[Technology Exploration] The most universal music


People find their happiness with music. Then, what about people with hearing loss? The artist, WONWOORI believes that happiness should not be discriminative. So he started making music for both cochlear implant users and non-disabled persons with less hearing loss.


Broad-To become a popular musician

In a world full of exciting pop music, modern classical music may be too boring. About 500 years have passed since the Baroque era, but the greatest musicians of this genre are still Mozart and Beethoven. Since the 20th century, modern and contemporary classical composers have been keen to create their realm. It also means that they have no choice but to distance themselves from the public. The artist, WONWOORI majored in classical music. However, he wanted to make music that everyone could listen to. His works that transcend the boundaries of genres also transcend the boundaries of the audience. Even people with hearing loss became his audience.


Listening to music with a cochlear implant

Some people hear sounds using a cochlear implant that delivers electrical impulses to the auditory nerve. When a cochlear implant is surgically inserted into the cochlea, even the hearing-impaired can hear a voice without difficulty. However, there is a clear technical limitation. The point is that it is not easy to enjoy music. It is more accurate to say that they cannot hear the music sound well. Since the cochlear implant is a device that is optimized for the human voice range, so it is difficult to distinguish the pitch of the music sound. Also, the same goes for a series of notes, a performance with multiple instruments or an echoed sound such as the sound of a karaoke. That is why even the most touching music is hard to reach for cochlear implant users. Fortunately, it is not entirely impossible. Based on the experience of having healthy ears, it is necessary for cochlear implant users must struggle to follow the faintly audible melodies and pitches. Since 2019, WONWOORI started a project to create songs for cochlear implant users. In 2020, <WOW-LOG> was released at last. It contains the process and results of exploring the elements of music that cochlear implant users can listen to. We can get a glimpse into the world of sound they feel.


Criteria for sharing emotions

In 2021, the project WONWOORI started at Zer01ne is <WOW-STEP>. We are working to reach more and more cochlear implant users and set the standard for the music they can enjoy. We classify music that can be listened to comfortably according to variables such as surgical cycle, degree of hearing development, music experience, and social experience. For the first year of cochlear implant user, songs of TWICE(Korean idol group) may be felt like noise, but for the user of the tenth year, it may feel different. WONWOORI plays a variety of songs to cochlear implant users looking for what factors affect and change their mood. The purpose of this experiment is one. It is to create music that allows both cochlear implant users and non-disabled persons with less hearing loss to share similar emotions.


To collect and synthesize sound data for cochlear implant users: MacBook

WONWOORI realized that anything other than ‘Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti Do’ could become music from working on the <Wow-Log> project. WONWOORI uses Microsoft Excel to organize data and MAX/MSP to express data through music. There is no better program than this. He can now turn any data in the world into music. Brain waves, weather, numbers, cities, and traffic also can become music. This process is called data sonification. For example, you can make music by setting the sound as the stock falls, the sound goes low, and as the stock rises, the sound rises. The artist puts the desired sound for each parameter. A MacBook is enough for all this process.


To reflect the actions of a cochlear implant user into sounds: ROLI Seaboard BLOCK

It is a keyboard-shaped MIDI controller. The fun thing about this instrument is that the way to input sounds is three-dimensional. You can adjust the pitch on the horizontal axis of the keyboard, the tone on the vertical axis, and the volume by reducing the pressure. If you rub between ‘Do’ and ‘Re’, it sounds like subsequent bending for ‘Do’ and ‘Re’. If you press hard on the shelf, the volume increases. It is a smart machine that intuitively reflects human actions with sound. It is also a great training tool for cochlear implant users who have difficulty distinguishing between high and low pitches. WONWOORI played <Wow-Log> with a cochlear implant user using this instrument.


To search the right sounds for a cochlear implant user with cumbersome but honest effort: Moog Mother-32

An analog synthesizer is a device that allows you to create new sounds by hand. Of course, computers can also create new sounds. However, when the sounds are created by inputting numbers into a computer, sometimes, the results are familiar to the ones by the hands and ears. For WONWOORI, who has to find a sound suitable for a cochlear implant user, familiarity is nothing but ruins the result. Analog synthesizers provide fun to discover new sounds through the physical effort of manipulating dials and rearranging wires.


To confirm that I am me: OPEN-BCI Cyton Board

A small substrate detects human brain waves. It converts brain waves into numbers and delivers them to the computer. This device is going to be used for <ViRsona>, which is collaborating with Zer01ne creator, ‘Atom & Bits. This is a project to think about how to perceive one’s real body in an era in which the metaverse and multi-persona have become accustomed.



About the artist
The artist, WONWOORI substitutes and analyzes the data of the object to be interpreted into the sine wave, the minimum component in music. In this process, he gets inspiration for composition and tries to put the analyzed object at the center of the art medium. In particular, he tries to have a view on the target that can be easily marginalized in the arts and expands human possibilities of music and technology. Since 2019, he has been studying the limited sound perception of hearing-impaired people and exploring the essence of music. He majored in composition at Kyung Hee University and studied computer music at the department of Composition at Korea National University of Arts.