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Victor Poast

Color Music Mass

Victor Poast, St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Department of Fine Arts


Color Music, conceived and composed by Michael Poast, is an alternative form of musical notation comprised of visual colors and shapes.  The performers derive all dramatic and musical sound from the painted visual scores.  For example: lemon yellow represents high, bright sound; bright red indicates mid-range pitch and fast, pulsating rhythm; shape delineates musical line and different types of brushstrokes evoke rhythmic variations.  Color Music speaks to audiences and performers on multiple sensory levels simultaneously.  By reading the score projections along with the musicians, observing the color relationships, forms and textural differences and how it relates to what they are hearing, the interrelatedness of Color Music is revealed.

Color Music incorporates visual color patterns equated with musical sound notation and triggers sound production by the performers.  There are many different types of red, for instance, therefore, the colors and how they delineate sound can be complicated, yet simple, if thought of in ranges of colors equivalent to sound ranges.

“In performance, I insist on the projection of these color scores or other ways of conveying their visual aspect along with the sound realization.  Color Music expresses extra-musical characteristics that are part of its whole process and perception.  The color notation and sound it evokes creates sensations beyond the scope of one art form and takes us into an interrelated, enhanced and intensified work of art.”—Michael Poast, from Color Music: Visual Color Notation for Musical Expression, Leonardo Journal, 2000.