I asked the boy who cannot see

Improvisation based on a poem

The following poem need not necessarily be interpreted musically. It can inspire you to think about synesthetic relationships between colors and sounds.  Based on associations you have with particular colors you can make a musical color-improvisation.

I asked the boy who cannot see (anonymous)
I asked the little boy who cannot see,
"And what is color like?"
"Why green", said he,
"Is like the rustle of the wind when it blows through
The forest; running water, that is blue;
And red is like a trumpet sound; and pink
I like the smell of roses; and I think
That purple must be like a thunderstorm;
And yellow is like something soft and warm;
And white is a pleasant stillness when you lie
And dream."


Pre-reading activity (individual work)

What is your favorite color? What do you associate/connect with this color? What memories or sensations/events/stories come to your mind? Take notes on a sheet of paper (A4). Write the name of the color in the middle of the sheet in big letters. If possible use your favorite color to write on the sheet.

While-listening activity (individual work):

Listen to your teacher reading the poem. Follow along the written words. Mark each color that is mentioned in the poem.

Post-reading actitivities:

Individual work: Make a list of the colors mentioned. What sounds or sensations are associated with each color?

Plenum: Present your findings in class and check results.

Individual work: Select one sound or noise within the music room that best fits your associations with your favorite color. Explore the sound or noise and experiment with repetitive rhythms that come to your mind when playing. Stick to one rhythm you like best.

Plenum: Share your color-rhythms in class and guess which color each of you had in mind. Now show your class your color sheet and put it in front of you so everyone can see it.

Conducting: Take turns in conducting the whole group while playing the rhythm patterns over and over again. Your teacher will show you how.

Don’t forget to:

  • have a clear beginning and ending
  • play with contrasts: loud – quiet, individual sounds, groups of sounds, all sounds together, sounds grouped according to their color

It is also possible to set the poem to music, of course. In groups of four you may have a closer look at the poem and decide who is going to recite it, where your color rhythms may be used, how long they should be played and if the music should have an on-going beat.