Neil Harbisson

Neil Harbisson


Who is Neil Harbisson? According to Wikipedia, he is “is a Catalan-raised, British-born contemporary artist, musician, and cyborg activist best known for his self-extended ability to hear colours and to perceive colours outside the ability of human vision.” He was born unable to see colours. But in 2004 he got a permanent implant, known as the “Eyeborg”, which is a  “… head-mounted sensor that translates colour frequencies into sound frequencies.” (ibid.) This “Eyeborg” has been implanted in his head by a process called “osseointegration”. (Harbisson is identified in his passport as a cyborg. And, given this implant, he IS a cyborg.)

Here you can see him at a TED talk where he explains the “Eyeborg”.

harbissonchartUsing his “Eyeborg”, Harbisson composes what he calls colour performances. These performances (and his compositions) are based on his concept of sonochromaticism. He has developed a sonochromatic scale, which consists of 360 notes in an octave. You can watch a video that shows this scale here.

Here you can watch one of his performances, based on the colours of a collection of his socks.

Harbisson also creates “sound portraits” which are

 “Portraits of people that Harbisson creates by listening to the colours of faces. Each face creates a different micro tone chord depending on its colours. To create a sound portrait he needs to stand in front of the person and point his antenna at the different parts of the face, he then writes down the different notes on a special 360 lined manuscript paper. He explains that photographs cannot be used to create these portraits as colours are not the same on pictures than live. Since 2005, he has created sound portraits of, among others, Prince Charles, Woody Allen,[75]Antoni Tàpies, Leonardo DiCaprio, Dame Judy Dench, Moby, James Cameron, Peter Brook, Al Gore, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, Macy Gray, Gael García Bernal,[76] Alfonso Cuarón, Marina Abramović, Ryoji Ikeda, Gabriel Byrne,[77] Nicole Kidman, Dame Evelyn Glennie,[78] Steve Wozniak,[79] Tracey Emin and Giorgio Moroder.[80]” (Wikipedia)

Here you can watch his portrait of Valentino Blas. And here you can see/hear a number of his sound portraits, including Daniel Radcliffe, Prince Charles, and Woody Allen.

Here you can watch Harbisson and Moon Ribas talking about their foundation, Cyborg Foundation. And here you can link to the Cyborg Foundation site, and watch Harbisson explain his experiences with sound and colour.

As part of its advertising approach, Vodafone states that it wants to help people do things for the first time. Here is a video where Vodafone worked with Harbisson on a concert, using cell phones.

So, now that you know a bit about Neil Harbisson, take another look at the picture below, and imagine what he “sounds” like.





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