level.


2. Is your child lagging against your expectations? Hook him/her up to the Neurosky Mindwave and see their grades soar. Maybe. This invention is actually designed to improve the intelligence of children. It takes brain wave signals, monitors attention levels and provides app games designed to enhance the brain. Phew, I can cease worrying about the production of an intellectually sub-par generation. Brilliant.

NeuroSky Mindwave

3. And now, my favourite – The Neuro Turntable. This one plays music from your iPhone only when you can fully listen to it. If you start talking to someone, are working on a deadline or, presumably, climbing a ladder or navigating a maze, it switches off. This is the ideal remedy for my musical mind wanderings. I must get one.


So, we can purchase mind controlled devices at reasonable prices. But what’s out there that we can’t yet get our hands on?

Not only is it possible to command music mentally, you can now compose it too.  Sponsored by Smirnoff, three disabled American DJs have created music with their brains. After suffering paralysis, each of the three were also severed from their music. But now, using only their brainwaves, they’re making tunes again. By controlling one aspect of the song each –  drum beats,  effects,  synth – the DJs reactions to DJ Fresh’s instructions (e.g. relax), produced different musical effects.

This is an amazing feat which can and has changed lives. But what if this technology makes its way into the mainstream? Who knows what kind of music we’ll all be listening to in the future. I would be cautious about whose mind music I tuned into. Plus, the opportunity for subliminal messaging scares me.

Well, after that jaunt into mind controlled tech I found my way back to the original thought and decided to have a crack at creating a mini-story using lyrics from 90s pop and 80s punk You Tube playlists. It’s a game. Can you correctly locate the songs?

Bye bye bye.

I’m not like them, built to last. I want to play the game. I take your pretty eyes and run, hide them in a lost and lonely part of town but they are held in time. Like stars directing our fate, life is your creation. Cherry ice-cream smile, you know you’re something special. Dancing on the sand, my immaculate dream. A stranger. But here comes the rain again. Staring at the sky, I’m waiting for tonight but searching for the sun. Viva forever, enjoy the madness because we’re gonna fade. It ain’t no lie. Bye bye bye.

If only I could have typed this phalangy-free. One day.


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