Cyborg Music: Watch a DJ 'Play' Facial Expressions via Electrical Impulses

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Daito Manabe, a Tokyo-based artist, manipulates faces through myoelectric sensors.

“Can you smile without emotion?”

That’s what Daito Manabe asks in the video above. It’s the sort of question many of his digital art projects begin with, leading him to experiment with myoelectric sensors to turn people’s faces into human drum machines. A similar endeavor recently saw him visualizing FaltyDL’s music using jerky, electrified movements of the human body.

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Taking the role of programmer, designer, DJ, VJ, and composer on each of his projects, Manabe is able to realize scenarios that change our perception of how our bodies interact with technology. Whereas most electronic musicians control sound with their hands, Manabe uses the electrical impulses of his facial muscles. Most of us just walk in sneakers, but Manabe fitted various pairs of Nikes with sensors that trigger and manipulate sound. DJs have long dreamed of having a third arm to mix and scratch with, and Manabe has already traversed this possibility.

While a lot of digital art prides itself on seamlessness, hiding the wire and code guts of what makes each piece tick, Manabe’s work embraces the functional aesthetic of these tools, focusing his creative energy on conveying a thought-provoking performance. Sitting on stage and altering sound with various facial expressions has this effect without fail.

You can check out Manabe and Perfume choreographer MIKIKO’s projection-mapped video for Nosaj Thing’s “Eclipse/Blue” below. Below that, see some stills from Manabe’s various projects.

Controlling sound with facial muscles. Photo: Oram Dannreutner

A still from Nosaj Thing’s “Eclipse/Blue”

Manabe’s project for Nike

This post also appears on The Creators Project, an Atlantic partner site. 

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Kevin Holmes is Executive Editor of The Creators Project and lives and works in London, UK.

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