Synaesthaesia + At MONA

The entry foyer of MONA at the opening of Synaesthaesia 2012.
The entry foyer of MONA at the opening of Synaesthaesia 2012.


Synaesthesia is a feature of the human nervous system that causes a blending of the senses where one sense can be experienced as another. Colours can be experienced as letters and numbers, hearing music can trigger smells or tastes, touch can stimulate vision.  

Only 1 in 2000 people experience the phenomenon of ‘synaesthesia’. Leonard Bernstein, Duke Ellington, David Hockney, György Ligeti, Franz Liszt, Olivier Messiaen, Marilyn Monroe, Geoffrey Rush, Vincent Van Gogh, Stevie Wonder, Jan Sibelius and Lady Gaga are all renowned synaesthetes.

Following the very successful inaugural event Synaesthesia: Music of Colour and Mind at the Museum of Old and New Art in Tasmania in 2012, the concept returns in 2014 with  SYNAESTHESIA+a collaboration between the Museum of Old and New Art and the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra that takes visitors on a two-day journey through a private playground of music, colour and art. Directed by bass guitarist and curator Brian Ritchie and Marko Letonja, Chief Conductor and Artistic Director of the Tasmanian Symphony,  SYNAESTHESIA+ will be an experience where music forms secret patterns in your mind and colours become an aural revelation; where a spectrum of visual, aural and culinary experiences gets you thinking about how you experience the sensory world around you. 

“This will be a journey of play, exploration and private immersion,” says SYNAESTHESIA+ co-Artistic Director Brian Ritchie. “Musicians will play old and new music as they move through MONA’s galleries, sparking differing levels of counterpoint. They will perform with custom-designed lighting installations as multiple musical themes happening simultaneously across different spaces.” 

“The SYNAESTHESIA+ journey begins with a special commission by Matthew Hindson, featuring 50 musicians from the TSO spread across MONA’s subterranean levels and spaces,” says TSO Chief Conductor and MONA Synaesthesia+ co-Artistic Director, Marko Letonja. “It will bring the entire museum into resonance in an unforgettable way before Richard Tognetti immediately launches into one of 20th century Romanian composer György Ligeti’s fiendish difficult works. Ligeti was himself a synaesthete.” 

Highlights include:

The Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra conducted by Marko Letonja

Allison Bell – Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire

David Dolan and musicians from ANAM – Bach improvisation project

Genevieve Lacey and the TSO performing Reinventions by Elena Kats-Chernin, and a solo show of music and lighting “strongly in the realm of the ecstatic”

Michael Goldschlager – selected Bach cello suites

Michael Kieran Harvey – selection of Scriabin’s solo piano works

Richard Tognetti performing Ligeti and solo Bach, with oscilloscopic lighting by Robin Fox

Steven Osborne – Messiaen’s Vingt Regards sur l’Enfant-Jesus in 20 movements

Tom Vincent trio in tribute to Thelonious Monk

TSO Chorus performing Bach chorales.

SYNAESTHESIA+ is a total saturation of senses, with music, art, and gastronomic feasts created by MONA’s decorated chefs.


BOOKINGS: The all-inclusive price (performance, food and drinks) is $250 per day or $450 for two days. Only 400 tickets are available for the weekend, on a first-come, first-served basis. Click here to book.

 MONA will close to all but SYNAESTHESIA+ guests.

Read our review of the inaugural Synaesthesia: Music of Colour and Mind in 2012

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