I recently posted on newmusicbox on music's slow, idealogical shift away from virtuosic performance. I believe we're in the middle of a long transition away from affirmed virtuosity; part of this shift is caused by a parallel shift in compositional ideals: the 'layman-as-artist,' repetition, computer software, etc. Another angle from which to examine future virtuosity is that of human-machine interaction. Perhaps this interaction will result in 'the return of the virtuosic.'
Duke University professor Miguel Nicolelis placed electrodes in a monkey's brain and represented the electric currents produced from its thoughts in computer code - the 'alphabet of the brain.' He later programmed a computer to use this code to control a robotic arm that moved just like the monkey's real arm. Then, he mapped the monkey's real-time thoughts onto the robotic arm's motion, so a live organism was controlling a machine.
Now here's the craziest part: the monkey realized that it didn't have to move its own arm in order to move the robotic arm. It continued to move the mechanical arm with its brain while keeping its own arm stationary. The monkey had essentially become a computer, motionlessly controlling a machine's movements by means of self-produced code. [The monkey had actually been trained to use a joystick to play a video game, so at this stage, the monkey was playing a video game with its mind only.]
Scientists have also approached the organism-machine connection the other way around. One example is the 'roborat,' a rat similarly wired but controlled remotely by a scientist.
What would improved human-machine interfacing mean for music? It would certainly cause a reevaluation of virtuosity. If we could power machines to play instruments with our brains in ways our physical bodies couldn't, why not? If machines could power our bodies to play what our own minds could not initiate, why not? Ensemble Robot at MIT has been programming robots to play acoustic instruments for a few years now, which is really cool, but as far as I know, they haven't done anything with human brain impulses. Of course acoustic music produced by machines goes back to player pianos/pianolas, maybe even further. But maybe future advancements in electro-brain technology will start a trend back to the virtuosic ideal.
Check out this article on how a brain in a petri dish controlled a flight simulator.