Monday, October 20, 2014

Two Major Artists and the Fusion of Sight and Sound...

When I think of the process we call Synesthesia, two world renowned artists come to mind:
One is, of course, the Mystic from Mother Russia, Alexander Scriabin.
The other is the cartoon visionary, Walt Disney.
In his final unfinished work titled Mysterium, Scriabin describes, among other scenes,  the vision of "bells hanging from clouds" in a work that combines the forces of music and color that he had earlier produced in his "Prometheus - Poem of Fire," which premiered in Moscow in 1911; the conductor being the great Serge Koussevitsky. In "Prometheus" Scriabin employs the use of his invention called by some a color organ; by others a color keyboard (Scriabin called it "clavier a lumieres"),  which would project a specific color onto either a wall or screen, along  with a particular note of the scale, with the result being a certification of the process of synesthetic projection  applied in a formalized work of art.
Obviously, such a work requires so much effort, let alone  funding,  that it has  been done rarely in its original format. One recent performance was staged at Yale University in 2010, engendered by a young Scriabin scholar in pursuit of her PHD. Of course, by 2010, the miracle of computerized electronics is almost a century after Scriabin's experiments in his fusion of Sight and Sound. I sometimes wonder what Scriabin's reactions would be, upon being witness to his creation a century later, in the same way I wonder what Bach would have thought of his Brandenburg Concerti, were he  able to re-visit a performance, in our time,  of these works without the so-called "terraced dynamics" he employed in his time, when he was conductor of these masterpieces.
In a number of experimental cartoons, titled "Silly Symphonies,"  which appeared for about a decade after his introduction of  Mickey Mouse in 1928,  Walt Disney employs visions in brilliant color, most without dialogue, and fuses them to various styles of music, imparting a striking melange  of color  in various motions enhanced in projection with musical parallels which, for those times, must have been striking examples of  color and music with no words needed to complete a unique artistic response. I remember to this day, as a small child, seeing some of these brief cartoons in a theater my parents used to take me to, and how they are still imprinted in my memory. The cartoons I most vividly remember were "The Old Mill," "Flowers and Trees," and "Music Land."
And, almost fifty years ago, pyschedelic  music in the form of blaring speakers and flashing colors, in rhythm to  the music emanating from them, became the rage, especially among the young.
Music and color  are bed mates; innate or otherwise , and  have been extant in cohabitation  long before Scriabin appeared. In one of  a number of interdisciplinary  endeavors I developed was a course I taught titled "Sights and Sounds,' dealing with music and visual art enhancing one another in a state of constancy. My partner in this pursuit was an art teacher, who came out of retirement to be my other half.
And so it goes..



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