Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The First Time Ever I Heard Your Face

Neil Harbisson is a color-blind (achromatopsia) artist from Spain who has a cybernetic "third eye" attached to his head that enables him to hear color. This also makes him a genuine cyborg. Since 2005, Harbisson has used his sonochromatic retina to design sound portraits of famous people. The first person he experimented on was the immediate heir to the British throne, HRH The Prince of Wales.

He scans the eyes, hair and skin color of his subjects and works the individual notes into a musical chord. Harbisson explained, “Prince Charles noticed my electronic eye so, I politely asked him if I could listen to his face.” Apparently Prince Charles' lips sounded like a high E [a blue blood? --njg]. But his hair was almost inaudible—musically thin due to male-pattern baldness.

Some notable quotes from a recent BBC Outlook interview:

  • Color as words are "really, really, really, impossible to understand"
  • "Color has a frequency that we can't hear"
  • "Red is between F and F#" [? I would've thought it was A/A#. --njg]
  • "I hear the color through my bones, not through my ears"
  • The BBC interviewer's voice is "between orange and red"
  • Neil's fave "color" is Aubergine, which has a high pitched tone
  • "White is silent" [? I would've thought that was black. --njg]
And finally, here is Neil with his Eyeborg on daily maneuvers (video).

Related post: The Colorful Blind Painter