Art, meets brain waves, meets Pink Floyd at Brainstorms in London.

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Frameless is one of the best known of the recent number of immersive art exhibitions in London over the last couple of years – and rightly so, mixing classic artwork with state-of-the-art animated visuals – if you get a chance to experience it, you should.

Since the beginning of June, though, and continuing over the next two weekends, regular programming at the venue is interrupted by a takeover called Brainstorms, which takes Frameless’ room-sized immersive art concept and pairs it with neuroscience, displaying visuals that represent the brains response to the legendary sounds of Pink Floyd’s classic 1973 album The Dark Side of the Moon.

A meeting of minds

A joint venture between San Francisco-based creative studio Pollen Music Group and Richard Wright Music Limited, the idea for the exhibition coalesced after Gala Wright, (the daughter of the late Pink Floyd keyboardist and songwriter Richard Wright), met Richard Warp, a composer, sound designer, and audio producer for Pollen Music Group.

As Wright explained, they first met at a party in the run-up to the fiftieth anniversary of The Dark Side of the Moon, just when she was searching for a way to celebrate her father’s significant contribution to the album that was a bit different to the typical usual re-release box set. Warp revealed to her that he had a long-time fascination with how bioactivity could drive interactive experiences, and Pink Floyd’s classic “space rock” seemed like a perfect match, making the collaboration something of, well – a no-brainer.

Warp explained that there has been a lot of science done on how the brain responds to music, but that this work is typically done in a lab, and he was looking for a way to bring it out of there and paint it on a canvas for the wider public to see.

This was all explained to me, in person by Gala Wright and Richard Warp at the Brainstorms preview event, just as musician Imogen Heap walked in, whose music is also featured as part of the experience. (If this all sounds like a setup to a Douglas Adams novel, then rest assured, I was thinking much the same at the time).


The centrepiece of the experience is a room dedicated to the track The Great Gig in the Sky, the classic track written by Richard Wright. As Pollen Music Group creative director JJ Weisler explained to me, working with Richard Wright Music Limited meant that the team had the rare privilege of access to the original master tapes of the track.

“Getting access to the original multi-tracks is very unusual,” said Weisler. “Other than the original engineers that mixed the original stereo mix, the quad version, the 5.1 version and the Atmos version, no one has ever touched those for any reason.”

Excitingly, this enabled it to create a unique Dolby Atmos mix designed specifically for the room at Frameless. The team used the room’s architectural diagrams, along with the exact locations and speaker specifications, to create the sound design specifically and precisely for that space.

Pollen created both the visuals and the music, which Weisler likened to movie making, but as he explained, they had to cede control to the fact that the visuals, which he referred to as the “Aurora”, were representations of the accumulated brain data of 125 people who listened to the track in Dolby Atmos,

“You’re accompanying visuals, which is like scoring a movie,” he explained, “but when you make a narrative film you have control over everything; when you make a documentary you have some control, but you also release some control to the subjects talking and you have to put it together. In this case, we had to release some control to the brain data. We can architect certain parts of it – for example, we wanted the Aurora to be the visual and we wanted it to say, get big when the brain is doing this [stimulated by the music], and we want the colour to shift to blue when the brain is relaxing. So, while we decided how to connect everything up, in that sense, it is movie making – but with guardrails.”

The Great Gig in the Sky is certainly the highlight of the experience. It builds atmospherically out of a new, specially written intro, and when the familiar chords come in, it has power, scale and space and the subtle, rainbow-like visuals are a suitable match. Some though in the room chose to lie down on the floor, close their eyes and let the music move around them. And move around it does. Unlike any version of the track, you’ve ever heard before, Clare Torry’s classic wordless vocal pans around the room and disappears into the Ether at the end: it’s intoxicating stuff.

Peak inside your head

Plump for the VIP package at Brainstorms and you’ll get to sit in a special tent while wearing headphones and a headset that looks like something out of a 90s sci-fi movie. It captures your brain’s electrical activity (and possibly your soul – I’ll keep you informed) as you listen to a track from the album. This data is captured and visualised in real-time and when you go into the first room you get to see it as an animated 3D cloud that moves, glows and pulsates representing exactly how your brain is responding to the music.

The cloud grows to indicate when you found the track exciting, glows when it was intense, and is relatively static when you’re calm. Clearly, I took the instruction to relax too much to heart as my cloud proved somewhat underwhelming compared to others.

My brain certainly glowed when at the event none other than Punk Floyd guitarist David Gilmour came into the room to see it all for himself. As he left, this intrepid reporter asked the great man what he thought of it all.

“It’s great, I love it!”, was the response, before he headed off, much like guitarist rock gods are wont to do. Let no one say that this reporter is not ready to ask the tough questions.

Tickets for Brainstorms are on sale now.

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