The Development of a Model for the Synesthetic Analysis of Choral Music Based on the Reflections

November 23, 2009 / By: Aaron D. Kapaun

Stemming from the researcher’s personal association and experiences with synesthesia, the intent of this study was to investigate synesthesia in music and to develop a model for the synesthetic analysis of choral music.  This study sought to determine what kinds of synesthesia were applicable, what background information of synesthesia is relevant, what implications it may have for choral conductors and how this model may prove useful in teaching choral music education.  

A review of literature on synesthesia was developed which included: its definition, the different kinds of synesthesia, the biological basis for synesthesia, the history of synesthesia; how to diagnose it; mislabels or misrepresentations of synesthesia; the traits and general features of synesthesia; historical and influential figures in the arts with synesthesia, and how people use synesthesia. These areas were researched to provide support for the development of an analysis model.  Summaries of the literature reviewed were complied and comparisons were made to the findings and later discussed in chapter 5. 

To better understand, describe and determine how synesthesia can be useful in the analysis and teaching of choral music, the researcher analyzed the choral octavo Sleep by Eric Whitacre using a color graph to represent each pitch.  Additionally, a more traditional chordal analysis is used to provide clarification of chord names and, in turn, to help provide an overall color spectrum used for analysis. The researcher used Microsoft Excel for the color graph analysis.  This graph allowed the researcher to show an approximate visual representation of what colors he perceived in the octavo. This color graph is presented in Appendix A.

The researcher felt that the color analysis helped him to gain a better understanding of the piece analyzed and that the model used may be applied to both vocal and instrumental music and is not limited to one genre or style. The researcher also  concluded that the model should not be limited to pitch and may be applied to other elements such as text and instrumentation/voicing.  In addition to finding that this was an effective model to assist in memorizing choral music, the researcher also found a greater aesthetic connection to the analyzed piece as a conductor as compared to pieces which did not use this model.   

There are several potential implications from this study: Music analysis is not limited to one form; Using this model of color analysis as a basis for teaching music may have a direct effect on student learning; Using this model of color analysis as a basis for teaching music may provide a teaching tool for improved listening skills and ensemble intonation: This model supports further research in the neurological study of the connections between music and learning.