Meet the British composer living with a rare type of epilepsy that is triggered by music

Meet the British composer living with a rare type of epilepsy that is triggered by music
Meet the British composer living with a rare type of epilepsy that is triggered by music

When Liza Bec found they’d music-triggered epilepsy, they designed an instrument referred to as a “roborecorder” to assist proceed their profession.David Ryder Prangley

  • Liza Bec nearly noticed their profession finish once they had been recognized with music-triggered epilepsy.

  • Named musicogenic epilepsy, the rare situation is believed to have an effect on one in 10 million individuals.

  • Decided to hold on with their love of music, Bec discovered a option to overcome their situation.

It was a merciless twist of destiny.

Liza Bec, a skilled composer, found in 2008 that music — the very factor they’d devoted their life to — was inflicting their epilepsy.

Bec, who makes use of the pronouns they/them, was given the prognosis after having a seizure when practising a Bach passage for an audition.

Bec’s finger had been twitching for a couple of years when taking part in, however a physician had advised them it was simply a nervous tick.

On this specific event, nevertheless, the twitch become a spasm. Bec recollects being unable to breathe. “It was full horror,” Bec advised Insider: “I simply thought: ‘I will die. That is it.'”

A situation that impacts one in 10 million individuals

Liza Bec is wearing stage clothing outdoors playing a recording on a blue sky background

Liza Bec, taking part in their roborecorder.Ben Hughes

Bec has a rare situation referred to as musicogenic epilepsy, which impacts about one in ten million individuals.

After many exams, their neurologist discovered that their trigger was not listening to music, however the motion of their fingers once they had been taking part in sure patterns on their devices.

Medical doctors advised Bec they need to go on medicine and keep away from taking part in music to keep away from damaging their mind additional.

“I simply stopped taking part in utterly. And it’d been taking part in for hours on daily basis since I used to be 4,” they mentioned. Bec was simply 27 at the time. “It was very traumatic to have that loss.”

Bec realized to work round their set off

Liza Bec is shown in a clinical lab wearing a helmet covered in electrodes.

Liza Bec is proven in a medical lab sporting a helmet coated in electrodes.

Liza Bec is proven earlier than their EEG.Courtesy of Liza Bec

For 4 years, the British composer did not contact their beloved recorder once more. They turned their consideration to medical research “partly as a result of I wished to grasp what was occurring,” and certified as a physician.

However there was a niggling thought in the again of their mind: “Why cannot I retrain my mind?” they mentioned.

Bec knew that some individuals with epilepsy get a feeling earlier than a seizure referred to as an aura. They got down to check the limits of their triggers and see if they may really feel them coming.

“Usually I used to be simply getting twitching in my fingers immediately. In the course of of making an attempt issues out, I managed to really feel the place and once I’m hitting one thing that’s going to trigger me issues,” they mentioned.

Bec cautioned this labored for them, and may not for others.

Making music round the epilepsy

The artwork for Liza Bec's latest EP, which talks about her disability, is shown here. It is a synthesized abstract image made up of abstract patterns that range from yellow to blue to pink in color.

The paintings for Liza Bec’s newest EP, which talks about their incapacity, is proven right here.Catalina Velasquez Gonzalez

After coaching themselves for 4 years, Bec noticed an advert for a gig needing a recorder participant. They did not assume, they only went for it. They determined they might simply improvise the music and alter their tune in the event that they felt the aura coming alongside.

The band was conscious and was briefed on what to do if they’d a seizure on stage.

“Simply after the gig I received very emotional and cried a lot as a result of I used to be so completely happy to be again taking part in once more,” they mentioned.

Bec’s strategy to music modified utterly from there. They might now not take part in a classical music live performance, which wants each word to be performed completely.

So Bec leaned into the world of improvisation, altering their tune once they felt their aura.

Of their newest audio-visual EP, referred to as Innervate, Bec put their incapacity at the heart of their work. To assist them greatest convey this into music, they created a new type of instrument referred to as a roborecorder, which is basically a recorder modified with digital tape that can choose up any flinch in Bec’s finger.

Any flinch would join the sound of the recorder to a synthesizer, which might then change the sound of the recorder in several methods.

Folks’s seizures will be triggered by listening to songs or doing math

Most individuals with epilepsy can have some type of set off that lowers their threshold for having a seizure. For many, this may be that they’re too drained, they’d a drink, they forgot their medicine, or they skipped a meal.

However a small minority of individuals have reflex epilepsy, which is when seizures are triggered by a particular stimulus, Nicola Swansborough, head of exterior affairs of the Epilepsy Society, advised Insider.

The most typical stimulus — and presumably the most well-known — is sensitivity to flashing light.

However there are tons of different peculiar triggers that can set individuals off.

Some queues are exterior, similar to a particular contact, a type of meals, a loud noise, or having a sizzling tub.

Different triggers will be mental, like doing math, taking part in chess, studying, writing, having specific feelings, and even desirous about the set off.

Some might be able to discover the offending half of their mind and have it surgically eliminated. However for many, there is no treatment they usually might should attempt to handle the situation with medication, mentioned Swansborough.

Bec now hopes that the medical points of musicians might be taken extra severely. They ask that docs query themselves once they dismiss a musician’s issues as inventive temperament.

“I feel there’s the cliche of the neurotic musicians. I do not know why really, I discover most musicians are fairly hardcore individuals as a result of it is a demanding job bodily and mentally,” they mentioned.

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