Vince DeFranco: How Long Before People Make Music With Their Minds?

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Making music is easy. At its most basic, music is no more than a person causing sound waves to vibrate in a rhythmic fashion. Of course, if you want to make something more complex than "hand hits thing at precise intervals," then it can be argued that making music is hard. It's one thing to think of a melody, but another thing entirely to produce it.

This may not always be the case. As technology gets more powerful, so will our ability to make music. And if you ask Vince DeFranco, we may only be a few years away from being able to make music with our minds.

DeFranco is a musician, inventor and all-around big thinker. Best known in music circles for the creation of the Roland D-Beam and the Mandala Drum, DeFranco thinks these devices may be just the tip of the technological iceberg.

Curious about what technology might mean for music and how we create it, Rocks Off decided to pick DeFranco's brain to get his thoughts on some of these emerging technologies and how people might respond to them.

Rocks Off: If you tell the average person that they're a few decades away from making music with their thoughts they'd respond, "That's impossible!" What do you tell them in response?

Vince DeFranco: There are already successful medical research experiments underway which translate brain activity directly into words and control signals that move mechanical devices. Places such as UC-Berkeley and the University of Utah and Northwestern are processing signals from the brain and telling people what words they are imagining or helping them operate robotics.

Because developments like those can lead to methods of musical expression, I believe they will. Someday soon if you can think of a tone, it will be directly synthesizable.


RO: The technology exists now that allows me to emulate the sound of my favorite musicians. Will the day come that technology allows me to emulate their physical playing style?

VD: I can't think of any reason why someday the human body wouldn't be able to be programmed to exactly perform any series of movements that are within its limits of motion. Human nerve impulses will be stimulated by electronic circuitry and programs will run us, if we choose to be run.

Of course, someone could run a Danny Carey drumming routine on themselves if they desire, but technologically stimulating the core inspiration that got Danny Carey playing the way he does in the first place may be where technology comes up short. A contemporary example would be a cover-band drummer that can technically emulate great drummers because he has spent so much time developing muscle memory of their techniques through repetitive motion, but who has no original technique of his own.

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