Eugene Symphony Pivots to The Color of Sound Concert Recording from 2019 for first Symphony Soundwaves event

Posted on November 18, 2020

EUGENE, OR (Nov. 18, 2020)— Following Governor Kate Brown’s announcement of a statewide “Two-Week Freeze” in effect from Nov. 18 through Dec. 2 that includes the closure of indoor entertainment venues, Eugene Symphony is not able to present a chamber ensemble of 32 musicians at the Hult Center for the Performing Arts on Thursday, November 19 as originally planned in its recovery and resumption activities.

Instead, Eugene Symphony will present a video version of The Color of Sound, a concert from April 2019, complete with introductions from Music Director Francesco Lecce-Chong, interviews from collaborative partner Harmonic Laboratory, and a showcase of work by digital media artists that accompanied the orchestra’s performance.

The video recording will be shared in the following ways:

    • A one-time, free “streaming event” on Sunday, November 29 at 3pm PST, available to anyone anywhere in the world, without a password, and with a suggested donation of $15 per household.
    • Following the public streaming event, the video will be available on-demand through a password-protected site for ESA donors and members who give at least $300 per year (or $25 per month).

What: Symphony Soundwaves – The Color of Sound
When: Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 at 3:00 p.m. PT
Prices: Free; suggested donation of $15 per household

“While we were all looking forward to getting back together to make music again this week,” says Executive Director Scott Freck, “we are also fully committed to doing our part to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 in our community and believe that The Color of Sound recording will be a welcome offering.” The program originally planned for the November 29 virtual concert, which included three works for strings by women composers along with Mozart’s “Jupiter” Symphony, will be performed at a future date to be determined.

The Color of Sound was originally presented by Eugene Symphony on April 18, 2019 to a nearly sold-out audience in the Silva Concert Hall at the Hult Center for the Performing Arts. The multimedia performance marked the first time nationwide that an orchestra fully realized Russian composer Alexander Scriabin’s vision to fully envelop an audience in color and sound through an expressive and nuanced “light organ” he conceived of in theory in 1905 before the technology existed. Scriabin experienced synesthesia – a condition which combines two senses, causing him to associate colors with certain musical notes.

“Imagine that every musical note you heard translated to a specific color in your mind,” says Music Director & Conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong. “That was Scriabin’s belief, that every note has a correlating hue. This idea was the inspiration behind this performance and I was delighted for the Eugene Symphony to be the first orchestra to bring his dream to life with colors as varied, subtle, and spontaneous as the sounds of the instruments in performance.”

The Color of Sound featured two works by Scriabin – Prometheus: The Poem of Fire, and The Poem of Ecstasy – the first of which featured acclaimed pianist Christopher Taylor and rich tapestries of light that illuminated the hall.

Eugene-based companies Harmonic Laboratory and Light at Play partnered with the Eugene Symphony to provide an eight-foot LED Radiance Orb suspended above the stage and controlled in real time by a touch-sensitive keyboard. Harmonic Laboratory’s resident musician, Jeremy Schropp, played the Radiance Orb, using the keyboard and software developed with Yona Appletree, of Light at Play, allowing him to manipulate the color, intensity and motion of light around the orb in an intuitively musical manner.

For those in the audience, Lecce-Chong emphasized the idea of “feeling” the light, rather than watching it, as you would a fireworks display or a Pink Floyd Laser Show. “The color is all-encompassing, but subtle,” he said. “This isn’t like something you find at Disney World. It’s art.”

The video recording was originally intended for archival purposes only, so the experience watching it will not be as dynamic as it was in the hall. The recording will also include several short, familiar and well-loved classical pieces that were also performed during The Color of Sound. Those pieces were accompanied by moving digital projections created by local high school and college students who had completed a highly selective Music, Art & Technology mentorship with John Park of Harmonic Laboratory and University of Oregon’s Digital Arts Department, working monthly one-on-one and in group sessions to gain insight and knowledge.

The six-month educational component of The Color of Sound also included a partnership with Imagination International to bring a mobile art workshop, Artie the Art Bus, to three elementary schools in the months leading up to the concert. The two-day music and art project taught students about synesthesia. During each visit, students envisioned the connection between the senses of sound and sight and created abstract art based on the classical music they heard. The resulting artwork was displayed in the Hult Center lobby on the night of the performance.

The Color of Sound was made possible with grant support from the Nils and Jewel Hult Endowment – Arts Fund of The Oregon Community Foundation. Corporate sponsors included Imagination International, Inc., Summit Bank, and Ward Insurance.