Proponents of the theory of sensory integration argue that the construction of the human sensory system offers the basic capacity for abstraction, the fundamental building block of artistic expression and creative capacities. The ability to connect two seemingly disparate pieces of knowledge, the researchers argue, allows human beings to, for example, name objects and create artistic works. These capacities are further enriched through theoretical expansions of the five “traditional” senses, with some researchers including proprioception, memory, and emotion as additional “internal” senses that are equally as relevant as the “external” modes.
Though arguments about the number of senses humans possess remains debatable, expansion of the list only expands the possibility of intermixing. Recent findings on sensory interaction would appear to verify the cross-modal nature of the system as a whole, and have led to theories on how cross-modal perception, sensation, and association contribute to various human faculties. At the same time, trends in cognitive sciences have encouraged a recent surge in music as a topic viable for scientific exploration. Music, art, and other creative capacities have become prime subjects for study, and when paired with the revitalized efforts to study synaesthesia (a neurological condition of “cross-wired senses”) and cross-modal perception, new ways of examining human experience have achieved relevance and popularity.
Though many researchers and artists in the present time explore the interconnection of the senses, these activities are not strictly modern. The Greek word mousikē, the etymological ancestor to many modern languages’ word for music, referred to both songs and poems, and indeed any art presided over by the muses. Poetry often employs inter-sensory elements that contribute to expressive power: color, timbre, rhythm, and sound are core poetic devices that are simply unable to exist on the page, but are critical elements of the poetic art. Many approaches to cross-modal interactions appear in philosophical and scientific writings that span much of recorded history: from ancient Greek and Roman societies, through the Victorian era, to today's neuroscientific and psychological approaches. Cross-modal relationships in the arts appear frequently as well, with musicians and visual artists crossing the boundaries of their home disciplines to create “visual” music or “sound” paintings. When coupled with historical and modern investigation into synaesthesia, a rare sensory phenomenon where individuals consciously experience events in one sensory mode due to the presence of stimulus in another, investigations into synaesthesia and cross-modal associations can be conducted on an even deeper level. Chromaesthesia, a type of synaesthesia where individuals experience colored visual percepts in response to musical pitches, is one of the most common types, and offers a direct tie to music in the realm of cross-modal research.
To contribute to the exploration of cross-modal perception and its possible role in musical contexts, the present study explores the interconnectedness of the auditory and the visual, with a particular focus on color and sound. The core topic is approached from several angles: first, by reviewing the available literature on sound-color relationships in science and the arts; second, with an experimental study designed to collect quantitative data on how musicians and non-musicians associate sound and color; and third, by composing a new work that draws on both the long history of cross-modal interactions in human society and utilizes the collected data to musically elaborate on the subject at hand. The interdisciplinary nature of these goals will bring together a wide array of knowledge from musicology, neuroscience, cognitive psychology, and composition. While most of the individual components of this study are not unique (i.e., scientific research on sound-color matching has been conducted before, and many composers have used cross-modal associations and synaesthetic visions as inspiration), the present study is distinct in its merging of previously disparate areas. A major goal of this work is to encourage further interdisciplinary collaboration by showing how each area of research and creativity can contribute to the understanding of this captivating human capacity. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)