Mind-Reading Musicians

Tech-junkies, creatives, music lovers, and people just looking for inspiration should enjoy this project. It’s what happens when you combine all of these elements. Without an agency or any budget.

A string quartet was fitted with EEG headsets to record their brainwave activity as they played an incredibly difficult composition, then the data was visualised to create a sensorial experience of the complex vs the simple.

The Ligeti Quartet was formed by four classical musicians, united by their fascination with the music of György Ligeti (1923-2006) who was renowned for his complex compositions that merged music with soundscape and is best known for his work in the soundtrack of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Shutter Island (2010) and Heat (1995).Ligeti’s music is difficult to play, so the quartet pride themselves on being able to turn such complex compositions into easily enjoyed experiences. To this end, our group of creatives undertook a proactive but audacious project to bring the Ligeti Quartet’s proposition – and Ligeti’s compositions – to life, visually.


In a large warehouse space, we fitted the four musicians with a Mindwave headset which detects EEG power spectrums (alpha waves, beta waves, etc), attention and meditation levels, and eye blinks. The data was transmitted in real-time via bluetooth to a laptop running NeuroSkyLab proprietary software which recorded eight different brainwave frequencies and converted them to CVS data which was then used to generate the visualisation of their thought patterns as they played.

The resulting film combines the auditory experience of a Ligeti composition with the visual stimuli of the musicians’ mental activity in real-time data-based art.


This project was part of a program I developed for my (former) creative department to connect the talents of unsigned musicians with the combined talents of the creative teams. The program gave the teams the freedom and opportunity to do the kind of creative work the agency wasn’t providing them, and gave musicians access to free content to build their own awareness. It was all done after hours (late nights and weekends), with their own equipment, and a few favours here and there. Plus £100 out of my own pocket for the warehouse space.

Please share this post. My team deserves it.


The Ligeti Quartet:
Mandhira de Saram: violin 1
Patrick Dawkins: violin 2
Richard Jones: viola
Valerie Wellbanks: cello

Concept and production by Billy Bernhardt, Milan Desai, Ale Miasi, Andrea Foresi, and Stefanie DiGianvincenzo
Directed by Matt Batten and Alex Zeeman
Composition by György Ligeti
Sound Engineering by Paul Bishop
Audio Production by Tom Green
Post Production by Alex Zeeman

Visit ligetiquartet.com and mrchickenfilms.com and zeeman.com.au