cellF: the world’s first neural synthesizer - post human Synth

cellF is the world’s first neural synthesizer. It is a real “wet-alogue” Synthesizer. cellF’s “brain” is made of a biological neural network that grows in a Petri dish and controls in real time an array of analogue modular synthesizers that were custom made to work in synergy with the neural network. It is a completely autonomous, wet and analogue instrument.

In 2012, Guy Ben-Ary received a fellowship to develop a biological self-portrait, and decided to portray one of his juvenile dreams: to become a rock star.

Guy Ben-Ary had a biopsy taken from his arm, then he cultivated his skin cells in vitro 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 into neural networks over a Multi-Electrode Array (MEA) dish to become - “Ben-Ary’s external brain”.

The MEA dishes that host Ben-Ary’s neural networks consist of a grid of 8×8 electrodes. These electrodes can record the electric signals (action potentials) that the neurons produce and at the same time send stimulations to the neurons – essentially a read-and-write interface to the “brain”.

Human musicians are invited to play with cellF in special one-off shows. The human-made music is fed to the neurons as stimulation, and the neurons respond by controlling the analogue synthesizers, and together they perform live, reflexive and improvised sound pieces or “jam sessions” that are not entirely human.

The sound is specialized in the space to 16 speakers. The specialization is controlled by the neural network and reflects the special pockets of activity within the petri dish. Walking around the performance space offers the sensation of walking through Ben-Ary’s external brain in real time

In its world premiere (On October 4th) cellF jammed live with Darren Moore, Tokyo-based experimental jazz drummer, in a unique improvisation. His music was fed into the neurons as electrical stimulations and the neurons responded by controlling the synthesizer, creating an improvised posthuman sound piece.

cellF is a collaboration between artists Guy Ben-Ary, Darren Moore, Nathan Thompson and Andrew Fitch, and scientists Stuart Hodgetts, Mike Edel and Douglas Bakkum.

For more info – http://guybenary.com/cellf