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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Songs for Synesthetes

All songs are essentially songs for synesthetes, people whose sensory perceptions are crosswired in one way or another. (A popular book on the topic is called "The Man Who Tasted Shapes.") One form of this cross-wiring is the visualization of music - not necessarily in a manner that would be comparable to a music video, but something more akin to the alien data representation in the movie Predator. For me, this effect often presents itself during the hypnagogic and hypnopompic states, the transitional periods where one is "going into" or "pulling out of" sleep.*

Two songs for which this effect is most pronounced were covered in a single post a little more than two years ago: "Clocks" by Coldplay and "Maps" by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. But thanks to the vicissitudes of the Internet and the predations of lawyers, the videos to which I originally linked are no longer available. Here are new versions which I hope will stick around for a while:

...OK, this first one isn't embeddable. Right-click on the image below to go to the video, or click here. You'll probably have to sit through an annoying commercial.

I first heard "Clocks" when I was in a friend's car in Ireland. The imagery the song first evoked was a dust storm on the far horizon of a broad, gray plain. Since then it has changed, and I now perceive the song as a sort of horizontal wheel, something like a Ferris Wheel on its side. The rotational period of the wheel corresponds to the time it takes to repeat the opening piano notes.

I'm not sure where or when I first heard "Maps", but I know where I was when it first hit me: I was driving my car along East Lackawanna Avenue in Olyphant, not far from where I work. When this song came on the radio it was like being hit in the head by a low-speed high-torque 3/4" auger bit that managed to penetrate my skull and then jammed, causing my entire body to rotate along with the bit lodged in my skull.

Interesting that both songs conjure up sensory information that corresponds to rotation. I wonder how common that is with musical / visual cross-wiring?

*This is the mnemonic I use to remember which state is which. Similarly, stalactites grow from the ceiling, and stalagmites are attached to the ground.

1 comment:

hedera said...

I must not be a synesthete. I listened to the Coldplay cut, and it's good music, but I don't get any unusual associations or images of great grey plains (except from your post!).