Sync Project at Design Indaba, WIRED Health

CEO Marko Ahtisaari was invited to speak at two international conferences this year (Design Indaba Festival and WIRED Health with more upcoming, including the Near Future Summit) on the promising indications in research into the use of music as medicine and launching UNWIND, a personalized music experiment to help you relax before sleep.

Sync Project collaborated with critically-acclaimed musicians Marconi Union to create this unique responsive music experience. This is a new kind of music made by combining machine learning and human musicianship, personalized to your unique physiology. All with a view to improving your relaxation and sleep.

While the therapeutic use of music is a long standing tradition in cultures around the world, efforts to integrate music into modern evidence-based healthcare practice is much newer phenomenon. Scientists in fields from neuroscience and psychiatry to physical therapy have also taken in interest in further understanding the health effects of music. This research is uncovering more cases where music may have significant health effects than we might have ever imagined.

Sync Project launches UNWIND - personalized music designed to improve relaxation before sleep

Today, at Design Indaba in Cape Town, we're launching a world first - Unwind - an exclusive personalized music experience to help you relax before sleep.  

Anyone interested in relaxation and better sleep with the help of music can participate using their smartphone at It is free to participate.

Sync Project has collaborated with critically-acclaimed musicians Marconi Union to create this unique responsive music experience. This is a new kind of music made by combining machine learning and human musicianship, personalized to your unique physiology. All with a view to improving your relaxation and sleep.

Before the music starts you will be asked to hold your phone while still for a few seconds and we will "magically" determine your heart rate. The music will then begin to play using your heart rate as input and then gradually help you unwind from there. We will also ask you about your perceived state of relaxation before and after the music.

You can try the experience only once or as many times as you like. We hope you'll enjoy the personalized experience as much as we do, and we recommend trying the pre-sleep music for at least seven days.  

So why launch Unwind in Cape Town at Design Indaba? Cape Town has been nicknamed “Slaapstad”, loosely “Sleepy Town”. This is a play on the Afrikaans name for Cape Town, "Kaapstad", and the Afrikaans word for sleep, "slaap". While we take no position on this, we've heard that Cape Town is often considered to have a slow, chilled-out pace of life, compared to, say, Johannesburg! 

So tonight, Slaapstad will put the world to sleep! At Design Indaba, Sync Project is inviting all friends of design and creativity around the world to participate in this grand experiment, and to personally experience the relaxing and sleep improving effects of music. We will share results from this global experiment later this year.


About Sync Project

Sync Project is developing music as precision medicine. Intuitively we know the power that music has over us. We all self-medicate with music. Recent research has shown that music affects the same neural pathways that are regulated by psychostimulants and other drugs. Sync Project is building on this foundation and partnering with the world’s leading scientists and musicians on the first-ever large-scale studies to measure how the structural properties of music – like beat, key and timbre – impact biometrics such as heart rate, brain activity and sleep patterns. Sync Project is applying machine learning to this dataset to commercialize personalized music therapeutics.

Sync Project was co-founded by Marko Ahtisaari, Ketki Karanam, Yadid Ayzenberg and PureTech Health. Advisors include musicians Peter Gabriel, St. Vincent, Jon Hopkins and Esa-Pekka Salonen, as well as neuroscientists Robert Zatorre and Adam Gazzaley. 



About Marconi Union:

Marconi Union – founder members Richard Talbot and Jamie Crossley with Duncan Meadows who joined in 2012 – are thought to be “amongst today's most talented musicians” (The Sunday Times). They have continually steadily developed and refined a unique musical identity, evoking emotions from gracefully blending elements of dub, jazz, ambience and electronica within their richly melodic compositions. 

Their music is perfection: measured and solemn on occasion, misty and dreamy on others, discordant and grating as well, but always underpinned with a hint of experimentation that pushes boundaries, setting out to challenge as well as to entertain. They are never afraid to accept the challenge of making new music rather than just repeating their earlier work.

Marconi Union are probably best known internationally for ‘Weightless’, (“One of the most popular ambient tracks of all time” Yahoo), claimed to be the most relaxing track in the world with its tens of millions of streams and YouTube views, even earning the accolade of being named as one of the 'Best Inventions Of The Year' by Time Magazine). They were delighted to be approached by The Sync Project and commissioned to create a new generative composition for them, ‘Adrift’, which will be tuned to the individual listener as part of the Sync Project’s ‘Unwind’ App and which in consequence may never play in the same way twice.

Functional Music Comes of Age

From beating drums to enter a trance, to calling troops into battle with a trumpet cry – music has long ushered communities to a common purpose. These days, the study of its function is centered on the workplace, where music can be used to boost productivity by aiding concentration, fostering team spirit and improving employee morale. The Sync Project looks at how functional music is finally coming of age.

What Makes Horror Movie Music So Scary?

From the high-pitched screeching of the famous “shower scene” in Hitchcock’s Psycho, to the ominous and repetitive “dun dun dun dun” as a gigantic shark lurks beneath a swimmer in Jaws, directors have long used music as a powerful tool for scaring the audience. But what is it exactly that makes some music so scary? And is our reaction to it down to nature? Or is it influenced by our environment and prior experiences?

All the Way Up: Time To Change Our Tune Towards Elevator Music?

“Elevator music” or “muzak”: two different names for the same cheesy background tracks we all love to say we hate. But have you ever wondered where the names come from? The Sync Blog explores the history of functional music and where music companies, powered by the latest research, may take this idea far beyond its origins

Where To Next For Functional Music?

Music classification is now less about genre and more about mood, with listeners often building their digital playlists for a specific occasion or activity. It’s music with a purpose – or functional music – and it promises to get even more interesting as scientific inquiry comes into play. The Sync Project muses on what could happen next… 

Music Enriches The Language Learning Environment

Familiar with the so-called "Mozart effect" study, which showed evidence of children having improved performance in a cognitive task after listening to Mozart? Later studies have confirmed that music can in fact enhance cognitive functioning, and that these effects are by no means restricted to Mozart, or even to classical music for that matter. But how early on in children’s lives we can start to see these benefits? Recently, a group of researchers arranged a music intervention for nine-months-olds to see whether music training might support language learning in babies. Read more about the fascinating findings of the study in this post.