Cortical Songs is a work in four movements by Nick Ryan and John Matthias for string ensemble and solo violin in which the orchestra is partially controlled by a tiny computer 'brain'. Players respond to a network of tiny flashing lights fitted to each player's music stand, that are connected to a software model of a mammalian cortex consisting of 24 neurons. In performance, 'firing' events of individual neurons within the computer model, represented as single flashes of light, are interpreted as music through the score and by the players. The piece was released in 2009 on Gabriel Prokofiev's NonClassical label with remixes by Thom Yorke (Radiohead), Simon Tong (Gorillaz / The Good The Bad & The Queen), John Maclean (The Beta Band / The Aliens), Gabriel Prokofiev, Jem Finer and others. The recording features the String Ensemble of Trinity College of Music, conducted by Nic Pendlebury with the solo violin played by John Matthias and live programming by Nick Ryan.
Cortical Songs was premiered by The Ten Tors Orchestra at The Peninsular Arts Contemporary Music Festival in Plymouth and has since been has been performed by various ensembles including Ten Tors Orchestra, Trinity String Ensemble and the Elysian Quartetat at St Martin In The Fields, Cafe Oto, Bush Hall, Kings Place and The Place in London, at the Wordless Music Series in New York City at Poisson Rouge and at SouthXSouth West in Texas. In 2012 the piece was chosen by choreographers Goddard-Nixon as the soundtrack to their new Contemporary Dance work 'Fletcher's Bird' with Solo Violin performed by Tom Gould.
Cortical Songs was shortlisted for the 12th (US) Independent Music Awards. The album was voted No.5 in the top 10 Classical Albums of 2009 by Timeout Chicago, described by the New York Times as “moody and lovely”and by NME as "...One of the year's most refreshing listens". Thom Yorke chose to open his recent DJ set on XFM with his own remix of Cortical Songs. The album has recently been re-distributed by Naxos in the US.
Cortical Songs is available on iTunes store here.