2015 Breathing Stone

Procedurally Generated Music for Prototype Healthcare Device.

The Breathing Stone is a social therapeutic entity conceived by David Plans at biobeats.com It was realised by the React Hub with funding from the AHRC: React Hub – Breathing Stone.

As a composer, I had to work within the restrictions of physiological constraints such as length of breath cycles, and time spent on breathing exercises. There were also many technical constraints, not least the processing power of the hardware, but also the size of the loudspeaker.

One of the biggest challenges was to sonify the heart-rate, an inherently irregular tempo, whilst preserving a relaxing musical soundscape. I decided to make the sound of the heartbeat a haptic sensation, rather than an audible one, so that there is a sense of holding your beating heart in your hands, whilst the music occupies the listening space.

This video shows two applications of the project, with different musical objectives. The first, at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, plays different scores each time, to maintain interest while waiting for surgery. The second, at The Rooms Festival in Bristol, was an installation designed for two stones over a drone, where the music had to make sense no matter when a stone was triggered in relation to the other, if at all (i.e also viable as a standalone work).

The music is composed in Pure Data, within a python wrapper, running on a Raspberry Pi Compute Module within the stone. The audio engine was developed by Robert Thomas, allowing me to create different scores within the existing framework.

The lights seen on the way into the Breathing Room are The Beacon Choir by Thomas Williams. Two of the photos in the video are by Max McClure: maxmclure.com.