Synesthetic is an artistic project for percussion, electronics, composition, and lighting based in Oslo, Norway.


This project will experiment with new modes of performance for percussion, lights, electronic sounds and sensing. Percussionist Christina Hopgood, composer Gisli Gretarsson, and music technologist Charles Martin will collaborate in the spring of 2017 to develop new performance tools and strategies to create an interactive performance work. The last session will be one week at NyDans Oslo to experiment with combining electronics/lights with percussion in a theatre setting.

Artistic Aim:

The name of the project, “Synesthetic” comes from the neurological phenomenon “Synesthesia“ in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway. Although synesthesia can result in mixing of any of the five senses, for the purposes of our project, we are focussing on the particular occurrence when the hearing of a certain sound induces the visualization of a certain color. The French composer Olivier Messiaen “suffered” from a form of synaesthesia. “I see colours when I hear sounds,” Messiaen explained to the French critic Claude Samuel in 1988, “but I don’t see colours with my eyes. I see colours intellectually, in my head.” This phenomenon is the inspiration for this pre-project, where we will experiment with new modes of performance and composition for percussion, coloured lights, electronic sounds and sensing.

In this pre-project, we aim to develop a compositional language that connects sound, percussive gesture, and light which can be applied through both composition and performance. The composer and performers will share responsibilities for developing and controlling these aspects during performance using gestural sensors and live control over composed and improvised electronic sound and lighting cues during performances. We will experiment with and develop technologies to express these connections, then develop a test performance in a theatrical setting.

Percussion is often seen as a visually motivated discipline with a gestural language that goes beyond what is required to create sounds on the instruments. We propose to use electronic sensing and lighting to enhance and emphasise the performers’ movements. In this way, we seek to blend the sonic and visual aspects of performance in a fundamental way. This goal is inspired both by the possibilities of new technologies such as Arduino microcontrollers and RGB LED lighting as well as the neurological condition synaesthesia.

While this pre-project includes a percussionist, composer and music technologist, a future goal of this work would be to include dance as well as musical performance. The electronic lights and sensors could easily be extended to be wearable by dancers and other performers.


About us

Christina Hopgood

Christina Hopgood is a self-employed musician and music teacher, specialising in percussion with ten years experience as a professional performer.  For the past six years, she has taught around 30 students across two schools in Canberra, Australia.  Christina’s specialty is performance as a ragtime xylophone soloist but she has also played with various bands, orchestras and new music ensembles across the world.  Christina has a double-degree in Music (Performance) and Science (Psychology) from the Australian National University, where she received First Class Honours in Music in 2011. She has  won two projects grants from ArtsACT (local government) in 2010 and 2011 to attend specialty training in the USA and to perform and collaborate with percussionists in Sweden. 

Gísli Jóhann Grétarsson

Gisli Gretarsson is a self-employed composer and conductor. For the last five years he has been living and working in Norway, conducting several choirs, orchestra and ensembles as well as composing for choirs, string quartets, ensembles different variety and several chamber operas, that have been performed in across Europe and in USA. His last chamber opera Team Player had its premier in May 2016 in Oslo.  Gretarsson was originally educated as a classical guitarist. He later undertook undergraduate and graduate studies in composition with orchestral conducting as minor subjects, at the Piteå college of Music (Sweden) in 2012.

Charles Martin

Charles Martin is a specialist in percussion, computer music, and interactive media from Canberra, Australia. He links percussion with electroacoustic music and other media through new technologies. His works, described as “a thing of rare beauty” in The West Australian have been performed throughout Australia, Europe and the USA and presented at international conferences on computer music and percussion. He also has ten years experience teaching percussion from primary to tertiary levels. Charles is currently postdoctoral fellow in interactive music at University of Oslo.  


This project was supported by  Norsk Kulturråd: FORPROSJEKT SCENEKUNST