I learned this week about a condition called synesthesia, where one of your senses is stimulated but another of your senses responds. Someone with the condition might hear music, for example, and see colors. Or see colors and smell scents.

A composer in Russia a century ago is thought to have had that condition. Alexander Scriabin wrote a piece called Prometheus: The Poem of Fire, and wrote musical parts for piano, orchestra, a choir and an instrument he called “color organ.”

That was a piano keyboard linked to colored lights. Rather than producing sound, it produced colors. Scriabin wrote a whole part for it. Usually when other orchestras have played the piece, they’ve left out the color part. (On this Wikipedia page there are a couple of interesting graphics showing the relationship between the musical note name and the color Scriabin prescribed.)

But this weekend, the La Jolla Symphony and Chorus is presenting the work, complete with an iteration of the color organ. A local video artist, Ross Karre, has combined videos and lights to make an “instrument” that can play the parts that are written for color organ.

(There was a great eight-minute radio segment on a concert this week in New York City. A lighting designer and pianist collaborated to present the same Scriabin piece.)

We went to watch Karre rehearse with the orchestra on Wednesday night, and our news partners at NBC 7/39 joined us to take you behind the scenes to meet him and see this color and light concoction.

UPDATE: Here’s the clip from Friday’s newscast:

View more news videos at: https://www.nbcsandiego.com/video.

You can contact me directly at kelly.bennett@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0531 and follow me on Twitter: @kellyrbennett.

Kelly Bennett

Kelly Bennett is a former staff writer for Voice of San Diego.

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