A step beyond imagery
Synaesthesia is a neurological mixing of the senses. To have a synaesthetic experience is to hear colors or see sounds. It's my belief that while some people have a higher degree of synaesthesia, all people have the ability to experience it in varying degrees. For instance, in times of emotional distress, or when someone is very relaxed and in a quiet place, it's not that uncommon to experience moments of synaesthesia. Since I first heard of it, I've wondered if I might not also be a candidate for being a border line synaesthete. I've had several musical moments when I had a definite perception of colors, shapes, and textures that went further than just an implied imagery. It's more exacting, particularly with regard to shape, texture and gradient color. The next question I had was whether or not these experiences could be employed in music that anyone could enjoy. Is it a valid tool of composition? Is it one worth using?
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Olivier Messiaen, Claude Debussy, and others are said to have been synesthetes. I would imagine avante garde musician Brian Eno has a degree of synaesthesia, due to the fact that the kind of imagery he incorporates in his music is just simply coming from a more intense place. Ironically, that would also hold true for another founding member of the group Roxy Music, Brian Ferry.
I had many conversations on topic with my father, who I also believe was synaesthesic. I remember once talking of musical sensations we had perceived, and how there seemed to be a type of imagery perception that was different from what we would typically call program music. I also remember the other people in the room looking at us as if we were on drugs;) We weren't. Still, it's an interesting phenomenon. As to how useful it would be, I don't know. A few composers over the years have attested to seeing different colors for different keys and or chords. To Rimsky-Korsakov A minor was reddish. D major was yellow. To Beethoven B minor was black D major orange. So, you can see that this synaesthesic sense is somewhat subjective, not unlike general imagery in music. It could simply be a waste of time to try and employ synaesthesia in a practical way, given that the percentage of synaesthetes must be very small indeed. On the other hand, if it's a random thing, then it is generated automatically or subconsciously anyway.
Practical uses for synaesthesia
There are now video games which attempt to incorporate synaesthesic elements into the game playing experience. Rez is one of the more popular games to use this. As computers become more sophisticated in the realm of artificial intelligence, there could be medical and therapeutic uses for synaesthesia. Music has often been used over the years in psychological therapy for it's calming effects. Who knows, synaesthesia, a phenomenon that has often been more familiar in the realm of mystics, composers, and poets, may some day be an accepted part of therapeutical medicine.
Still more stuff...
- Being taken seriously.
- How my father became a star.
- So, you wanna' be a country star?
- Who do you like better, Garth or Gershwin?
- You'll eat what you're served...
- The Media: Out with the old, in with the new.
- It's great exposure.
Thoughts on some of the people I've played with or known.
- Charlie Rich
- Freddy Fender
- Smokey Robinson
- Jo-El Sonnier
- Randy Meisner
- Billy Swan
- Flaco Jimenez
- Augie Meyers
- Doug Sahm
- Jerry Lee Lewis
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