Attenborough Arts Centre has worked with Professor Andrew Hugill for many years, and are now thrilled to announce his involvement with BBC’s ‘Culture in Quarantine’, with his musical project Spectrum Sounds, in partnership with Arts Council England, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Arts Council of Wales, Creative Scotland, Unlimited and the Attenborough Arts Centre. Arising out of lockdown, ‘Spectrum Sounds’ is a collection of seven short pieces of music in the colours of the spectrum.
Prof. Andrew Hugil was diagnosed autistic in 2018 at the age of 60, an event that has led to a substantial re-evaluation of his life experience and has had a profound influence on his musical practices. He also has Ménière’s Disease, diagnosed in 2009, a balance disorder that has caused severe hearing loss, tinnitus and diplacusis (in which the two ears hear different pitches).
“As an autistic man, my listening has several distinctive features: heightened sensitivity to patterns or details that others do not always notice; the ability to decompose music or soundscape into its constituent parts; and the synaesthetic association of colours with certain musical and non-musical sounds. Severe hearing loss has further coloured and distorted my listening.”
There are seven different pieces for seven different musicians. Each piece is accompanied by an evocative transcription: a video that interprets the piece in a visual way. It is hoped that this will make the music accessible to as many people as possible.
‘Spectrum Sounds’ is about both neurodivergence and aural diversity. The aim is to draw out the richness and beauty of sound colours in ways that may be appreciated by the target audiences of neurodivergent and aurally diverse people, and anybody else who has a willingness to listen in a different way.
The pieces gather sounds that are associated with the colours of the spectrum. In some cases this is literal, resulting from my synaesthesia which perceives sounds as colours, and in others it is associative, based on correspondences between their interiorities. So, for example, the blue song includes trumpet and the sound of wind, both of which have a strongly blue colouration to my ears, along with various pitch and timbre combinations that draw out their relationships.
To make the work more accessible, each piece is accompanied by an ‘evocative transcription’ video that conveys the music visually and/or textually to non-cochlear listeners. This develops the visual composition method I first used in my ACE-funded composition ‘Thirty Minutes for Diplacusis Piano’, where a scrolling spectrogram enables identification of sounds which either I cannot hear or are distorted by my hearing. In ‘Spectrum Sounds’, I use all types of sound rather than just piano and adopt a more systematised and sophisticated approach to both image and sound processing.