Saskatoon Jazz Orchestra and Artist Allyson Glenn Collaborate on Unique Dimensions in Sound Program
Live music can be a feast for the senses, but for Allyson Glenn, it’s an experience with a much deeper effect.
“It’s really funny,” Glenn said. “I for some reason memorized all the colors of the numbers on the wall when I was a kid and for some reason every time I think of a number I have this color thing.”
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Shortly after sharing this fact about herself with a graduate school colleague at the age of 24, she heard the term synesthesia for the first time.
“It wasn’t until a few years later and some Googling and learning a bit more about it that I realized I had different forms,” Glenn said.
Some experts refer to synesthesia as a neurological condition, but for Glenn, it’s more of a phenomenon that allows him to experience one of his senses through another.
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“Numbers are colors,” Glenn said. “But numbers also have personalities and genders. The number eight is red and feminine and the seven is masculine and green, that sort of thing. The letters have color, but I have no gender association with them.
Glenn said she often remembered a person by the color associated with the first letter of their name, and often had the flash of color before the person’s name came to her.
His unique vision of the world is what inspired a collaboration with the Saskatoon Jazz Orchestra in 2018.
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“We started talking and Dean McNeill, who’s the artistic director, said if you were doing visuals for one of our shows,” Glenn said, “and I was like, ‘Well, you know that I can see shapes and forms and they move me through space when I hear a sound.
Glenn said that around this time she started learning how to do 3D animation. With the help of a game program, she was able to develop 3D shapes in and out of space. The images were then projected behind the orchestra.
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The feedback was so positive that they came together again to create two unique scores for Dimensions in Sound. The collaboration this time around, Glenn said, was approached in some ways more scientifically.
“The composers were commissioned by the Saskatoon Jazz Orchestra,” Glenn said. “Then they approached me with a bunch of sounds they had recorded and asked me to write down what I saw based on the sound I would hear.”
Twenty sounds were given to Glenn to listen to and she was asked to fill out a form with what she could see.
Glenn said it allowed composers to develop music knowing it would trigger certain visuals to reappear in the music score.
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“They gave me the music but didn’t tell me about the origin or the inspiration,” Glenn said. “And they also didn’t know what kind of visuals I would create for the music.”
Two songs with two very different themes, “Above the Deluge” made Glenn think of the sea and an underwater experience, while “In the Fray” gave Glenn a more industrial sound that inspired old movie footage that she said looked drawn.
For artistic director Dean McNeill, Dimensions in Sound was an experience that helped him grow as a musician.
“This project and music in general,” McNeill said. “But this project really taught me not to assume you know someone else’s story.”
It is a program that we hope will give participants a better understanding of how unique music can be experienced.
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