GAMMIFIED is based on current research at the MIT Media Lab, as well as in the MIT labs of Professors Li-Huei Tsai and Ed Boyden. This research has shown that frequencies of ca. 40 Hz. (approximately the low-E on the piano) play fundamental roles in our brains. Specifically, healthy brains hum with this frequency, which in turn activates many functions central to mental sharpness. One important function of Gamma frequencies is to stimulate activity in microglial cells, which are the primary immune cells in the brain and also destroy pathogens and remove damaged cells. The Tsai/Boyden teams made the important discovery that mice bred with Alzheimer’s disease actually had missing or intermittent Gamma frequencies in their brains, and the effect was that microglial cells were unable to clean up the plaque debris that causes the disease. By exposing the mice to Gamma frequencies (first with flashing light, then with audio drones), microglial cells became active again, plaque was removed, and Alzheimer’s symptoms were reversed.
For the past several years, the Opera of the Future team has been working with the Tsai/Boyden teams to see if Gamma frequencies can affect people as—or even more— effectively than they affect mice. And the news is good. Their work has shown that humans can be successfully exposed to sound or light at 40 Hz—with especially surprising results when both are combined—in a way that kickstarts the brain into producing Gamma frequencies again.
GAMMIFIED was Professor Machover's first attempt to create a musical work based around therapeutic Gamma frequencies. The electronic layer of the piece is based on spectra constructed and composed over a 40 Hz drone. Machover’s Opera of the Future group is about to embark on a new round of Gamma Music experiments, testing the efficacy of this therapy with different balances of music vs. Gamma, creating new specially-designed Gamma compositions, and employing new software that allows Gamma frequencies to be embedded in any existing piece of music.
For much more information about this project, including downloadable versions of the score and backing track, and an interview with Professor Machover, please visit the Kronos Quartet's GAMMIFIED webpage.