Neil Harbisson was born with with achromatopsia, a condition that left him with the inability to see color. His visual palette is various shades of gray. But that hasn’t stopped the Barcelona artist from experiencing the vibrancy of the world. Instead of seeing colors, he hears them.
For the last 10 years, Harbisson has worn an antennae-like electronic eye, implanted directly into his skull, that he calls his “eyeborg.” It includes a camera that records and translates colors into sound frequencies that he can hear via bone conduction to his inner ear. Every color Harbisson sees corresponds to a note: G is yellow, Red is F, orange is F sharp, A is green, C is blue and so on.
“Feeling like a cyborg was a gradual process,” he told Dezeen. “First, I felt that the eyeborg was giving me information, afterwards I felt it was giving me perception, and after a while it gave me feelings. It was when I started to feel color and started to dream in color that I felt the extension was part of my organism.”
In his latest project, Harbisson taught musicians in Barcelona’s Palau de la Musica youth choir and the Catalan Quartic String Quartet to play music based on colors, not notes. In collaboration with Vodafone, he designed a software that captured the Palau de la Musica’s brilliant greens, oranges and blues.
Harbisson then created a score based off those colors and taught his methods to the musicians. Instead of playing notes from sheet music, they took cues from onstage flashes of light to play the corresponding notes. During the performance, Harbisson conducted the musicians with an iPad that allowed him to alter the stage lights.
Credit: Neil Harbisson