Articles and Essays


Las Vegas, Nevada circa 2050

Your instinct knows things before your brain does; or your subconscious is more intelligent than your conscious brain.--Karlheinz Stockhausen


Back in 2013 at the Swarm Lab, the brain surface implant was being developed. In its early stages it was to be used by paralyzed patients to control various devices simply by thinking about them. Like many new technologies, people found other uses for them.

Dr. William Stone had a life-long interest in neuroscience. By the time he was in his 30s he had already created Genrenation, Inc., now one of the largest bioinformatics companies in the world. In the 2020s he formed an entity for brain and consciousness uploading called LocusFocus. Musical instrument manufacturers became a part of the R&D program, developing their own interfaces to access the mind uploads of many musicians, both living and deceased. Since it is difficult to obtain the consciousness of the deceased, many were simulated with historical encyclopedic data and in some cases actual genetic sequences.

It was eventually named the Musical Consciousness Orchestra (MCO) and was funded by over 100 corporations and philanthropic organizations, with the lead scientist, Dr. Miroslav Pasternack as the eminence grise of the operation. It was eventually unveiled in 2051 in a retrofitted shopping mall in the sparsely populated exurbs of Las Vegas.

Dr. Pasternack's teenage son Dmitri was the first person to direct the MCO. He has the insula implant, which allows him to control or conduct the orchestra simply by thinking about them.

In the MCO "pit", the insula of the conductor controls the insula of each orchestra member. It may seem like "ventriloquism" but the musicians act purely from their own volition.

"To what degree do these brains have plasticity?" asks Dr. Pasternack. "Did any of them 'pole shift' in terms of a switch in their sense of identity? What about Lady Gaga? David Bowie? The response of the insula is the same regardless of an alter ego, no?"

"Yes, the alter ego is an intrinsic part of the function of the insula." replied the engineer. "The desire to have multiple identities is completely voluntary, not controlled like a puppet."

"As to Brian Eno, do we use the Eno Brain before or after he invented ambient music? Can I have both pre and post-ambient?

"No-- one or the other--not both."

"I think I prefer the early pre-Ambient Eno anyway."

Dmitri closes his eyes--"I am now thinking Jimi Hendrix."

Over the studio monitors we hear the famous E7#9 chord, yet in a totally different iteration, as if someone else was playing it.

Soon thereafter, a loud tribal drumming blasted through the monitors.

Everyone was stunned: "What was that?!"


It is not unusual for new experimental projects such as this to have bugs, but it is certainly intriguing. Many of the "musicians" in the MCO were indigenous Africans, so it is not surprising that they would produce this type of music. But it is also true that Africans have other subliminal cultural influences that may surface in the insula, whereby some unexpected primal influences may surface.

Dr. Pasternack was incredulous: "This is not supposed to happen--when we think Hendrix, we expect to hear Hendrix!"

"There's a damaged brain in there, but not sure which one.", said the engineer.

"Think Beethoven and see what happens." James Son Thomas' "Highway 61" plays over the speakers.

"That's ridiculous! How do we get from the Enlightenment in Vienna to the Mississippi Delta? This obviously has a mind of its own!"

The engineer runs a scan to locate any bad sectors.

"Try it again...Dmitri think someone, don't tell us who it is."

Again, tribal drumming pumps through the monitors.

"Who was it Dmitri?'

"Fela Kuti--no David Byrne, just kidding..."

"Either way it's consistent with the Africa connection. 'Our life in the bush of ghosts', as it were. So can we fix this mix up?"

Dr. Stone was contacted to troubleshoot: "Very interesting that this is happening. I am astonished--ghosts of Africa are mysteriously emanating from the orchestra. It's clearly something we did not predict. There are obviously implants that cause this to happen, no fault to Dmitri. He has created the perfect scenius. Musical geniuses they all were, but our roots are now clearly exposed. Think of a musician--and hear what he really plays. The insula never lies."

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Insula by Lee Barry is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at http://www.leebarry.net/writing_insula_story.html