What do Franz Liszt, Duke Ellington, David Hockney, Itzhak Perlman and Stevie Wonder have in common? All of them had or have synaesthesia, a neurological rarity in which the five senses – sight, sound, taste, smell and touch – are mingled due to cross-wiring in adjacent areas of the brain. Hearing a musical note, for example, might cause a synaesthete to see a particular colour: C is red, F sharp is blue.
On 3-4 November this year, at Hobart’s Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), a two-day musical collaboration among MONA, the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra (TSO) and a dazzling selection of musicians, offers musical adventurers an opportunity to experience the fascinating world of the synaesthete. During the two-day festival, called Synaesthesia: Music of Colour and Mind, guests will be able to pick their way through more than 100 performances popping up in unexpected places at the MONA, lit by lighting maestro John Rayment. The festival is co-directed by OA artistic director Lyndon Terracini, who is in charge of the TSO’s Australian Music Program, and it features performances ranging from full symphony orchestra to soloists, cabaret and jazz musicians.
Terracini says: “When I first mentioned the idea of a synaesthetic weekend to David Walsh about two years ago, he embraced it as an event for his wonderful Museum of Old and New Art. So in November this year, synaesthetic delights at MONA will offer visitors an extraordinary exploration of the colour of sound and mind.”
MONA owner and Synaesthesia sponsor David Walsh is not a synaesthete, but curious to explore the idea of experiencing music, words and numbers as colours. Music of Colour and Mind features, among others, pianist Michael Kieran Harvey, soprano Allison Bell, singer/songwriter Kate Miller-Heidke, cabaret artist Meow Meow, bass guitarist Brian Ritchie, saxophonist Danny Healy, and head of music at the Tasmanian Conservatorium Professor, Andrew Legg. The program includes commissioned works, original numbers and new encounters with masterpieces such as Ligeti's Mysteries of the Macabre and Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition.
Only four hundred tickets are available for the weekend. They are on sale through the MONA website at www.mona.net.au
Price is $A605 per person and includes admission to the museum and all performances, plus lunch, afternoon tea and dinner on Saturday and lunch and afternoon tea on Sunday prepared by MONA’s decorated chefs. Concert-goers will have the museum to themselves for the weekend.
Around 10,000 Australians have synaesthesia. Researchers at the University of Melbourne have collected the world’s largest database of people with the condition and are in the process of discovering just how their brains are different.