Fascinated since his undergraduate days with the psychological and aesthetic relation between sound and color, composer and visual artist, MICHAEL POAST has developed a unique notation system using the auditory and the visual in fluid shapes and vivid hues. Holding an undergraduate degree from the University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music and a Master of Fine Art degree from the City University of New York, Poast is a member of the faculty at Pratt Institute and St. John’s University and has given Color Music workshops at the Juilliard School. Poast lectures on his Color Music concept at such locations as Rutgers University, St. John’s University, and the Queens Museum of Art, New York City. He is Director of the InterMedia Ensemble in New York and while Composer-in Residence at the Players Theatre in Greenwich Village, his Six-Dimensional Color Music, was premiered by members of the New York New Music Ensemble.
“Among the most innovative visual expressions in contemporary music theory”, as stated by critic, Dennis Wepman, his work has been featured at avant-garde festivals in Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall, The Sonic Boom Festival at Columbia University’s Miller Theatre, and the American Museum of the Moving Image. Poast’s celebrated Color Music Mass, premiered, with the composer conducting, at the Saint Peter’s Church at Citicorp’s Classical Concert Series, New York, in 2013. The Karpeles Manuscript Museum hosted an exhibition of his Color Music scores with recordings of performances, in 2015.
Performances of Poast’s Color Music Concerto for French Horn and Orchestra, premiered with Kat Robinson, soloist with the University of Maryland’s TEMPO Ensemble and The TEMPO Ensemble also premiered Poast’s Color Music for Chamber Ensemble (2010), on concerts in April 2019. In February 2019, Poast was invited to compose color scores for Cody Hosza and Justin Fields to perform premieres of Color Music Timelessness and Linear Color Music, at the Divine Mercy Parrish Concert Series in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY. In 2021 Poast featured Color Music Timelessness scores in a solo exhibition at Gallery Gaia, in Brooklyn, NY. In conjunction with this show, a musical ”reading” of the scores took place in October, 2021, with subsequent Color Music Jam sessions each week, through November, sponsored by New York City Artist Corps and a grant from New York Foundation on the Arts. In January 2022, Michael Poast’s Color Music for Chamber Ensemble (2007), was premiered and sponsored by Composers Concordance, in a concert entitled “Charts and Graphics”, the composer conducting.
Michael Poast is currently engaged with writing a book about his Color Music concept and was an awardee in 2018, of the Queens Council on the Arts “New Work Grant”, to write Color Music Philosophy. Color Music, described in the New York Daily News as “Freshly off the beaten path”, has won Poast honors and awards for both his visual art and music, including the Lila Acheson Wallace Fund, Meet the Composer, the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, the Gottlieb Foundation, the Otto Luening Foundation, Queens Council on the Arts, New York Foundation for the Arts, NYSCA, ASCAP, and the BETA Foundation. Color Music can be viewed on YouTube channel: Color Music 100.
Color Music incorporates visual color patterns equated with musical sound notation and triggers sound production by the performers. In performance, I insist on the projection of these color scores or other ways of conveying their visual aspect along with the sound realization so that it is viewable by the musicians and audience. Color Music expresses extra-musical characteristics that are part of its whole process and perception. The color notation and sound it evokes creates sensations beyond the scope of one art form and takes us into an interrelated, enhanced and intensified work of art.” --Michael Poast, from Color Music: Visual Color Notation for Musical Expression, Leonardo Journal, 2000
Color Music is notated on music paper or other surfaces with hues and geometric/organic forms and shapes that define specific rhythms, tempos and tonalities. For example: bright lemon yellow color would be realized in the high pitch range, red is mid-range sound and dark purple and blues are low pitch range. There are many types and values of colors. Color and pitch cannot be designated by a one-note-one color chart. Harmony depends on color relationships.
Rhythm is indicated by brushstroke of the colors. Active, repeated brushstroke would evoke lively rhythms. Tempo is also indicated by the colors and values, dark colors tend to be slower, bright colors tend to be faster. Multiple tempos could be happening at the same time, creating a flow and counterpoint to the sound. Silence is also an important aspect to Color Music. White or non painted areas must be observed as rests or silences. The visual-time space merge creating a total work of art, integrating multiple levels of sensory experience for the performers and audience. Dynamics directly relate to paint saturation in the color notation. Dense paint saturation equates loud dynamics, softer sound would be lighter colors or more transparent colors.
1- A projector for the projected images of the scores (no music stands needed)
2- screen to project on ( a white back wall, behind orchestra, is a good alternative to a screen)
3-staging is important so the projected images can be read by the orchestra and viewed by the audience at the same time
4-conductor should stand in the middle of the back of the stage, in front of the projected score, and point directly to the score for cues, orchestra
split on stage left and right
Color Music by Michael Poast
Gallery Gaia Brooklyn, NYC
Videographer: John-Francis Bourke
Composer and Visual Artist Michael Poast
"Freshly off the beaten path" - Daily News