The poetry & poetic prose of Brandon Gene Petit

If Only You Could See the Pianos

Much has been written about the odd brain phenomenon known as synesthesia; more so in the recent years, due to its becoming more widely accepted and recognized by science. For those of you still unfamiliar with it, it is basically a peculiar anomaly of the human brain that forces two or more senses to be “combined” in some manner or another… thereby creating odd alterations of experience such as “tasting” colors and shapes or “seeing” music as colors, textures and patterns in the mind when it is played. Since as far back as I can remember, I have been rather pleasantly familiar with the latter kind.

As an artist or writer of any sort, it is often quite frustrating to visualize and conceive things that don’t fare as well on paper or in some other tangible form of art… the plight of the synesthete is certainly no exception. Electronic music, especially – while often appearing as dissonant and repetitious noise to the untrained ear – is particularly appealing to me, because instead of mentally picturing people playing instruments I visualize perpetual, rhythmic patterns of texture and color. Distorted sounds are serrated, metallic or even a bit “fuzzy” around the edges, while strings and pads in the background have a murky, auroral effect that smoothly fades in and out of view. Even reverberation and echoes leave some kind of visual imprint on my imagination…a sort of ghostly after-image, appropriately.

If only I could show you what piano sounds “look” like… sharp, tinkling suggestions of crystal, glinting like falling, angular rain in shades of eerie, pinkish-red sunset.

4 responses

  1. Thanks so much for following my blog on networkedblogs!

    I have never heard of synesthesia before.. but what you describe, being able to visualize sounds of music.. it makes me think much of what heaven is like, where things are so much more lively and multidimensional than what we can conceive. It must be so frustrating sometimes not to be able to convey what you experience to others, to have them know and share that. I find that same issue with my dreams, sometimes my dreams are so vivid and I want to write them down so I can share them with others, or have them as a record for myself, but I can never write them the way I have dreamed them.. they just seem so flat and lifeless after I’ve written them..

    Anyways, thanks for sharing that. I am sure the beauty you experience far outweighs any frustration, at least I hope so 🙂

    March 23, 2011 at 3:59 pm

    • April, you definitely hit the nail on the head! The artist and poet’s plight is a lot like trying to write down your dreams… and I have encountered literally the same problem in the past.

      I, too, wanted to start keeping a journal of my favorite dreams, but after a while I found that it was pointless because they just weren’t the same on paper. Alas!

      In a way, that is what makes things like dreams and synesthesia so beautiful… It’s as if God (or Nature, if you wish) intended them as gifts for our own private enjoyment only.

      And yes, I often picture heaven to somehow be a fuller extension of something like synesthesia. How interesting that we both imagined the same possibility!

      March 25, 2011 at 8:34 pm

  2. moondustwriter

    Interesting you say that about your senses. I have many friends who are in the extra special spectrum. My girlfriend who has Aspergers senses things accutely – I’m jealous.
    I do feel music though – I guess you dont really think about it when you have that sense I just assumed everyone did or could.
    glad you shared thi. I hope you figure out a way to let people see in – even a peek.

    April 29, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    • Not sure about Asperger’s, but synesthesia is nothing to be jealous of, really… it sounds like a bigger deal than it really is.

      I have a theory that everyone has some kind of synesthesia, but it is so subtle and they are so used to growing up with it that many people are not consciously aware of it.

      It’s all a matter of perception, really… but I do cherish it and enjoy it. I (literally) can’t imagine hearing music without it!

      As far as “feeling” the music, I think I see what you are saying. I can sometimes imagine noises so “intense” that I “feel” them at the back of my throat, or deep in my gut. I sometimes wonder if everyone has this to some degree as well… after all, don’t we all have some sense of rhythm? Or is this something more?

      May 9, 2011 at 2:22 pm

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