At Music Tech Fest in London last month, I gave a talk and did an afternoon-long workshop exploring ways of connecting visuals to sound. We worked with pen and paper, with patching (in Pd), with code (in Processing), and via a survey of some interesting recent work, in this case all connected to drawing. A theme of the conference had been “synesthesia.” But it’s important to note that synesthesia goes beyond just making music visual. It deals with people actually having a sensory experience in which one input (like sound) triggers a different sense (like smell or color). Sure enough, someone who attended had a student who experiences quite strongly that nonvoluntary reaction.

This short film explores the extreme, visceral connection that cross-sensory sensation can produce.

Clinical sensory phenomena aside, the surreal and strange world that emerges is to me a perfect metaphor for all the symbols we use for music and sound, for all the (wonderfully) bizarre feelings that arise as you try to grasp something as unseen and fleeting as music and musical emotion with your brain. It’s long hours in the studio trying to understand what you’re doing, it’s the user interface for computer software, it’s notation. It’s, in a word, impossible.

And basslines are definitely cats.

(Not news, but too wonderful for me to care — found via Meiko Kanamoto.) By Terry Timely:

syn·es·the·sia syn·aes·the·sia (sĭn’ĭs-thē’zhə)
A condition in which one type of stimulation evokes the sensation of another, as when the hearing of a sound produces the visualization of a color.
A sensation felt in one part of the body as a result of stimulus applied to another, as in referred pain.
The description of one kind of sense impression by using words that normally describe another.

  • danski

    Thanks for this, Peter.

    Not posting a link to this SOS article about Bruce Swedien would be plain silly. Truly a great read.

    Swedien also was a guest on Pensado’s Place.

    “Compression is for kids!”. Nowadays, If you play “Billie Jean” at party level, you know he’s right.


  • Chris Stack

    While putting together Moog’s 2008 Ethermusic fest, a woman with synaesthesia who had just written a book about it sent me an image she created of what the sound of a theremin looked like to her.  Unfortunately, I don’t still have that image or remember her name.  She may have mentioned that it was used on her book cover.  I remember that it was very beautiful.

  • Edison D

    mad creative…

  • Kinet

    brillant !

  • Dave Sierkowski

    this is great! it’s like a movie embodiment of a dream.