Heart-beats might be the new beat behind the next musical track you hear.

Composer and Memorial University music professor Andrew Staniland, and electrical engineering students Alycia Leonard and Mark Bennett are creating prototypes of digital musical instruments played by the natural rhythms of the human body.

Making music from the beat of your heart1:24

"I had a research project earlier this year that was funded by the Terra Nova Young Innovators Award to create a new instrument that would not be played with your hands or a pick or a bow, but actually played with your vital signs," Staniland Said.  

They're figuring out a way to use our heart beats and blood pressure to make music with a 3D-printed instrument made of a circuit board. 

"The idea initially came when I was getting really interested in mindfulness and meditation, and I'm a composer and I thought, well, why not put them together?" he said.

Body processes become music

For the project, the group recorded the body's vital signs during meditation and assign the numerical sequences to musical notation.

"There's a lot of ways to do some interesting correlations with any kind of ebb and flow of a number stream in any musical parameter — for instance melody, or pitch, or chords, or rhythm can all easily be quantified numerically," Staniland said.

The Electro Acoustic Lab at the School of Music has become part engineering lab as they analyze data streams from medical technology into musical notation.

Mark Bennett

The electronic instrument has three modes of composition: mindfulness mode, touch mode and ambient mode. (Heather Barrett )

You might be expecting electronic music, but what you hear is a little different; the music could be any instrument as it translates into a composition.

"What you're hearing is a series of piano chords based on Alycia's heartbeat," Staniland said over a series of steady piano chords.

3 modes

The electronic instrument is a disc about the size of a smoke detector and has three modes of sound production — mindfulness mode, touch mode and ambient mode.

"So aside from the sort of biological sensing to sort of tie it into a package that's more of a full-fledged instrument, we did incorporate some other sensors that you can sort of play with," Mark Bennett said.

The instrument works much like a theremin while in touch mode but the sensors take it to another level. In ambient mode the instrument can play itself based on temperature, atmospheric pressure, humidity or ambience in the room.

"There's a whole lot of opportunity ahead of us and a lot of potential for this instrument," Staniland said.