Music Visualization Workshop, May 31, 2013

Time: 9:00am – 4:30pm

Location: Boyd Neel Room, Faculty of Music, University of Toronto. 80 Queen’s Park Cres.

A full day workshop, held at the Faculty of Music, University of Toronto, will engage participants in the creation of visual responses to selected pieces of music. This collaboration between the CRSC, OCAD University, U of T, the ASA, and The Gryphon Trio, will involve invited musicians, artists, designers, synesthesia researchers, and synesthete and non-synesthetes. Workshop participants will use both analog and digital media (e.g. drawing/painting materials, computers or tablets) to generate immediate responses to compositions by synesthete and non-synesthete composers, played by The Gryphon Trio.

The workshop will be punctuated by lectures and discussions by leading researchers on sound-colour synesthesia.

Limited participation is available for the general public. Please contact for more details.


The Gryphon Trio : Annalee Patipatanakoon, violin; Roman Borys, cello; Jamie Parker, piano

with Special Guests: Nadina Mackie Jackson, bassoon; Guy Few, trumpet, piano; David Schotzko, percussion; Patricia O’Callaghan, soprano; Jordan Pal, composer 

Schedule (all times TBC)

8:30-9:00   Coffee & Registration

9:00-9:15    Welcome

9:15-10:00  Jamie Ward: Visualising Music in Synaesthesia and Sensory Substitution Technology

10:00-10:20 Adam Tindale: New Software for Documenting Visual Responses to Music

10:20-10:25 Instructions on questionnaires and media

10:25-10:40  Coffee

10:40-12:00  Session 1: Visualizing Music

12:00-1:00    Lunch (on-site)

1:00-1:20    Constantine Caravassilis: The Role of Synaesthesia as a Propelling Power in my Creative Output 

1:20-1:40    Mark Nerenberg: Transcribing Sound into Colour: Interpreting Messiaen’s Synesthetic  Mappings

1:40-2:45    Session 2: Visualizing Music

2:45-3:00    Coffee

3:00-3:20    Carol Steen: Seeing the World Differently

3:20-3:40    Greta Berman: Evidence from the Mountaintop: Musicians & Synesthesia

3:40-4:30    Final discussion, reflection, plans for future work/collaboration (moderator – Daphne Maurer)

Jamie Ward (University of Sussex)
Visualising Music in Synaesthesia and Sensory Substitution Technology
In this presentation, I shall describe how synaesthetes see music and other sounds considering the colour, size and shape of sounds. Although each synaesthete perceives things differently there are various commonalities between them and these ‘rules’ for linking music and vision appear to be present in non-synaesthetes and from a very young age. Artists and musicians may also make use of them in their practice even if they don’t experience them overtly. A second strand of the presentation, will discuss how vision can be represented in terms of sound in order to convey information about the visual world (e.g. colour) to blind participants using sensory substitution technology.
Adam Tindale (OCAD University)
New Software for Documenting Visual Responses to Music
Colour-Sound Synesthesia is a well-known phenomenon where people see or associate colours with different pitches or sounds. Individuals with this perception are able to report the same colour association throughout their lives, implying that it is a fixed relationship. However, the colours for each person’s synaesthesia are different. This presentation will present a software package for users to enter their colour-sound associations and then present them in a real-time multimedia display. The software will allow the delegates to view their input in a stream of respondents in order to display a spectrum of experience. The data will be collected from the delegates and then made available as a data set for future research and visualization.
Constantine Caravassilis (University of Toronto)
The Role of Synaesthesia as a Propelling Power in my Creative Output
This lecture’s main focus will be the composer’s own synaesthetic condition, discussing the influence that it has had in his insofar work. Several works will be illustrated, outlining the differences between voluntary and involuntary experiences in secondary sensory pathways (color, moving images, scents and tastes) as they relate to perceiving and processing sound. In addition, a new composition will be presented during the lecture with live instruments, demonstrating in real-time how the condition of Synaesthesia impacts the compositional process.
Mark Nerenberg (University of Toronto)
Transcribing Sound into Colour: Interpreting Messiaen’s Synesthetic Mappings
In my role as researcher and musical analyst for the Gryphon Trio’s project “Colour for the End of Time”, I worked with artist Bernard White in the creation of a video to accompany a live performance of Olivier Messiaen’s seminal work “Quartet for the End of Time.” Although synesthesia is not uncommon among artists, Messiaen was unique in that he meticulously catalogued and documented the colours, shapes, and images he experienced as a result of his synesthetic condition in his “Treatise of Rhythm, Colour and Birdsong.” In my presentation I will describe the interactive process of transforming Messiaen’s musical score into a ‘colour score’ and demonstrate some of the visual results.
Carol Steen (Touro College, President- ASA)
Seeing the World Differently
Artists who see the world differently soon learn that the formal rules they have been taught often do not work well with their synesthetic perceptions. I will talk about synesthesia in art and how having synesthesia affects one’s artistic process.
Greta Berman (Juliard School)
Evidence from the Mountaintop: Musicians and Synesthesia
During my nearly 33 years of teaching at Juilliard, I have found that many excellent musicians possess synesthetic abilities. A number of them (perhaps the majority) are not aware of it, and consider it “normal.” Some students and colleagues have made public their synesthesia, and work with it in increasingly creative ways. Others are just beginning to discover its myriad forms. In this presentation, I shall show examples of how synesthesia manifests in a number of specific cases.

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