Meet the Labbers: Grace Leslie

Margaret Evans/MIT Media Lab

In our ongoing audio series, Meet the Labbers, we hear people from all roles across the Media Lab talk about what they do and why they do it.

Today, meet Grace Leslie. 

"My name is Grace Leslie, and I’m a visiting scientist in the Affective Computing group. I am a neuroscientist and also a musician, and I’ve been focusing on incorporating neuroscience experiment into my performance practice as an electronic musician and also doing affective computing studies as well.

I developed a new technique to convert brain waves into music. Then it became this way of learning how to manipulate brainwaves so that it would create different musical effects—so just different sounds that we can perform with. And then it became this way of learning how to connect the way that feels in the body and in the mind, with the sound that’s being produced. So, just like you would discover a musical instrument sitting on a table and you learn how to kind of adapt your body and your behavior to be able to get a certain sound out of that instrument, I developed a way to use my own brain and body as that instrument and learn how to create different kinds of sounds with it.

At the Media Lab, there really was this ‘aha’ moment.

The music that you’re hearing right now is called Vessels, a combination of a kind of underlying drone sound that’s being produced by my brainwaves and also a sonified heartbeat that’s producing this very slow pulse that you can hear. And then I’m improvising with flute and electronics on top of that.

When I first got to the Media Lab, I was bombarded with all of this new way of thinking, for me, because my first background was in music, my second background was in science. But then there was this very new world that was very much focused on design and human-computer interaction. I think it changed the direction that I took my work in that it became much more important to me that there were going to be ways of applying this in the real world. I’ve been exposed to so many different aesthetic ideas and also scientific ones that I never would’ve thought of. Being at the Media Lab, there really was this ‘aha’ moment.”    

Music: “Vessels” by Grace Leslie

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