Arts Visual Arts

Seeing Sound Opens at WCU’s Bardo Arts Center

Seeing Sound. Zay Jarrett, sound engineer; Leo Lei, professor, and Alexander Scriabin, synesthetic composer

The fall season opens at Bardo Arts Center (BAC) at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, October 14 and 15, with Seeing Sound: A Musical Journey of Water and Light. This immersive multimedia production explores what it might be like to visualize sound. Each note played by the musicians on stage creates its own color registered by an LED that first shines into water, allowing the rippling reflections of color to project into the space. This original production is a collaboration among members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, WCU School of Stage and Screen, artists from the WCU School of Art and Design and musicians and composers from the WCU School of Music.

The music—which will include a variety of genres from jazz to opera—will be translated into colors determined by Alexander Scriabin, a synesthetic composer from the early 20th century. Synesthesia is a condition in which a person experiences stimulation with multiple senses rather than one—for example, both seeing and hearing music, rather than just hearing it. Sound engineer Zay Jarrett will process the music into a signal that will be sent to the lighting board, where professor Leo Lei creates the colored light that corresponds to the sound.

Seeing Sound is the brainchild of Scott Ashley, production manager and technical director for BAC. “I am no more synesthetic than most people are, but after you get a chance to see the music for the first time it feels as though it makes sense at a level that has been there all along,” he says. “The thing that I did understand was that light, sound and water all express themselves through wave patterns, so I set out to see if there was a way to translate the wave patterns of sound into those of water and light. Even at our early stages the results of seeing the character and personality of music are beautiful and deeply satisfying.”

Find tickets and further information at arts.wcu.edu/SeeingSound. Masks are mandatory at all Western Carolina University in-person events, including those at Bardo Arts Center.

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