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.

Peter Gabriel, Annie Clark (St.Vincent), Jon Hopkins and Esa-Pekka Salonen Join The Sync Project

We’re extremely delighted to announce that four musical artists we deeply respect are joining the Sync Project. Our new advisors – Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Peter Gabriel; Grammy Award-winning alternative artist, Annie Clark (St. Vincent); critically acclaimed electronic musician, Mercury Music Prize and Ivor Novello nominee, Jon Hopkins; and distinguished composer and conductor, Esa-Pekka Salonen – will work with our team on product strategy as we develop music as precision medicine

When we asked Peter, why he decided to become an advisor, this is what he said: “Our senses provide us with different ways of inputting and experiencing ideas and emotions and also provide wonderful opportunities to change our physical and mental health. A good collection of music has always been used as a box of mood pills. I am delighted that The Sync Project is now using evidence-based science to explore and develop real tools and a platform to engage sound and music in the practice of medicine.” 

Peter, Annie, Jon and Esa-Pekka are all using technology in creative ways to push the boundaries of what music can be. We feel very lucky that they have chosen to apply their creative focus to work with us on the Sync Project. 

The new advisors will join our existing scientific advisors including Robert Zatorre, Ph.D., Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery at the Montreal Neurological Institute at McGill University; Adam Gazzaley, M.D., Ph.D., Director of the Neuroscience Imaging Center and Professor of Physiology, Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco; Tristan Jehan, Ph.D., Founding Chief Technology Officer of The Echo Nest (Spotify). We are excited by the breakthroughs that may come from this unique collaboration of world-renowned musical artists and scientists. 

Below please find a bit more about each of our new advisors. 

Marko, Yadid and Ketki

Peter Gabriel is a six-time Grammy Award-winning British singer-songwriter, musician and humanitarian activist. Gabriel was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010 as a member and lead singer of the progressive rock band, Genesis. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame again in 2014 for his multi-platinum success as a solo artist.

Annie Clark (St. Vincent) is an award-winning American singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. St. Vincent’s unique sound, guitar work and songwriting style won her the 2015 Grammy for Best Alternative Album. 

Jon Hopkins is a classically trained British pianist, critically acclaimed recording artist, Ivor Novello nominated composer of film scores and prominent producer/collaborator. He has produced and collaborated with artists including Coldplay, Brian Eno, Natasha Khan of Bat For Lashes and King Creosote. Jon has twice been shortlisted for The Mercury Prize, a highly prestigious honor awarded annually for the best album from the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Esa-Pekka Salonen is the Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor of the Philharmonia Orchestra in London and Conductor Laureate for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, where he was Music Director from 1992 until 2009. He is currently the Marie-Josée Kravis Composer-in-Residence at the New York Philharmonic and the Artistic Director and co-founder of the annual Baltic Sea Festival, which invites celebrated artists to promote unity and ecological awareness among the countries around the Baltic Sea. Salonen also drove the development of an iPad app, "The Orchestra," which allows the user unprecedented access to the internal workings of eight symphonic works.

Biotech Industry Veteran Steven Holtzman Joins the Sync Project Board

We’re very grateful that Steven Holtzman will join the Sync Project Board. Steve is the former Executive Vice President of Corporate Development at Biogen Idec. Prior to this he was the Founder and Chair of the Board of Directors of Infinity Pharmaceuticals, Inc., where he served as the company's founding Chief Executive Officer. Prior to starting Infinity, he was an early leader and Chief Business Officer of Millennium Pharmaceuticals, Inc. From 1996-2001, he served as a Presidential appointee to the US National Bioethics Advisory Commission. 

As we were discussing the potential application of evidence-based music therapeutics across a range of conditions, Steve said this: “Opioid abuse has reached epidemic proportions in the United States, and it often begins with a prescription for pain medication following surgery or injury. We need to pursue alternative solutions for managing pain and other conditions, and clinically-validated, personalized music therapeutics present a promising option.” 

Steve is also a trustee of the Berklee College of Music and we actually first met when he introduced us to the Berklee team that lead to our fruitful and continuing collaboration

Thank you Steven for that introduction and for joining the Sync Project!