Connecting crossmodal interactions in visual music to create "mindful" experiences

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University of New Brunswick


Our society experiences the illusive juxtaposition of sound and images on television, the internet, smartphones and other media devices on a daily basis. Artists can use audiovisuals to create realities strikingly similar to the natural world to create meaning, to create an aesthetic, to facilitate learning or even to provide a therapeutic experience. How artists utilize these elements can have tremendous impact on whether or not the work achieves crossmodal integration or a “unity assumption” for the viewer. Crossmodal integration refers to the perception of multiple sensory stimuli interacting, whereas the “unity assumption” is the observer’s belief that the sensory cues belong together. This thesis examines participants’ experiences of crossmodal integration and the “unity assumption” with Visual Music, an art historical term referring to abstract visuals connected to sound, in a multimedia installation. Participants experienced an audiovisual exhibit, Tropos, and were subsequently interviewed. Their responses to the installation were analyzed using grounded theory analysis and a theoretical model was produced to explain their experiences. Results also suggested that participants believed that these experiences would be useful for aesthetic, educational or therapeutic purposes. This thesis provides a grounded theory model which suggests that when motion, sound, colour, shape and space create a crossmodal interaction, it can lead to “mindful” states. The model provides strategies to increase the likelihood of achieving mindfulness with crossmodal interactions, such as using combinations that are appealing to the majority or increasing the artistic or sensory combinations explored in the public school system.