Go with the (signal) flow

We are pleased today to host a guest post from Dike Okoh, one of our 2018/19 Emergent Commission winners who is sharing an insight into his inspiration and process.

Dike’s track “2049” will be released on 11th December 2019.

Dike sings into a microphone wearing a dark blazer

Last year, I was chosen for Drake Music’s Emergent – A Music Legacy commission, a 3 year programme, funded by Help Musicians UK and the Wingate Foundation, to profile the advancement of the next generation of differently abled musicians in the pursuit of excellence.

It was a real privilege for me. As part of my commission I wrote my electro-pop song 2049 using digital software and hardware synthesizers- to explore signal flow and signal interruption as a metaphor for brain activity.

I see my own brain injury as a signal flow abnormality or quirk. Some Brain injuries occur when there is disordered electrical signalling in the brain. Brain cells talk to each other via tiny electrical impulses. Every neuron in our brains has a cell with a long wire coming off it. At the end of each long wire there is another long wire coming off it and so on. Our brains are essentially made up of complex cable engineering that take all messaging to our nervous systems, our cells effectively speaking to each other via tiny electrical impulses.

Typically, with a brain injury like stroke, an electrical impulse gets interrupted and disorganised, firing incoherently and chaotically, which then spreads to other neurons to cause brain injury and injuries in different parts of the brain will deliver various sorts of disabilities.

This got me thinking about the relationship between brain interruption and artistic creation.

It occurred to me that, for example, if there is a brain injury in the left temporal lobe, this might also activate the right brain to think and act in a more free-form unexpected and creative manner. Similarly, with mixing music- when I interrupt or split signals creatively- for example when using an aux send (an electronic signal-routing output), I might be able to create unique flexible and surprising results.

2049 was performed at the Barbican earlier this year as part of the Barbican’s Tune in to Access, a celebratory free day of performances and participation exploring accessibility, technology and the arts. With the help of Tim Yates (Research and Development Programme Leader at Drake Music), I used some interactive buttons and Max MSP as part of my interactive performance with the audience.

Here’s my short interview with Tim where he talks about Max (much more eloquently than I can), how it relates to signal flow and how it was used as part of my performance of 2049 at the Barbican:

Working with Tim was really enjoyable and eye opening, and it got me thinking more deeply about how music technology informs thought, and how thought informs music technology and composition.

Signals can allow for the virtue of creative expression and movement. And we’ve all experienced this, whether through a scientific understanding of music, or through the sheer joy of listening to our favourite songs.

We all know that music can remake our world, showing it to us in a new light.

2049 is out in stores on the 11th of December.

Leave a Reply