As a composer and fine artist my musical writing is influenced by visual concepts and finding ways to express these ideas in music as well as creating artistic/musical works together. Recently my focus has centred around achieving this primarily through live painting with music and using my personal sense of synaesthesia to inform my practice. In specific, “chromaesthesia,” the sense of simultaneously seeing and hearing sound. This can be experienced as a physical sense in which one sees colour with their physical eyes, or in the mind’s eye. For me, I “see” music in my minds eye as bursts of moving shapes and colour. One of the best examples found in nature that compares to synaesthesia (as I personally experience it) is the Northern Lights, which resembles the overall sound of many stringed instruments playing together. The chromaesthesiac moving image is dependant on much more than single notes but instrument type, intervals, timbre, dynamics and rhythm. Many instruments playing together forms an extensive, moving image made up of smaller gestures. This is impossible to capture entirely with live painting however I strive to create a representation of this experience for the audience. Currently I am working towards live painting with my own compositions and also experimenting with “encoding” specific visual gestures within the music that will produce pre-planned results in the painting. Excerpts of live-painting with music can be seen here: : https://www.carolinebordignon.com/livepaintingandmusic
In 2018 the premiere of my work, “Iridescent Flares,” for orchestra was performed at the Royal Northern College of Music featuring moving image and digital projection with the orchestra. This work was based off of the idea of bursts of light on crystal and the iridescent colour world produced. Above the orchestra still images of colourful brush strokes were projected in fast sequences with the performance to create a more immersive experience. A video recording of the piece can be seen here:
In future performances of this work I would like to experiment with painting live alongside the orchestra.
Ultraviolet, for soprano and string quartet is a wordless piece written for season II of the Illuminate Women's Music concert series and was inspired by the concept of ultraviolet light. Ultraviolet light is beyond the spectrum of light that can be perceived by the human eye, however many animals and insects see ultraviolet light and elements of the world most people do not perceive. It is possible in very rare cases for females to have a gene mutation that allows for an extra, fourth cone to exist in the eye, resulting in the perception of ultraviolet light. This condition is also known as “tetrachromacy”. This can occur because of the presence of two X chromosomes found only in females that allows for a greater genetic diversity and the potential for such a mutation. Research suggests that 12% of women have this condition. I am interested in the ways in which hidden realities that exist yet are largely unperceived can be expressed through musical composition. Through continued research and collaborative projects I hope to expose these colourful worlds to a broader audience.
Support Illuminate Season II activities and future years:
In recent years, and growing alongside my enthralment with creating quarter-tonal soundworlds, I have been fascinated with psychology and with different ways of expressing and connecting to emotions using music.
Most of my pieces now have a relatively complex story behind them of various characters with different traits, all reacting to one another, creating the structure (or journey) of the piece. At the same time as building these big characters and stories inside my head, the music representing them has gotten more and more minimal, focused, and more importantly – vulnerable. It’s like every single melodic fragment represents somebody’s whole world, their entire outlook on life. The pain they try to hide, now fully visible in musical form, encompassing what they have been through and who they are now.
In this time of seemingly perfect social media lives, with many of us rebelling by sharing honestly about our struggles with mental health and career setbacks, I want to believe that this type of vulnerability in music is necessary. To be able to admit our pain and connect deeply with our emotions rather than run away from them is what makes us stronger. To connect to it in music is cathartic.
The first piece I wrote which represents this type of approach is Postlude, for viola and cello, written in 2014 at the Dartington advanced composition course. To express this emotional rawness using quarter-tones felt so liberating that I knew I had found my voice.
In contrast, Together, alone is about staying still while everyone around you finds their own voice, their own journey - making you feel more and more lonely, even when surrounded by people. It was written during a difficult time in my life when I was struggling with finding my own identity outside of music.
I hope that the emotional vulnerability in this and my other pieces inspires others to be honest about their own emotions and struggles, so that we all feel a little less alone.