Back in the last century Daniel Jackson and I set up Sonicbrand and went on what can only be described as a lecture tour of all the big brands and agencies to explain to them that we knew how to turn visuals into sound. We called it sonic branding. Part of our skills was the ability to translate colour into music, we didn’t have any magical powers, we simply understood their emotional meaning.
What if you took that translation process to its fullest potential? How about if the only way you could see colour was through sound? Well, meet the artist Neil Harbisson who can indeed only see colour through sound. Neil suffers from a condition called achromatopsia which means he sees everything in black and white. To overcome this limitation he wears an “antenna” anchored to his skull that converts the colours it detects into sound. Awesome.
Obviously the logical thing to do is to get the colour blind Neil to conduct an orchestra using only colours displayed on tablets. Oh yeah and the piece of music being played was composed by Neil based on the colours he heard in Barcelona’s Palau de la Musica concert hall. Are you following this? Well Vodafone thought this would be an ideal opportunity for their Firsts campaign. So they got Neil to compose the piece and then teach Spain’s Palau Youth Choir and Catalan Quartic String Quartet to understand how he hears colour. All so that they could perform the piece guided by the colours on their tablets.
It all sounds pretty complicated but then I guess if you can then why not do it. For me the idea that Neil’s antenna allows him to experience colour through sound is amazing and I wish that when we were doing that lecture tour many years ago we could have stuck “antennas” on our audiences and told them to enjoy the sound of beige. Pure sonic branding.