Tag Archives: Music

Where are the yellow bits?

The other night we were watching RocKwiz on SBS and the band and a guest singer did a cover of Goodbye Yellow-Brick Road, a major early 1970s hit by Elton John, which was a very nostalgic experience as I haven’t heard that tune much since the 1970s when by best friend was a mad-keen Elton John fan. Two things struck me: what a great and unusual song, with interesting lyrics and music that rather reminds me of another unusual and sad hit tune (How Soon is Now? by The Smiths), and what amazingly high falsetto singing the hit recording had, but the most interesting thing that I noticed when I heard the cover-version was that the bright-yellow pineapple-jelly bean-flavoured bits were missing.

They say you don’t notice things until they are gone, and I hadn’t realized that the falsetto bits of the original recording had been, for me, such a dominant (visual) feature, till I listened to a relatively colourless but enjoyable cover version, with decipherable lyrics. That amount of falsetto in a rock song is I think quite typical of the psychedelic era when the tune was created. Would it be pushing an idea to far to say this is a psychedelic recording? I don’t know why, but most of my favourite music, since I was a kid to now, has had some element of psychedelia; hypnotic repetition, extreme forms of singing, unusual instruments, unusual sound effects, extreme emotionality, etc.

Tunes that I listened to as kid or teen seem to be more often coloured than music from recent years, I guess because synaesthesia is less likely to form anew as one ages, just as new brain connections are less likely to form. It seems likely that I got the idea of that song as a yellow song from the title, but this merely abstract idea becomes an experience only when evoked by that singing, Elton’s yellow singing.

The yellow-deficient cover-version:

Vale Chris Cornell

For me the human voice in song is one of life’s greatest pleasures. For synaesthetes enjoyable experiences are often coloured. Many but not all voices of popular singers have specific colours, in my experience: men’s voices typically brown, women’s red, baritones deep brown, counter-tenors and falsetto yellows and whites, harsh Italian tenors shining gold, but there was only ever for me one orange singing voice – that of Chris Cornell, the late singer of Soundgarden and Audioslave fame. Orange is the colour of experiences that are so intense that they are close to painful.

Stephen Fry doppelganger in here?

And another politician/celebrity doppelganger pair

Where have I seen that slightly unhinged, cheesy, sometimes grimacing smile? Oh oui!

Oooo-ooo-ooo-ooo!

Lorde and other top musicians see music in colour

Yes, it is synaesthesia. No it ISN’T a disorder, or bizarre, or cross-wiring, or an affliction…..

The New Daily  journalist does indeed very much deserve to have his article bombarded by angry comments from offended synaesthetes. It isn’t clear why he is reporting this story now as it appears that Lorde having synaesthesia is old news from 2015. Interesting anyway.

http://thenewdaily.com.au/entertainment/music/2017/04/28/lorde-synesthesia-music/

http://www.nme.com/blogs/nme-blogs/do-you-have-synaesthesia-a-look-at-the-condition-that-means-lorde-sees-sound-in-colour-14639

http://www.musictimes.com/articles/51099/20151017/lorde-reveals-wanted-comedian-tumblr-q.htm

 

 

Ed Kuepper 2016 performance at MONA features a backdrop that resembles musical synaesthesia

Those arty people at the Museum of Old and New Art in Tasmania are right into synaesthesia.

Pop singer Alessia Cara describes her synaesthesia experiences on The Project

Alessia Cara. The Project. Ten Network. February 27th 2017.

https://tenplay.com.au/channel-ten/the-project/extra/season-8/alessia-cara

 

 

Kinetic 2017 by Orbital

Visual/musical effects in this video clip are a lot like synaesthesia evoked by music. This kind of effect is found quite often in music clips, especially for electronic music, and this type of synaesthesia seems to be one of the more common types, both in terms of how many people experience it and how often it is experienced by individuals. Contrary to what some researchers seem to believe, synaesthesia is not a constant experience. Specific cognitive or sensory stimuli, either from one’s own thoughts or from the world around evoke synaesthesia, and at least for me, not everything that I experience is a synaesthesia inducer, but nothing evokes synaesthesia like good music or interesting music.

Sound married to vision is the completely normal and sometimes entertaining way of perceiving the world

I’ve got to laugh on the odd time that I read a description of synaesthesia that makes it sound like some kind of mental disorder or abnormality of sensory perception. Sure enough, synaesthesia concurrents are perceptions of sensory experiences that are not triggered by things happening outside of the mind. They are experiences (not always sensory) triggered by activity happening within the mind (just like the meanderings of your normal constant train of thought). A synaesthete can experience sound as a synaesthesia concurrent triggered by a visual experience (the synaesthesia inducer), and might also experience a visual concurrent triggered by a sound inducer. Coloured music and visual animations that make sound are commonly-reported experiences in people who are, to borrow a phrase from Galton, “sane persons”. It might sound psychedelic to a non-synaesthete, but it is not far at all from normal perception, because life is full of events in which movement or some other visual stimuli is accompanied by a sound sensory stimuli: clapping hands, wind that rustles leaves, lips that speak, impacts that bang, or an explosion that is huge visually, sonically and physically. This pairing of sound and sight is so much a part of normal perception (in humans and other creatures) that it is commonly exploited in live entertainment.

