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Synesthesia - translating the senses

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sarah spencer

on 27 February 2012

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Transcript of Synesthesia - translating the senses

Timothy B Layden
synesthesia means = joined sensations
two or more senses are linked
so that a sound is not only heard, but also felt, seen, or tasted
F. T. Marinetti. Zang Tumb Tumb. 1912 [

One of the most famous examples of words-in-freedom, Zang Tumb Tumb is Marinetti’s dynamic expression of the siege of the Turkish city of Adrianople (now Edirne) during the Balkan War of 1912, which he reported on as a war correspondent.
The title of the book elicits the sights and sounds of mechanized war—artillery shelling, bombs, and explosions.

Can you see sound?
How do we visualise sound?
Can you hear a sound and see a colour? Can you hear a sound and sense a taste?
Can you hear a sound and smell an odour?
Here Comes Frankie! is about a boy whose quiet household is turned upside down when he decides to learn to play the trumpet. Frankie and his parents don't just hear the music: they see and smell it too. The back endpaper gives an explanation of the sensory condition synaesthesia, in which at least two senses are combined, but the book can also be read metaphorically.

'One of the things I wanted to explore in Frankie was just getting across how music can change the whole mood of a room or how you're feeling. The book grew from wondering how you show the excitement of music as a picture and that change of mood that it can bring. I originally had Frankie sitting on the stairs playing the trumpet and suddenly an orange shape appeared. I don't really know why or how. Then I read about Kandinsky and how he heard his paint box hissing when he mixed colours, which I thought was fantastic and hilarious - almost like the colours could be quite threatening. It kind of all grew around that, really.'
Wassily Kandinsky
Piet Mondrian
F. T. Marinetti
Tim Hopgood
S30 Beatbox
The visualisation of Sound
Sophie Rautenbach
Sounds of the Alphabet
Sound and Animation collaboration between Dutch Motese and Errol F Richardson. 2007.
Motem’s first vinyl release was produced in a limited run of only 300 records in the last months of 2007.

Cumulatively, the sounds can only be described as electrogaragefunk. This is one for house parties and sophisticated soirees. The cover art was created by Errol F Richardson.
'Super-Sentido' for KidTv
by Kid Simius and Notv
Seen at 'Sinestesia 09'
"He wanted to evoke sound through sight and create the painterly equivalent of a symphony that would stimulate not just the eyes but the ears as well."
"The connection is made explicit in the title of Fugue (1914), which suggests a visual equivalent to a musical fugue, with its overlapping, repeated motifs and themes at different pitches."
Edvard Mucn The Scream

Listen to this painting —looking at this painting is like hearing a silent, inner scream.
Munch's expression of a 'synesthetic experience' was brought to a hallucinatory level, a pictorial metaphor of primal fear: you scream and scream but no one can hear you.

Munch wrote: "I was walking along a path with two friends – the sun was setting – suddenly the sky turned blood red – I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence – there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city – my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety – and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature."
Luigi Russolo, 1913, The Art of Noise

The Italian Futurist, Luigi Russolo came to sounds from painting through poetry. Russolo invented a series of individual instruments 'Intonarumori'. They were named and categorized according to their sound, its pitch, frequency, and intensity —creating a music that let the instruments "speak for themselves". Russolo presented his musical theories in a manifesto entitled 'L'arte dei rumori' (The Art of Noises) in 1913 (12). The noise-generating instruments (hand-activated large scale boxes with megaphones attached) allowed the inclusion of 'noise' into musical composition. Russolo's first 'art-of-noises' concert for 18 'Intonarumori', caused a huge scandal in Milan (1914).
Broadway Boogie Woogie

Mondrian's painting is considered to have two clear real-world inspirations: the city grid of Manhattan —an interpretation of the New York subway map, and the Boogie-Woogie music that he loved to dance to. There is a feeling of vital and pulsing rhythm, as if the composition is meant to resemble a dancing city. Using the dynamic contrast of oppositions, a resonant relationship is constructed between optical vibration and colorful visual music.
"Music" forms a pair to "The Dance", also painted in 1910. The collector Sergey Shchukin commissioned "The Dance" & he wrote to Matisse asking for another panel on the subject of music. It is only when seen together that they acquire their full resonance.

"Music" is built up of the same three elements as "The Dance": the same expressive harmony of green, red and blue; the five simplified figures of musicians and singers accord with the five dancers; as in "The Dance",

But "Music" amazes us with its concentrated calm, the absolute immobility of the isolated figures, the total concentration on the playing of musical instruments and singing. The open mouths seem to resonate and force us to physically experience the human voices pouring from within.
Daft Punk, 'Around the world'
By Michel Gondry, 2006

"I realized how genius and simple the music was. Only five different instruments, with very few patterns, each to create numerous possibilities of figures. Always using the repetition, and stopping just before it's too much."
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