Reflections on Brainstorms: A Great Gig In The Sky

On Saturday 15th June I attended Gala Wright’s tribute to her late father’s work, Brainstorms: A Great Gig In The Sky.

It is a multimedia experience that was curated by Gala Wright as Artistic Director of Brainstorms with the blessing of the remaining members of Pink Floyd. The opening event was attended by David Gilmour and his wife Polly Samson. Polly wrote on her Instagram, “Mesmerising Brainstorms @framelessldn. Thank you @gala_wright, such a lovely tribute to your dad and his Great Gig in the Sky.”

Tickets were either general admission where you could wander around the four galleries, or VIP which allowed your live brain scan to be fed, in near real time, to the “clouds” gallery before attending the galleries.

This article gives some background to the experience, plus has photos and my account. I do not know if it could go on tour in other countries given its specialist nature in terms of the digital gallery spaces needed. Therefore proceed at your own risk as there are spoilers below including a Great Gig in the Sky video from the Aurora room.

Gala Wright with Polly Samson and David Gilmour at Frameless London
Gala Wright with Polly Samson and David Gilmour at Frameless London [Pic: Polly Samson]
Gala Wright with David Gilmour at Frameless London
Gala Wright with David Gilmour at Frameless London [Pic: Polly Samson]

Quick Overview

Brainstorms: A Great Gig in the Sky is a powerful and immersive experience hosted at Frameless, London’s most immersive art venue. Running on Friday and Saturday evenings in June 2024, this event is exclusively for those aged 18 and above. It’s a joint venture between San Francisco-based creative studio Pollen Music Group and Richard Wright Music Limited. The experience brings to life the results of a research project conducted last autumn, where individuals had their brain activity recorded while listening to the iconic Pink Floyd track ‘The Great Gig in the Sky’

Frameless features a total of four immersive galleries, each offering a unique digital art experience. From mesmerizing visuals to captivating soundscapes, these rooms are designed to transport visitors into a world of creativity and wonder. Lets take a look at the four rooms:

Four Rooms of Multimedia

The experience was set across four immersive galleries powered by brain data exploring the impact of music on the audiences minds. This special limited-run show, developed over two years by the Brainstorms team and presented at Frameless, the largest immersive venue in the UK, aims to bring to life how our emotional and cognitive states ebb and flow over the course of a song, and to transform neural data into audio-visual narratives, each telling a different, uniquely human story.

Cloud

Clouds Room - Brainstorms: A Great Gig In The Sky
Brainstorms Cloud Room

Cloud was the longest length experience and included the full album of Dark Side of the Moon and clouds driven by VIP visitor’s brainwaves.

Brain signals from a trio of Brainstorms guests are streamed from the adjacent Live Brain Data Recording gallery in near real time, visualised as a unique cloud for each individual on the gallery walls. Standing in the space, listening to the songs and observing the brain-responsive cloudscape, we can witness the distinct imprint music leaves on each of us.

At first I didn’t really connect with this room and it was only when I came back at the end for a second visit, and sat in a different place, that I captured the more interesting visuals below. I like how the central column in the room is reflected by the mirror floor, which in turn is a reflection from the ceiling.. and the process continues.

Clouds Room Brainstorms - Brainstorms: A Great Gig In The Sky
Clouds Room Brainstorms

Murmur

The second room was Murmur and featured two flocks of birds. The man below was a visitor to the performance but I captured a nice silhouette of him which I thought was interesting.

Brainstorms: Murmur - Brainstorms: A Great Gig In The Sky
Brainstorms: Murmur

Two starling flocks represent the brain activity of musician Imogen Heap and her daughter. They are entwined in an intricate dance, embracing each other in their movements at times, at others playing ‘hide-and-seek’ across the sky, always resonating in a murmuration to the music. As the sun sets, the flocks search for a place to call home, eventually settling down for the night.

Brainstorms: Murmur - Brainstorms: A Great Gig In The Sky
Brainstorms: Murmur

Imogen Heap’s instrumental work ‘Cumulus’ (2009) forms the stunning soundtrack to the experience in one of the galleries, and has been extended and remixed to fit the visual presentation and the spatial audio capabilities of the space.

Brainstorms: Murmur - Brainstorms: A Great Gig In The Sky
Brainstorms: Murmur

Sol

The third room was Sol and explores the connection between two primal engines of creation – the sun and the human mind.

Brainstorms Sol Room - Brainstorms: A Great Gig In The Sky
Brainstorms Sol Room

Just as the sun illuminates and breathes life through its rhythms and harmonies into the planets in its orbit, we seek to illuminate our own existence, and that of those in our orbit, through the power of creative thought.

