Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘music’

22 APRIL, 2011

An Eyeful of Sound: How Synesthesia Works

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The color of Friday, or what the absence on silence has to do with the presence of light.

We have a long-standing fascinating with synesthesia, the rare neurological condition that leads stimulation in one sensory pathway to trigger an experience in another — a neural short-circuiting that enables such strange phenomena as hearing colors, seeing sounds and tasting smells.

Earlier this year, we looked at some mesmerizing near-synesthetic ways of visualizing music in color and learned how synesthesia operates in the brain of an autistic savant. Today, we turn to An Eyeful of Sound– a fascinating animated documentary about audio-visual synesthesia, which attempts to add an intimate, visceral layer to our intellectual understanding of the peculiar condition.

All sounds have color. The alphabet has color. Days of the week have color. Each day has a color and a certain shape.”

What makes strange phenomena like synesthesia all the more fascinating is that they raise unsettling questions about some of the most fundamental givens of the “normal” brain: Does color even exist, or is it merely a product of our fancy? Do things have inherent, static smells, tastes, sounds and colors, or do we arbitrarily intuit those from our own minds to attribute to them? Are life’s sensory qualities static and permanent — is the sky always blue, lemons always sour — or are they fluid and dynamic attributes on a spectrum we just happen to experience arbitrary slices of?

HT @kirstinbutler

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12 APRIL, 2011

Collaborative Whimsy: Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir

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Last month, we had the pleasure of seeing Eric Whitacre premiere the 2.0 version of his astounding virtual choir at TED 2011. The mesmerizing film is composed of 2,052 performances of “Sleep” from 1,752 singers in 58 countries, individually recorded and uploaded to YouTube between September 2010 and January 2011, and is now available for the world to gasp at. Caution: Hold jaw securely in place before watching.

The project is part YouTube Symphony Orchestra, part The Johnny Cash Project, part something entirely groundbreaking. Whitacre’s TED talk pulls the curtain on the making of the magic and is easily the most goosebump-inducing thing you’ll see all week:

“Sleep” is available on Whitacre’s spellbinding new album, Light & Gold.

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05 APRIL, 2011

LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy on the Future of Taste

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Iconic musician, producer, DJ and DFA Records founder James Murphy is perhaps best-known as the frontman of hipster darling LCD Soundsystem. Earlier this year, he broke many a fan’s hearts when he announced his retirement, and last weekend he made his dramatic exit with LCD Soundsystem’s final epic performance in Madison Square Garden, an event most eloquently described by Jeremy Larson as “an exploration [of] how one band compiled every good sound from every band that came before them and turned it into a four hour sound orgasm.”

To commemorate Murphy’s retirement, our friends from m ss ng p eces — the same folks who brought us that priceless behind-the-scenes look at TED earlier this year and last week’s superb Michael Wolff documentary — dusted off their archives, dug out a 30-minute interview they shot with Murphy in 2006, and edited it down to 9 insightful minutes of his thoughts on the future of taste, music discovery and the challenge of reconciling creative merit with technology.

What’s going to be missing is the unconscious peer pressure that guides people into different forms of taste. What it’s gonna be replaced by is lifestyle marketing and taste engines, which scares the crap out of me.” ~ James Murphy

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