Synth Aesthetic

Apparently I listen to music differently than other people do. Or at least Kimber and Sammy. They have made the bold claim that I am a little bit special, which makes me a little bit sad.

I am mildly synaesthetic, I think, but I’ve always figured almost everybody is mildly synaesthetic, and that absolutely must be so when it comes to something as powerful as music. I’m not the cool kind of synaesthete with savant-like memorization abilities; I just associate shapes and colors with stuff, and apparently this has a tremendous impact on the way I listen to music.

Typically I will lie down with a pair of good headphones and just listen, with my eyes closed, away from any distractions. I see the sounds as shapes and colors, and the music becomes a complete, visceral, sensory experience. Some songs have more obvious themes they want me to pick up on, and I build elaborate scenes out of them.

I was aware that other people did not do this, but not that they could not do this, which is a fact I refuse to accept. I can’t help but think that a lot of other people can perceive these things, as it seem to be an important and intentional aspect of great music.

My feeling is that all a person needs to do is give it a try. Maybe you’re too busy for that kind of horseshit—lying on the floor for an hour when, after all, there are dishes to be done—but if you can shut your mind off and let the sounds do to you what they will, I bet they’ll do something.

Right?

I’ll open the comments up for this post, because I really want to know how other people listen to music. Maybe I’ll add this to a list of things to impress hipster chicks with, but just this once, I think I’ll be happier to find out I’m completely normal and my girlfriends are broken.

17 Comments

  • lissabliss

    September 26, 2011

    impressed.

    i don’t see visuals but i do feel music in my body, deeply, in my bones… and emotionally. i feel like i have a magic sensibility, as well. i get really passionate and “turned on” by what i hear, more than most of my friends, i’d say, even the musicians. i particularly like listening to full albums… or certain songs over and over. songs definitely have a strong drug-like effect on me… i am moved, and generally have to sing or move. occasionally, i simply lie down and listen, especially to a new album, and it’s always a thoroughly enjoyable, sensual experience. feeling music deeply like this gives me the ability to play, sing & dance instinctively, intuitively, emotionally — from my gut.

    Reply
    • Christoph Malcolm

      September 26, 2011

      I don’t exactly go shooting cum everywhere, but when I want to listen to a new album the only way to do it is beginning to end, focused on nothing but the music.

      I do all of my dancing in my mind, to avoid injuring my cats.

      Reply
      • lisssabliss

        September 27, 2011

        one of my favourite things is follow along with the lyrics to a whole album. when the lyrics weren’t printed (back in the day) i would love rewinding and replaying the tape over and over to transcribe the lyrics so i could sing along. my favourite place to listen to music is in a vehicle, a minivan preferably, one with a good system, on a long drive… at night.

        Reply
        • Christoph Malcolm

          September 27, 2011

          From time to time I’ll still do that, since most lyrics websites are completely fucking wrong about everything and need to be told.

          I do like to read along with the music, but not normally on the first listen. Even if I know the words reading along can add something to the experience.

          And cars are for singing. Totally different experience.

          Reply
  • avecvu

    September 26, 2011

    I find music to be super distracting, so I mostly listen to it when I am walking, or at the gym, or cooking dinner. Or, you know, doing dishes. And I tend to go through phases of listening to the same thing over and over and over and over. Half of the music on my computer has never been played. Probably more than half.

    Honestly I’m not the kind of person who can just close my eyes and listen. I can’t really meditate either. When I go to a yoga class and we go into the final resting pose, usually the instructor keeps us there for like five minutes but it seems like eternity. I hate to be still.

    All that said, I know perfectly well that I am doing it wrong.

    Reply
    • Christoph Malcolm

      September 26, 2011

      It’s interesting to me that so many people experience music that way. I don’t think you’re doing it wrong at all. My incredibly tiny sample of like five people seems to show your relationship with music is the more common one.

      It’s interesting because for me it’s the same as if you said, oh, I only watch movies when I’m reading. People don’t have any trouble sitting and watching a show, or reading a book, and it seems like music would be the same kind of experience, but apparently not.

