CellF is the world’s first neural synthesiser created by Guy Ben-Ary. Its “brain” is made of biological neural networks that grow in a Petri dish and controls in real time it’s “body” that is made of an array of analogue modular synthesizers that work in synergy with it and play with human musicians. It is a completely autonomous instrument that consists of a neural network that is bio-engineered from my own cells that control a custom-built synthesizer. There is no programming or computers involved, only biological matter and analogue circuits; a ‘wet-analogue’ instrument.
There is a surprising similarity in the way neural networks and analogue modular synthesizers function, in that for both, voltages are passed through components to produce data or sound. The neural interface we developed juxtaposes these two networks and in a sense creates a continuum that creates one unified network. With CellF, the musician and musical instrument become one entity to create a cybernetic musician, a rock star in a petri dish.
Premiering on October fourth, 2015, in Perth, Western Australia, CellF performed a live set with Tokyo based Australian musician Darren Moore. Sound from Darren’s drums was fed as electrical stimulations into CellF’s neural network which then responded through the modular synthesizers, its ‘body’, to create an improvised post-human sound piece. During the performance there was a clear sense of communication and responsiveness between the 2 musicians. CellF represents a radical new way to think about what a musical instrument can be and how music can be made.
The development of cellF posed enormous technological challenges. Establishing unique publishable biological protocols for differentiation and electrophysiology, developing a custom made all analogue neural interface that allows interaction with the neurons through simulations, building the biological lab that is embedded into the sculptural object and contains DIY high precision tissue culture incubator and a DIY certified class 2 laminar flow biological safety cabinet to work with human genetic modified material and more…