16 June 2006

Hearing color, tasting music

Dan Green notes this wonderful article on Kandinsky's synesthesia:
Kandinsky undoubtedly led the European revival in synaesthesia but there are many other examples of sonic influence in modern art, from Munch's The Scream and Whistler's Nocturnes and Harmonies to Ezra Pound's cantos and T S Eliot's quartets. Yet Kandinsky's curious gift of colour-hearing, which he successfully translated onto canvas as "visual music", to use the term coined by the art critic Roger Fry in 1912, gave the world another way of appreciating art that would be inherited by many more poets, abstract artists and psychedelic rockers throughout the rest of the disharmonic 20th century. Here then are Kandinsky's guidelines so that you can. . .experience synaesthesia for yourself: "Lend your ears to music, open your eyes to painting, and… stop thinking! Just ask yourself whether the work has enabled you to 'walk about' into a hitherto unknown world. If the answer is yes, what more do you want?"
This reminds of me of Stephen Mitchelmore's comments on Wallace Stevens, Vladimir Nabokov, and Jeffrey Ford. I had never read "Signs and Symbols" before last month (thank God for such blogs as This Space!). It altered my mood for the rest of the day. Nabokov knows exactly how to "catch the heart off guard and blow it open" (as Seamus Heaney writes). Ford's story, "The Empire of Ice Cream," was also very interesting--less poignant and elliptical, but a really nice piece of work.

All composers should write music with crayons.


Polaris said...

I've seen a picture of The Scream so many times, always thinking of Munch's quote about "an infinite scream passing through nature". But I somehow never identified this as synaesthesia. I was glad to read this post though, because synaesthesia rings a different bell: The first and only time I came across the word was in the context of A.R. Luria's observation of his patient Solomon Shereshevsky - a man who couldn't help but involve all the senses in his experiences.

This also brings to mind the "sourmetal smell" of the bus rails in Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things. Funny how long forgotten things are selectively prized out from memory.

This is my first visit to your blog and I like it a lot. Is it ok if I include you in my blogroll?

carlo.32 said...

This article reminds me of an interview of a famous 60's rocker who said that taking an acid trip is like "hearing colors and tasting music". The effects of the drug LSD or acid surely puts one in a psychedelic trance, but I don't know whether this could be considered a synaesthasia.

kerzz said...

Hi...I was watching a show on HDTH (High Def Theater) who devoted 2 hours on Superhumans including synaesthasits. I never knew this was considered some sort of fantastic brain activity.

I myself found that evr since I was a kid I draw words...meaning that for me names and things have a shape that is not particularly "its true meaning"....Is this considered such a anormal thing>? I would need to know. I am an architect and a poet(not professionally, simply write to myself)