Do you hear colors?
by Maren Fischer
Things I find endlessly fascinating: Bubble wrap. Pictures of baby sloths. Justin Bieber’s tabloid antics. Harry Potter analysis theories. The human brain.
Lucky for you, I’ll be talking about the last one. Or maybe not lucky for you, if you were bent on a full discussion of how Harry defeated Voldemort (spoiler) with the occasional sloth picture thrown in for reference.
Anyway, I find the human brain incredibly fascinating. It can do so many amazing things, n’est-ce pas? The other day I was reading about a condition called synesthesia. It is a phenomenon in which a person can experience a response from one of the five senses that is normally attributed to another sense. For example, there are people who when hearing certain sounds such as a car honk or musical note, actually see a color as well. For others, various words or names might have a smell or taste.
I think a circumstance like synesthesia is nice evidence that the world we live in is never quite cut and dry, separated into perfectly organized entities; it is always flowing, converging, mingling. As humans, we create structure out of chaos in order to maintain a level of sanity, but we must also remember that the chaos can be beautiful, and if we move too far away from it, we lose as well our sense of beauty.
Art illuminates the beauty in chaos. Art also provides a unique parallel to and example of synesthesia. One artistic form is not restricted from another, and often blend. With the freedom of art we can meld not only different artistic forms together but also aspects of life — emotions, struggles, and inspirations become the watercolor ingredients for our world’s art-chefs. In the world of art, a song may paint a portrait.
A new friend of mine, William Goldstein, has created something that does just that. Bill is a highly accomplished composer and musician who’s had a long career composing scores for a variety of films and recording Motown music, among many other things. He shared with me his latest project, an album called Soul Of An Actor. Each song is a recording of a piece Bill composed on the spot, uniquely inspired by three notes chosen by a particular actor. The person picks any three notes on the piano, and then Bill instantly composes an entire song based off those notes.
A few of the actors who inspired songs for the album include Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Colleen Camp, Theodore Bikel, and Philip Seymour Hoffman, for whom Bill wrote in memoriam. The compositions are quite amazing, not only because they are done on the spot, but also because they seem to end up somehow capturing part of that actor’s soul; sketching their portrait in a way only music can.
Bill was nice enough to do one for me. True enough, I picked three notes, and then suddenly I was seeing a story unfold, watching colors, people, oceans dance before my eyes. Though I don’t consider myself to possess synesthesia, it was then I knew the meaning of it.
Through art, we all know the meaning of synesthesia. Our synesthetic world… blending, crashing, fusing, singing. Chaos… but isn’t it so beautiful?Tags: Art, Carl Reiner, Colleen Camp, Hollywood, Maren Fischer, Mel Brooks, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Soul Of An Actor, Synesthesia, Theodore Bikel, William Goldstein