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88340.  Wed Aug 23, 2006 11:47 am Reply with quote

I can't remember which series this was talked about in but I've been wondering if during the recording of the show the fact that Kandinsky was a synesthetic (saw music/sound as colour in his case and many others) was discussed?

There is some debate as to whether this is true but to be fair the people who dispute it tend to hold the opinion that synesthesia doesn't exist.

Artistic experiments, though historically interesting, are considered irrelevant for the study of synesthesia. Contrary to this view I argue that at least Scriabin's and Kandinsky's artistic experiments were based on involuntary experiences of synesthesia. They were investigating perceptual and emotional mechanisms of involuntary synesthetic experiences that meet Cytowic's criteria of synesthesia.

Kandinsky's theory of synesthesia, as formulated in On the Spiritual in Art [19], shaped the ground for these experiments. He described synesthesia as a phenomenon of transposition of experience from one sense modality to another, like in the sympathy of musical tones. In his Bauhaus lessons, he compared the human nerves to the strings of a piano: if a note is struck on one of two pianos, standing next to each other, the exact same note on the other piano will resonate. Kandinsky was well acquainted with the scientific debates on direct versus associative perceptual processes in the academic psychology at that time, and explicitly defended his theory of direct synesthesia against the arguments of associationist psychologists [20].

Whilst it is difficult to find images of a 'typical' Kandinsky many of the elements he used are present in this rather busy piece

Composition VII

There is a Kandinsky exhibition at the Tate Modern at the moment (until the 1st of October) so you can see the real thing if you want (2m x 3m).

88849.  Fri Aug 25, 2006 9:01 am Reply with quote

In the broadcast (the show with Linda Smith) Stephen mentioned Rimsky-Korsakov, Liszt, and Julian Asher. The research notes have this about Kandinsky:

The painter Wassily Kandinsky was much taken with the efforts of the Russian composer Alexander Scriabin and included in the manifesto of he and Franz Marc's Blue Rider group (Der Blau Rieter Almanac) and appraisal of Scriabin's 'Prometheus', or the 'Poem of Fire'. What made Scriabin's efforts so worthy in Kandinsky's view was the composer's inclusion of notation for a 'colour organ'. The keys of the clavier a luce when struck, rather than producing a sound, would project colours. Myers (1914) reports that Scriabin planned to score an orchestral piece, 'Mystery', to include the same colour dimension, but this time with the addition of odours.

Clearly, a distinction needs to be made between, on the one hand, the neurological condition in which the senses are involuntarily cross-wired, and, on the other, artistic attempts to invoke or create associations artificially; the term 'synaesthesia' does seem to be applied quite loosely to both.


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