This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Illuminating Music: A Research and Product Design Study Applying Synesthesia and Ambient Peripheral Display Theory to the Violin




Phillips, Foster

Type of Degree



Industrial Design


See. Hear. Taste. Smell. Touch. The senses are the conduit from the external to the internal. There are a select few who live in an almost unimaginable world where two or more of their senses are joined. There are many varieties of the phenomenon known as synesthesia; one of the most common forms is chromophonia, or colored-hearing. People who have colored-hearing see colors when they hear sound. Often, these colors are directly related to the pitch of the particular notes they are hearing. Is it possible for this concept to be translated for all to experience? The process by which a distinctly new instrument, complete with an integrated music illumination system, was created will be documented in this thesis. The steps taken to bring this idea from concept to reality will be thoroughly detailed. These steps include: research into synesthesia, the fundamental concepts of music, ambient peripheral displays, the history of visual music, and the development of the violin and electric violin, as well as user-centered design practices such as the administration of a color-to-tone association survey and physical tests for increased user comfort. The production process of the instrument and the development of the electronic components of the music illumination system will also be documented. In the end, the instrument developed became known as the Vivisi electric violin. The Vivisi electric violin has two main uses: as a performance instrument and a training tool. As a performance instrument the violin uses the music illumination system to create an ambient display of real-time musical rhythm, pattern and dynamics. As a training tool the violin uses the tuning illumination system to provide positive peripheral feedback to those who are learning to play in tune. Both the music illumination system and tuning illumination system have application beyond the electric violin, as does this thesis. The process used to create the Vivisi electric violin can be employed in the design of a variety of products, but it will be most applicable to designs involving the ambient display of information using colored light and to designs of musical instruments.