One of my favorite pop-rock bands out there is Mae. Their name exists as an acronym, “Multisensory Aesthetic Experience.” They wanted the art and the music of their albums to combine and be something special together. Hence, the prevalence of “music videos” in our generation. For most of us, this is a lovely blending of sensory experiences. But the two things (visual and aural stimuli) aren’t inherently linked.
I knew a girl in college (Belmont University, Nashville Tennessee) who told me she had a condition called synaesthesia. She was even having tests run on her by researchers at Vanderbilt University, just down street from Belmont. She explained to me another way to break down that word: “synthesis of aesthetics.” Aesthetic isn’t just visual or aural. It refers to our five senses that all humans naturally carry: sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. For this young lady, there were certain colors and flavors associated with the twelve tones on a scale. They essentially followed a rainbow pattern, though I distinctly recall Bb being a “chocolate brown” and B a “silver” for her. As fate would have it, she was also a virtuoso when it came to piano performance.
Some people, through nature or nurture, seem to develop links in the brain that are not common to the majority of the population. These links are the basis for the “synaesthesia” condition. They are involuntary connections that one experiences innately. Some of us, and we music reviewers are especially guilty of this, will use metaphorical language to connect sensory experience. But that’s not synaesthesia, that’s just clever use of language. These synaesthetics actually have definite, consistent experiences that tie one sensory stimulus to another.
Justin Lassen’s two-disc, five-years-in-the-making collection of music are, he claims, the result of composing music as a synaesthetic, with visuals being contributed by many members of various online communities to feed the compositional process.
Lassen has been featured before on the site for his work on a horror film and, more recently, a soundtrack for the game mod Out Of Hell. Now we take a look at his brain child, his personal project that’s taken him around the world more than once to create: Justin Lassen’s own Synaesthesia. (more…)