When music says what words can’t

This innovative technology helps bring people with severe epilepsy closer to their loved ones

15-year-old Riley’s inner world is difficult to penetrate. Two rare and serious conditions often characterized by seizures that are difficult to treat – Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS) and tuberous sclerosis of Bourneville (TSC) – affected her cognitive abilities, so she was never able to speak. “It’s not easy to get to know someone who can’t speak,” says his father Tim. “It teaches you to pay much more attention to the little things.”

Although Riley couldn’t verbally communicate her wishes, hopes, or desires, she was able to express herself through painting. Inspired by Riley’s story, the company that makes one of his drugs, Greenwich Biosciences, wanted to find another way to give back, not only to Riley, but to the wider epilepsy community. So they launched a creative program – An Unspoken Symphony – that has provided a new way for thousands of people like Riley to translate their art into music and share it with those they love.

Technology with a heart

Unspoken symphony is an image recognition web technology designed to translate art into an original melody. The interface is simple. Users upload artwork to the unspokensymphony.com website via their phone or computer and within seconds the software translates the visual into a unique melody, adding a layer of expression that gives voice to the art and, by way of extension, to the individual who created it.

At the heart of the technology is an elaborate algorithm that interprets the shapes, lines, brightness, dominant colors, density and contrast of user-uploaded artwork, and translates these elements into tempo, chords, style, timing. and height. It can work with any medium: paintings, drawings or synthetic images. Once the melody is created, users can save their art as an animated file depicting the musical notes as they play the patterns or images. Their unique melody can then be shared with others via social media via an animated MP4 file. They also receive a PDF with personalized scores that showcase art turned melody.

The magic is in the music

The real magic behind the software is the experience it creates when families come together to hear the unique musical expression of their loved one’s work. Since the program launched in fall 2020, its developers have been working with a team of web developers and other creative professionals, including music therapists, as well as award-winning producers and composers to create an even richer visual and musical experience. for the community. . As part of the extension of the project, users now have the opportunity to further personalize their melody by selecting multiple instruments, like a real symphony, to truly make the creation their own.

For Riley’s family, the gift the Unspoken Symphony offers is the deep bond they can share with their daughter through art and music. Music has long been explored for its ability to engage and change the brain, and some studies have shown its positive effects on people with epilepsy.[i] Music therapy is a field that uses the unique aspects of music to help individuals reach their full potential.

Lindsay Menninger, a board-certified music therapist who collaborated on the project, emphasizes the power of music to facilitate these deep connections in all people, including people with disabilities. “The power of the Tacit Symphony,” she says, “lies in its ability to offer families a new way to connect. Menninger’s team also found clinical applications for the program, using the unspoken symphony as a starting point for further exploration, improvisation and creation within the music to facilitate emotional expression, the self-exploration and self-expression.

Menninger’s clinical work focuses on the use of focused musical experiences, such as playing instruments, singing, and improvising, to improve skill areas, such as fine motor skills, communication, and emotional expression. She also emphasizes the ability of music to achieve what traditional forms of communication might lack. “Our society is so focused on the verbal aspects of communication,” Menninger says, but she believes that engaging in music enables a more nuanced form of communication through our non-verbal responses and expressions through sound.

Raise awareness one melody at a time

Since its launch, unspoken symphony has received over 40,000 visitors and approximately 8,000 users have submitted artwork to the online gallery. Many of these submissions are from people living with rare seizure disorders that have affected their ability to communicate, such as LGS, TSC or Dravet syndrome.

Today, the site is open to anyone who wants to submit their own work of art and create a melody to share with others. By expanding the reach of the community, the company hopes to increase awareness among people living with rare seizure disorders. To learn more and create your own melody, visit www.unspokensymphony.com.


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