A Feast for the Senses: Children’s Workshop at “Symphony in the Cities” Explores Synesthesia

A Feast for the SensePacific Symphony violinist MarlaJoy Weisshaar, one of four recipients of The James Irvine Foundation-funded “Musician Innovation Grant,” showcases her project, “Synesthesia,” on July 18 and 19 during the Musical Playground preceding the orchestra’s Symphony in the Cities concerts in Mission Viejo and Irvine. Synesthesia, or the activation of one sense while another is being engaged (such as seeing colors while hearing music) is something Weisshaar experiences in her own life.

A Feast for the Sense“Numbers, days of the week and months of the year are specific colors for me, as are some timbres of specific musical instruments and musical keys,” Weisshaar explains. “The fascinating thing about synesthesia is that it’s unique to every individual who has it. And even if a person doesn't have it, they can still consciously fuse two or more of their senses together to bring about a more meaningful experience. It can also add another dimension to one’s experience in art or daily living.”

Weisshaar is fascinated by synesthesia and the different ways the brain perceives its surroundings. She hopes to use this concept to help enhance how people hear and engage with music. The activity she has planned involves a seven-piece ensemble made up of the highest and lowest registers in each orchestral family: for the woodwinds, a flute and bassoon; for the brass family, a trumpet and trombone; and for the strings, a violin and cello. Participants listen to each musician perform and react to what they hear by choosing shapes and colors that correspond. By the end, they will walk away with an original “composition” in the art form that reflects how they interpreted the music. Symphony in the Cities attendees are encouraged to visit the Musical Playground with their children and enjoy this special program.

A Feast for the SensesThe purpose of the grant funding Weisshaar’s project is to give musicians the opportunity for original expression, creativity and experimentation, with the goal of serving new communities and developing new or deeper interest in classical music. For more about this project and/or Pacific Symphony, call (714) 755-5799 or visit www.PacificSymphony.org. For more on Symphony in the Cities, visit www.PacificSymphony.org/sitc