University of Hertfordshire

By the same authors

Euphoria: research exploring a novel area of synaesthesia through music

Research output: Non-textual formComposition

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Original languageEnglish
Publication statusIn preparation - 30 Jun 2021


Composer and Professor of Music, Timothy Blinko works with ideas from perception science, gestalt psychology, synaesthesia and cosmology. From research study with leading synaesthesia researchers and synaesthetics, he will create a major choral work for human voices called Euphoria. Exploring a new aspect of synaesthesia, it will be performed by singers of The Sixteen/Genesis Sixteen at King’s Place, London, and an installation in leading hospitals will reach a wider audience, supporting patients pre- and post-operative recovery. Euphoria will be disseminated through publication and a permanent YouTube channel to maximise impact. A symposium and public engagement talks will also enrich the research.

Location of research

• with Dr Noam Sagiv at the Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience at Brunel University
• with Professor James Ward at the Synaesthesia Research Group at the University of Sussex
• research practice (creation of words and music), will be carried out in acoustic and digital music studios at the University of Hertfordshire
• a symposium will be held at Kings Place, London, with a performance in Hall One, Kings Place, London in June 2022
• an installation will be set-up in Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge in September 2022 with agreed subsequent installations in Oxford University Hospitals (John Hopkins - October 2022) and University College Hospital, London (November 2022).


I devised a novel creative response to the neurological phenomenon of synaesthesia in a commission from Professor Stephen Darlington, Choragus of the University of Oxford, for Christ Church Cathedral Choir, Oxford. The choral work A New Song reached the biggest audiences of the year at the cathedral in 2012. Originality lay in the use of music and sound to evoke cross-modal evocations of touch, taste and smell. Words, sensations and experiences were evoked by novel, unvoiced and voiced extended vocal techniques, humming and song, broadening the expressive range; while new harmonic structures, called interchords were deployed to create an innovative soundworld.

•‘Thank you for writing such a wonderful piece. It caused a stir for all the right reasons, and will certainly hold a place in our repertoire.’– Professor Stephen Darlington

A second research output informing this application was the music created for The World’s Most Relaxing Room. The key innovation was the creation of music specifically related to a psychology literature review by Prof. Richard Wiseman. For details, see website link below.

Users benefitted from reduced pulse rates and blood pressure, citing the music as a determinant factor. It became a top global news story of the week, was covered by BBC TV News, the Times, Telegraph, Guardian, Mail etc. in the UK, and the Times said ‘The Music was euphoric.’ The Euphoria project develops from these two successful projects, and both works can be heard at the proto project website:

Research Questions

Typically, research has focussed on synaesthetic musicians such as the composer, Messiaen, who experienced colours when hearing music (JW Bernard 1986, J Ward 2013). This new inquiry investigates and develops a novel approach:

• Can music be composed to evoke cross-modal sensory experiences such as taste, touch or smell in a general audience?

• From principles derived from current research, can a methodology be devised to evoke novel cross-modal sensory experiences through musical composition?

The answer to the first question will result through the process of inquiry and composition of the music itself. And in response to the second question, a methodology will be devised to benefit other composers and music and synaesthesia researchers.

Achieving the objectives:

Key research ideas and research practice will be discussed and presented at critical points:

• Initially I will present current work and first thoughts to the Synaesthesia Research Group at Sussex University: gaining critical insight and feedback to influence the course of the research.
• A symposium at King’s Place, London, with invited academics, curators, and scientists discussing the research in the wider context of synaesthesia - chaired by Damian Hebron, Director of London Arts in Health Forum/Head of Arts at Cambridge University Hospitals.
• The world premiere of Euphoria in June 2022, at Hall One, King’s Place, London, with singers of world leading ensemble The Sixteen (‘A Tiny Soundbite of Heaven’ – The Times)
• An installation in at least one leading teaching hospital, where pre- and post-operative patients and the general public can experience Euphoria. A short response form will measure impact.
• Ongoing public engagement legacy through a permanent YouTube Channel video performance.
• Publication of the score of Euphoria to enter the repertoire of other ensembles and choirs (my current choral publishers are Music Haven, and Kevin Mayhew Ltd.)
• The proto Euphoria website will be developed with a blog to document the development of the research project, with news items, links to synaesthesia research and resources with an imbedded video of the final work, performed by singers of The Sixteen/Genesis Sixteen.

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