synesthesia revisited

Today’s post is a revisit of the synesthesia topic. Earlier I talked about an innovative new means of creating colorized tablature to promote this cross-wiring of the senses in new piano students…

9crimes

Last weekend (for this installment), I thought it would be interesting to attempt to write a MIDI version of this so that I could create that same sort of feedback using color. Only this time, I would be playing the notes directly on my Yamaha digital keyboard.

Screen Shot 2019-05-04 at 5.20.32 PM

requestMIDIAccess()

The magic mostly comes from the new feature navigator.requestMIDIAccess() that’s been recently added to Chrome in JavaScript.

USB cable

Of course, this needs a Type A to Type B USB cable to connect the computer with the Yamaha digital keyboard. Mine is a P-45 in case you were wondering. It also requires Yamaha’s USB-MIDI driver (available from their website).

Code

As usual, I’ve provided the source code so that you can also play with this if you’d like. Just verify that you’re on the OG-missing-C8 branch if you’d like the latest. At the moment, the master branch is just the original fork of ScottMorse’s work.

Repository

Update

The latest version now renders tablature in realtime as well as indicating the notes on the keyboard. It will do accidentals, rests and chords so far (just in quarter notes).

Screen Shot 2019-05-18 at 7.20.24 PM

o please, gentlemen, a little bluer…

Today’s inventiveness involves a new teaching method for music, a synesthetic approach to colorizing musical notes. The title’s quote comes from Franz Liszt, a 19th-century composer who was a synesthete—he saw music in full color.

Although western doctors probably think of synesthesia as a malady, I would suggest that it is a product of beneficial neuroplasticity. The brain has cross-wired itself across the senses to allow for better recognition and appreciation of something. There’s a long list of famous musicians and composers who wrote of this personal condition and in each case it helped them to succeed.

vexflow-syn

In order to promote this cross-wiring in young musical students, I’ve created a repository to colorize musical notes in client-side JavaScript. I’ve developed an organized method for this and have described the process there.

Compatibility

Given that the client-side JavaScript approach requires the newer HTML5 canvas features, this will work on newer browsers (and seems to be working in IE11 if you “allow blocked content”).

Musical Talent

I have always had a fondness and an early aptitude for music. In fact, I had such a brilliant audible memory and an ability to play anything I’d just heard, that I used this as a crutch when confronted with the task of learning to read musical notation. I didn’t actually have to read the notation in band since the sound of the music was in my head. So although I was a slow reader with respect to notation, nobody actually could tell.

My earliest formal training was for the saxophone, noting of course that you only play a single note at a time. Unfortunately, this led to my later difficulties in learning to play the piano in my thirties. Piano chords on a stave? To me, this just seemed like jumbles of notes piled on top of each other. I had no easy way of interpreting what I was seeing.

After many weeks of painstakingly trying to decypher these heiroglyphics, if you will, I began to have a small breakthrough. My brain started to recognize some patterns. Due to some unfortunate timing, I had to stop all this training and abruptly move and had to sell the piano. It would be another decade until I’d bought another piano to re-learn piano notation.

Attacking the learning of chords-in-notation anew, I realize that colorizing the notes would be a benefit to me.  All C notes are red.  All E notes are yellow.  C-E-G are primary colors (C-maj).  The Eb in the middle of the C-min chord is more orange than the original yellow. A synesthetic approach to musical notation is a wonderful adaptation to a centuries-old teaching methodology I’d suggest, at least in my own case.