Friday, April 22, 2005

This is my first wireless post.

I'm sitting in Starbucks listening to Bruce Springsteen's Devils and Dust on my iPod as I blog. I am such a child of technology. I first heard Devils and Dust driving in my car and had to have it right away. Glad that Bruce, at least with this song, seems to be going back to what made him great in the first place. The man gives me chills with the way he expresses emotion through his harmonica.

I think I'm so affected by music because I physically see it. It can look beautiful, ugly, misty, garish, crass, smooth, curly, jagged, angular, and whatever. Individual sounds have unique shapes and colors, and it's as if I'm watching an animation as I listen. When someone speaks to me, I see their voice as well as hear it. So, when Bruce plays his harmonica in that way that expresses such yearning, I'm also taken on a visual journey unique to his sound that unfolds right in front of me.

I've seen sounds since I can remember, and thought this was something that everyone experienced until I heard about synesthesia on a 60 minutes type show several years ago.

My friend Shannon and I have experimented with this, first starting when I drew his voice. I showed him what his voice looked like inside my head. The looks of someone's voice are something that I can remember, and all are original. It also depends on their manner of speech. British accents are mostly dark colored, and have a short, thick and choppy look, as where a voice from someone with a Spanish or Italian accent looks more like a silk light colored ribbon strewn on the ground.

Shannon put me through an experiment where we discovered that I could determine the time a song was released just by looking at the picture of sounds created. The accuracy that I was able to pinpoint unnerved me as much as it did him, and we've done this same experiment several times with the same results. Sure, one could say certain eras have a certain sound, but to hit the exact year? Shannon has a wide knowledge of rock music in the 60's and 70's, where I have very little. He would put on a tune by an artist I wasn't familiar with and ask me to guess the year it was released. Instead of listening, I'd watch the shapes and colors. I'd say, "That looks like 1973." Shannon would say, "Incredible."

I'd hit it right on the nose probably 8 out of ten times. The other two I'd be a year off. All music that I'd never heard before. I think there were certain things that were attributed to that. A band from the 90's can try to sound like the 70's, but to me it doesn't look like the 70's because of subtle differences such as quality of recording, technological advances in instruments, and other minor differences. To someone who sees sounds, that can make all the difference. Why something looks like a certain year, I have no idea. Perhaps the shapes and colors I see look like the colors, graphics and trends associated those years. I can only say that some of it is subconscious from seeing so many sounds throughout my life.

When I was little, I remember having much more extreme reactions to sounds than the other kids. I think this is because of the visual component. Movies were that much more of an intense experience for me as was music. Forget about popping balloons and fireworks. That could send me running inside for cover.

When my dad lived in London, I'd visit and by the third or fourth day, I'd suffer headaches. Not because the British accent was offensive, but because it was an overdose of stimulation from shapes that I wasn't used to. Especially when mixed with each other in a crowd, pub or street situation. At one point, I had to wear a walkman to keep from getting overstimulated. This didn't happen in other foreign countries as much because not understanding the language just made it a more visual experience than the even split of the British voices.

It's also another reason why the people at the bookstore in White Marsh grated on me so much. As if their physical appearance and manners weren't bad enough, they had some of the ugliest voices I have ever seen.

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