Research Alive | Crossmodal correspondences in composing and listening to music

Wednesday, March 16, 2022 17:00to19:00
Elizabeth Wirth Music Building Tanna Schulich Hall, 527 rue Sherbrooke Ouest, Montreal, QC, H3A 1E3, CA
Free Admission

This event be webcast on our YouTube channel: bit.ly/SchulichWebcasts

Chelsea Komschiles
, composer, Winner of the 2021-2022 Research Alive Student Prize
Clara Gerdes Bartz, organ

Chelsea KOMSCHLIES To Starboard, Star-Bound


About the presentation

We often reach for crossmodal metaphor to describe music--it sounds warm, or velvety, or rough, spiky, jagged, smooth, glassy, or bright, etc. What if these metaphors were not as subjective as we might think, but had a scientific, neurological basis? This talk explains how music can actually encode visuals and other cross-sensory information in a consistent and shared way among people, based on the area of psychological research known as crossmodal correspondences. We'll listen to several examples of composers who have intuitively used them in their work, including Claude Debussy, Kaija Saariaho, and Will Stackpole, and the talk will conclude with a live performance by Clara Gerdes of my solo organ work, To Starboard, Star-Bound,  which is meant to encode visuals in a cinematic way.

About the artists

Chelsea Komschlies’ compositions spring from synesthetic imagery and crossmodal correspondences, and she aims to trigger the same in her listeners. Ms. Komschlies is a Ph.D. student of Jean Lesage at McGill University, where she was recently awarded the Andrew Svoboda Prize for Orchestral Composition, with a performance of the new work by Alexis Hauser and the McGill Symphony Orchestra coming in the fall of 2022. Upcoming performances also include a synesthetically-conceived work for the Bozzini Quartet commissioned by the ACTOR project to be performed at McGill in May. Ms. Komschlies previously studied with David Ludwig, Richard Danielpour, and Jennifer Higdon at the Curtis Institute of Music, where she won the Alfredo Casella Award for Composition, and with Daniel Kellogg and Carter Pann at CU-Boulder, where she was awarded the Thurston Manning Composition Award and Cecil Effinger Fellowship in Composition. Ms. Komschlies has been programmed by Alarm Will Sound, the Omaha Symphony, Choral Arts Philadelphia, and the Fifth House Ensemble, and by presenters such as Codes d’accèss (Montreal), Le Vivier (Montreal), CAMARADA (San Diego), the Philadelphia Bach Festival, the Boulanger Initiative, and Make Music Chicago. She has received fellowships from the the National Orchestral Institute, the Aspen Music Festival, where she was the first woman ever to win the Hermitage Prize, the Fontainebleau School where Nadia Boulanger once taught, the Lake Champlain Chamber Music Festival, Copland House’s CULTIVATE, and several other festivals in the U.S. and abroad. Ms. Komschlies’ Ph.D. research finds applications for psychological research in crossmodal correspondences within the fields of music composition, meaning, and analysis. 

Clara Gerdes, from Davidson, North Carolina, is a 2021 graduate of the Yale Institute of Sacred Music where she studied with Martin Jean. She recently graduated from the Curtis Institute of Music where she studied with Alan Morrison, also receiving diplomas in Early Music and Improvisation. She received first prizes in the Albert Schweitzer, AGO-Quimby Mid-Atlantic Regional and UNCSA School of the Arts organ competitions; was the recipient of the 2020 Baker Prize in Organ Performance and the 2021 Julia Sherman Award for Excellence in Organ Playing from Yale; and received the first annual Pogorzelski-Yankee scholarship from the American Guild of Organists. This season, Clara will be performing around the eastern and Midwestern US, with highlights including giving the dedication concert of the new organ at Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral and closing recital at the East Texas Pipe Organ Festival in New Orleans, LA. She has been a featured performer at the 2021 AGO National OrganFest, 2018 AGO National Convention, 2017 AGO Regional Convention and the 2019 National Conference of the Church Music Association of America, as well as at Spoleto Festival USA, Oregon Bach Festival, Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts and the Uncommon Music Festival in Sitka, Alaska. Clara has given recitals at a variety of churches and cathedrals around the country, most notably the Cathedral of St John the Divine and Washington National Cathedral. Pre-Covid, Clara served as Assistant Organist at Saint Bartholomew’s Church, Park Avenue in New York City and was previously Organ Scholar at Saint Mark’s Church, Locust Street in Philadelphia. She now serves as Director of Music at Most Holy Redeemer and Nativity Parish in Manhattan, New York, where her responsibilities include overseeing the restoration of the parish's 1891 Roosevelt organ.

Help keep our community safe

Procedural masks must be worn at all times in Schulich buildings and concert halls, including during the performance. Masks will be available upon entrance to the Elizabeth Wirth and Strathcona Music Buildings.

Find out more about attending events at Schulich

Back to top