I’ve had the opportunity to work in the past in the live entertainment industry and I also recently enjoyed the rehearsals of the Arcadia musical and special effects spectacular show currently at Elizabeth Quay in Perth. I know that there is a most startling loud roaring sound through the stage speakers that is typically created to coincide with a visual effect of an explosion of flames. It’s like some bloke presses a button somewhere and all hell breaks loose for a second or two. Arcadia uses this flame-roar sound to add sonic spectacle to the flame-thrower, and in the past while working I’ve also heard that sound used in complete isolation from music in a sound check of another spectacular stage show. At the risk of ruining the magic, I’m revealing that the sound that goes with the flames is an artistic artifice. I guess that any real sound that the flame effect makes has been judged to be not sufficiently loud and spectacular enough, and a suitably awesome sound (a recording of what I can only guess) was created to go along with the visual effect of flames from hell. I think this shows just how important crossmodal experiences are to live entertainment shows that are based on spectacular sensory experiences. The sound must equal the visual spectacle.

There are also many other ways in which sound and sight are linked in stage shows and special effects in entertainment. Musicolour lighting effects have been around since my Dad created disco equipment in our lounge using it back in the 1970s, and similar but much more developed lighting effects can be seen in the body of the Arcadia spider. Technology is not always required to artificially marry lighting and sound, as the amazing red and blue man electricity show features electrical discharges that look like tamed lightning that naturally give off a crackling sound along with the white light. But then again, I’m now wondering whether that sound is for real. Anyway, it’s wonderful, mad, sensory fun. I love it!

Postscript January 2017

I think the phenomenon of “quiet fireworks” adds more support to my point that spectacular public entertainment special effects often include the deliberate timing of sound and visual effects to happen at the same time to create a form of artistic synaesthesia, because while fireworks typically have bangs and flashes at the same time, the bang part of the spectacle is not essential or inseparable.

Arcadia Spider

Red man and blue man

Flaming Spider

Harts seems to be describing musical synaesthesias

The Indian born singer-songwriter who was invited to hang out and jam with Prince. Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
Broadcast: 22/04/2016 on Lateline
Reporter: Simon Smithers

http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2015/s4448965.htm

I was just watching Lateline on ABC television (Australian), and following the passing of the legendary American musician Prince Lateline ran a story about the young Australian musician Harts who has been a guest of Prince and has also been mentored by the famous musician. Both musicians clearly share a major influence from the late synaesthete guitarist Jimi Hendrix. In the Lateline story, which is yet to be posted for viewing at the Lateline website, Harts described associations between colours, textures and music that is clearly synaesthesia. It seems to be a very common thing for synaesthetes to experience coloured music, and synaesthesia itself is a quite common phenomenon so the fact that Harts seems to be a synaesthete is not hard to believe or that big a deal. I do think it is interesting though. Harts, Prince and Hendrix all typify the notion of the musically creative individual, as artists following their own creative paths, playing a style of music that is full of colour and innovation and improvisation. Synaesthesia is thought to be linked to creativity. Could even be true.

I’m not an expert in music but I think the music of all three would all be regarded as psychedelic rock, a genre of music that has fascinated me since I was a child despite no cultural nor family influences pushing me in that direction. The music that I grew up listening to was cheesy nonsense that my folks enjoyed, hideous trad jazz, 1970s musicals, theatre organ music, disco….. And I survived! The closest things to psychedelia that I heard as a child was early electronic music and psychedelic rock of the 60s and 70s played on the radio, including the Beatles later stuff. Right until my 5th decade I hadn’t realised I had been a mad fan of psychedelic rock all my life until I started reading music reviews on Allmusic, and found that a the very disparate collection of musicians and groups who are my musical favourites all produced some music that had been categorized as psychedelic, even a favourite Australian musician Ed Kuepper, who I had the pleasure of meeting recently. Colourful as it might be, the colours aren’t the reason why I enjoy this type of music. I think the appeal is the strange and otherworldly feelings evoked by the music; the mesmerizing repetition, the emotionalism, the surprising twists, the fear and the awe. Maybe you need to have a hyperconnected brain to get all this out of mere sequences of sounds.

I’d bet my hat that the colourful and creative purple Prince was also a synaesthete, one way or another, but unless he spoke about it in the past we will never know.