- Colour blind Spanish artist and musician Neil Harbisson uses music to ‘hear’ colour and teaches orchestra and choir to play based on same principles
- Using mobile technology, British-born Harbisson composes and conducts a unique musical experience
- Vodafone supports Harbisson’s ambition to demonstrate the potential for technology to enhance human experience as part of its global Firsts programme
Neil Harbisson was born with achromatopsia, which means he sees no colour. But he developed an electronic ‘eye’, which he wears on his forehead to enable him to interpret colours as different musical frequencies. The device, which Harbisson calls his “antenna,” converts light into higher or lower-pitched tones that Harbisson hears through bone conduction.
Now, with Vodafone’s support, Harbisson has composed a piece of music based on the colours of Barcelona’s Palau de la Musica, and has taught an orchestra and choir to ‘hear’ colours in the same way as he does.
In a world first, 42 members of the Palau’s Youth Choir and the Catalan Quartic String Quartet performed his musical score, playing and singing notes based only on the colours they saw on the tablet devices in front of them. The tablets were centrally controlled – or conducted – by Neil Harbisson
Through mobile technology, Harbisson was able to record the colours of the Palau de la Musica using a tablet. He then composed the score on a similar device, and directed his musicians using his tablet to beam different colours simultaneously to members of the choir and string quartet.
Harbisson has also developed an app to allow people to experience colour in the same way as him. It uses a smartphone’s camera to analyse colour and transform it into a sound that is played through the smartphone’s speaker.
A world first, Harbisson’s concert is the latest of many stories that make up Vodafone Firsts*: A programme about inspiring people to do something remarkable for the first time with the help of mobile technology. More about Neil’s story and others can be found at www.firsts.com.
Neil Harbisson said: “To see other people performing colours for the first time was a thrilling feeling for me. For so long now I’ve been living in my own world, the only one hearing colour. It was so emotional to have other people come into my world for the first time.”
Vodafone Group Brand Director Barbara Haase said: “Vodafone Firsts is about personal innovation and inspiring people to think in a new way. What I love about Neil’s First is that it takes mobile technology and uses it in a way no one has ever done before. It’s exactly that kind of innovation that we are celebrating with Vodafone Firsts.”
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Note to Editors
About Vodafone Firsts
Vodafone Firsts is Vodafone’s global brand programme, activated across the world from 2014. A social media-led programme, Vodafone Firsts is about inspiring people to do something remarkable for the first time using mobile technology. Vodafone has recruited a series of inspirational people to help them achieve their Firsts. Vodafone will also ask consumers what they would like to do for the first time, helping to make their ambitions a reality.
Vodafone is one of the world's largest telecommunications companies with approximately 411 million customers in its controlled and jointly controlled markets as of 30 September 2013. Vodafone has equity interests in telecommunications operations in nearly 30 countries and around 50 partner networks worldwide.
About Neil Harbisson
Neil Harbisson is a Spanish artist who has dedicated the last ten years of his life to campaigning for a greater understanding of the potential for technology to enhance the human experience. Born colour blind, Neil has worn his ‘Eyeborg’ antenna for a decade, which enables him to experience colour through sound.
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