Opus Pericardium sci-art project uses ECG data to translate rhythm of human heart into music

By Ruth Hazard | 06 July 2012
Exhibition: Sarah Harvey: Opus Pericardium (in collaboration with Simon C Russell and Tim Yates), SoundFjord, London, July 7 – August 4 2012

Electrocardiogram (ECG) readings used by doctors for medical diagnosis are the basis of a unique new music project by artist Sarah Harvey, who transposes the data through digital software to create audio soundscapes of the human heart.

Harvey works in collaboration with composers Simon C Russell and Tim Yates, as well as scientists from the University of Glasgow and Brighton and Sussex Medical School, to produce the final audio material.

“This project explores the notion of the heart as something personal, but also collective,” she says.

“The team will need to explore the physical qualities that will determine the acoustics of the heart readings.

“The collaboration will be a human interpretation. It’s envisaged that this will allow one of the fundamental questions to be explored: what the nature of ECG heart data is, and how we as a group experience and interpret its resonation.”

Opus Pericardium is the culmination of Harvey’s research from the past three years, building on her previous project, Chambers, where musicians played their own heartbeats using paper-plotted ECG heart scores.

Harvey’s art practice is rooted in science, philosophy and cardiology, inspired by her work as a nurse on a Cardiothoracic Unit in Sheffield druing the 1980s. Following a period retraining in psychology, she is still a practising community nurse.

“This exciting new piece translates the rhythm and pulse of life through the digital data of electrocardiogram readings and aims to unearth the secret music of the human heart; sculpting with sound, the heart's tacit musical language,” says SoundFjord’s Creative Director, Helen Frosi.

The team speak in detail about the ideas that inspired the work at SoundFjord on July 21.

The talk will also cover the ethical and conceptual issues raised during research, as well as the progress and outcome of the project and the confluence of both Science and the Arts.

See the artist's website or the SoundFjord website for more.
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