Friday, October 23, 2009

Seeing Classical Music

A few weeks ago, my brother Stephen posted a fascinating entry on his blog concerning visualizing music. I've been promising him a post on how the visual aspects of written music can drastically change the performed sound.

This is not that post.

I've been too swamped with writing and teaching and grading to fully form that post (which will appear in the future). But I recently came across these two videos from last year that almost perfectly captures, for me, the experience of listening to a work by Olivier Messiaen:


These films juxtapose the creation of a painting with Messiaen's stunning Quartet for the End of Time. Whoever had this idea hit on a brilliant notion. Color is a basic feature of Messiaen’s music as he felt the word "tonal" had no meaning. For him, music was not tonal or atonal, but either had color or lacked it. He experienced a mild form of synaesthesia, which in his case manifested as the experience of color when he heard music. And even though he never saw the colors visually, they impacted his composing. He even went so far as to notate the colors of his music in several scores, such as in one of my favorite of his works, Des canyons aux ├ętoiles.

This is one way to beautifully visualize a piece of music. Enjoy.

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