      Reply
      • avecvu

        September 26, 2011

        Well, to be fair, I actually do need to multitask when watching a movie or TV show. Usually I am online or reading or exercising while watching something. Earlier tonight while I was cooking dinner I brought my laptop into the kitchen and watched a TV show at the same time.

        So on that level, for me, it’s not all that dissimilar an experience.

        Reply
        • Christoph Malcolm

          September 27, 2011

          I do watch movies and tv shows in the background, and I can listen to some music that way, too, but all of these are things I also can be completely absorbed in.

          I assume that most people who listen to music exclusively as background noise do focus on movies and things, some of the time. I can’t imagine you could follow Showgirls if you missed even a second of subtlety.

          Reply
  • Sunny

    September 27, 2011

    I listen to music the same way you do, but ONLY if I’m in the dark, wearing headphones. When it’s just on as background noise, I mostly tune it out. I have this weird fear of someone scaring me from behind while wearing headphones though because I can’t hear them, so I don’t use headphones very often. Only at like, 3am when everyone’s sleeping.

    Reply
    • Christoph Malcolm

      September 27, 2011

      I give an advanced warning that I am not to be bothered until I take my headphones off. This probably works about as well with kids as it does with my cats, but they’re more easily thrown on the floor.

      Kids, I mean.

      Reply
  • J-Dawg Emsley

    September 27, 2011

    Unless I’m high, yeah, I don’t really have THAT happen. Not colors and shapes, per se. But everyone can and does create some kind of mental image based on what they’re experiencing with their other senses. I THINK. I’m not a freakin’ scientist but it makes sense to me. You don’t read a book and just see words on a page. You invent pictures in your mind. Same thing goes for music–even music without lyrics.

    If I’m falling asleep, music definitely either turns into a whacked out narrative that I THINK makes sense, but then when I try to grasp the story, I can’t hold onto the logic. OR, it basically turns into a Winamp visualization, which I think is what you’re describing here.

    Either way, my main problem with music is the fact that it affects my mood so goddamn much. I am SO PICKY about it. If some shit comes up on my MP3 player that I’m not in the EXACT right mood for, I feel fucking uncomfortable and wrong.

    I both love and hate music for this reason.

    Reply
    • Christoph Malcolm

      September 27, 2011

      I agree that the mind is probably happy to create imagery to go with sounds, disregarding what form that imagery takes, but it seems this is not as normal as I feel like it should be.

      It seems equally as likely that people just don’t listen to music that way, for various reasons, and would never know either way. I expect it’s very different for everyone.

      Your description of music creating something like a Winamp visualization for you sounds almost definitely synaesthetic. It’s not specifically associating shapes and colors with things, as I understand it, but that your senses are melded together in some way; you see sounds.

      Reply
    • Kimber

      September 28, 2011

      Nah, dude. Music to me is just noises. No pictures, no colours. I don’t even compute lyrics most of the time.

      Reply
      • Christoph Malcolm

        September 29, 2011

        Prepare yourself for a stunning series of tutorials on turning your mind off and being raped by music (trust me, it’s the music), coming to a meadow near you.

        Reply
  • Joey Michaels

    September 28, 2011

    Music produces both physiological and emotional responses in me. Like I feel it with my whole body, not just hear it with my ears. I’m going to go as far as to say that I don’t feel quite complete unless there is some sort of music playing.

    I can experience what you describe as far as seeing images, but only in the dark and only with certain kinds of music. To a certain extent, the music has to be cold, if that makes any sense.

    Reply
    • Christoph Malcolm

      September 29, 2011

      Totally makes sense to me. I always describe Kid A as an icy and aquatic album, which I’ve always thought was intentional. I think this is the sort of thing that makes a lot of people despise Radiohead fans, though.

      Reply
      • Joey Michaels

        September 30, 2011

        Yeah, Kid A is a good example. Lots of late 70’s/early 80’s electronic music (like Kraftwerk) also qualifies, too.

        Aquatic – yeah, that’s exactly right.

        Reply

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