Archive | January, 2011

Neil Harbisson: where sound and color merge

18 Jan

Did know that colours broadcast with a frequency imperceptible for the human ear? Neil Harbisson does. He learned about it when trying to see something that is granted for us, the colors of the world.Sonochromatic artist

Neil Harbisson is the first cyborg recognized by a government and a sonochromatic artist. He was born with achromatopsya, a dysfunction that restricts his vision to black and white. He struggled a way to see all the color-range, and finally, in 2004 managed to produce an artificial “eye” that turns a color into a specific sound. The way he sees the world and the introduction of sound has granted him a new sense, as every color has a sound and every sound has a color. Life for him is a visual symphony of colors and music. His latest works are an example of this: sound portraits, where the skin, hair, lips colors make a specific sound for every face.

Color broadcasts in a frequency much too high for the human ear. To see the color that is in front of him, Neil Harbisson’s “eye” reproduces the color frequency into sounds and provides Neil a note to know the shade of the color and a tone to know its saturation. He can see the light to know if it is a lighter or a darker hue.

With this new tool, the eye, he can make very personal portraits of people. Now, not only proportions in face and body are important, or even expressions, but also how a person “sounds” according to his/her color combination. The result is faces pictured into more or less harmonic sounds. And that is what he made in his latest artwork Sound Portraits, he translated into sound the color of the faces of known people (for example the opera singer, Montserrat Caballé and Prince Charles).

Neil Harbisson’s work provides us a new way of seeing the world. A world full of sounds and sounds full of color. However, his work is more conceptual than esthetic, as he opens up new ways of observing and experiencing the world. I knew that anyone could perceive that I could be more or less proportioned, that I wear a matching outfit, but I did not that my colors could also make a sound. Now, when I decide what to wear in the morning, a thought comes to my mind: shall I wear a A and a E or a C and a D note?