Our guests at this week's WeeklyMeeting are Darren Moore, a musician from the world of experimental music and jazz, as well as a collaborator on "cellF", the first ever synthesizer to incorporate biological neural networks, and Guy Ben-Ary of SymbioticA, the lead researcher and developer on the cellF project. We will be asking them about cellF from the point of view of both a musician and a bioartist.
*Guy will be participating in the event remotely from Perth, Australia.
cellF is the world's first neural synthesizer, created from Guy Ben-Ary's own cells. It can truly be called a "wet-alogue" synthesizer. cellF’s “brain” is made of a biological neural network that grows in a Petri dish, and controls an array of analogue modular synthesizers that were custom made to work in synergy with the neural network in real time. It is a completely autonomous, wet analogue instrument.
In 2012, Guy Ben-Ary had cells surgically removed from his arm, cultivated his skin cells in the labs of SymbioticA at UWA, and using Induced Pluripotent Stem cell technology, he transformed his skin cells into stem cells. When these stem cells began to differentiate they were pushed down the neuronal lineage until they became neural stem cells, which were then fully differentiated over a Multi-Electrode Array (MEA) dish to become a neural network. He created what is now known as his “external brain”. Using an 8x8 grid of electrodes, cellF can record and transmit electrical signals (potential electric energy), making it an interface with the same basic capabilities as a real "brain".
In 2015, cellF held its first live improvised performance with Darren Moore, a Tokyo-based experimental jazz drummer. His music was fed into the neurons as electrical stimulus and the neurons responded by controlling the synthesizer, creating an improvised post-human sound piece.