Brainstorms Sol Room - Brainstorms: A Great Gig In The Sky
Brainstorms Sol Room

In extraordinary moments, as during an eclipse, these two forces converge and reflect on each other with reverence and awe.

Brainstorms Sol Room - Brainstorms: A Great Gig In The Sky
Brainstorms Sol Room

The music was provided by JJ Wiesler, Richard Warp and Scot Stafford with vocalists Samantha Grant and Megan Slankard.

Aurora (Great Gig in the Sky Room)

The fourth and final room was Aurora, Great Gig in the Sky, and featured a new mix of the epic song from Dark Side of the Moon. It was great to hear Richard Wright’s keyboards so prominently and moving around the room on the high end Dolby sound system. The Panasonic projectors created vivid images from 125 listener’s brainwaves! The sound here doesn’t capture the sound experienced in the room of course, however, enjoy the video below.

Aurora displays the collective mental states of a large group of listeners as they experience a single piece of music – The Great Gig in the Sky composed by Richard Wright, late keyboardist of Pink Floyd.

The brain data for this work was collected using EEG from 125 members of the public at Dolby’s studios in London in 2023.

The colours in the aurora change over the course of the song reflecting the changing states of mind of the listeners.

Brainstorms Aurora - Brainstorms: A Great Gig In The Sky
Brainstorms Aurora

The premise of the data collection was to explore the collective experience of music and how universal some aspects might be in our reactions to it.

The Great Gig in the Sky was in many ways the perfect subject for this project, being an emotionally powerful piece of music that has connected deeply with its listeners over half a century.

In Aurora, the visualisation created from the brain data seeks to explore those resonances in order to better understand the profound appeal of this timeless work.

Brainstorms Aurora Blue - Brainstorms: A Great Gig In The Sky
Brainstorms Aurora Blue

The room features music composed by Richard Wright and vocalist Clare Torry whose soaring performance is a standout part of the album and live performances since. The mix really emphasised Rick’s keyboard playing with isolated parts flying around the room in surround sound.

Concept and Process behind the Exhibition

Gala Wright, curator and Artistic director at Brainstorms and daughter of Pink Floyd keyboardist Richard Wright, says, “The visual representation of brain data provides an accessible and intuitive way to see how a piece of music can be a deeply personal yet also powerfully shared experience. Questioning how this is true for my father’s compositions is a key motivation for me bringing this concept to life with Pollen. The added benefit of bringing awareness to his musicality through the Brainstorms project serves to augment his legacy.”

Gala Wright with father Richard Wright
Gala Wright with father Richard Wright

Brainstorms: A Great Gig in the Sky is a joint venture between San Francisco-based creative studio Pollen Music Group and Richard Wright Music Limited. Their mission is to combine neuroscience and immersive technology to explore how our minds respond to music through captivating visual experiences. The show, presented at Frameless, the largest immersive venue in the UK, aims to bring to life the ebb and flow of our emotional and cognitive states during a song.

Here’s how they achieved it:

Phase 1: Brain Data Collection (October 2023): 125 participants listened to Pink Floyd’s “The Great Gig in the Sky” in Dolby Atmos while their brain data was recorded using a 14-channel EEG headset. Metrics like Excitement, Relaxation, Stress, Engagement, and Interest were collected.

Phase 2: Data-Driven Visual Narratives: The project expanded beyond visualizing aggregate brain data. Curator Gala Wright suggested incorporating two additional experiences in the galleries and a live brain data capture event. Each gallery’s visual experience leverages brain data dynamics to drive key visual elements, creating unique narratives

Curator Gala Wright suggested expanding out the theme of ‘Great Gigs In The Sky’ to incorporate two additional experiences in the galleries, as well as a live brain data capture event that would showcase the process of gathering and visualising brain data in response to music in a direct and intuitive way for guests.

Brainstorms capturing brainwaves
Brainstorms capturing brainwaves

Critical Reception

Reviews have been a little frosty, particularly from one national newspaper. The Telegraph describes the experience as a “pointless gimmick.” The show combines computerized art with neuro-scientific experimentation, exploring the link between Pink Floyd’s music and listeners’ brainwaves. Participants listen to “The Great Gig in the Sky” while their brain activity is recorded. The resulting brainwaves are transformed into shifting shapes projected in separate spaces. Despite its high ticket prices, the review suggests that Floyd’s music is already so transcendent that it doesn’t need additional bells and whistles.

However, I enjoyed it. Brainstorms: A Great Gig In The Sky was something different and a new way to experience the album and in celebration of it being 50 years old. Fantastic.

More about Frameless

Links – FramelessFrameless InstagramBrainstorms Website

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