B: The Note of Love

Music is composed of notes and chords, regardless of the instrument. All of them are denoted by a letter, from A to G, usually beginning with C. Each letter is about a tone away from each other - two steps of frequency in sound. One step is a semi-tone - considered the smallest differentiation between frequencies. In musical terms, one step between letters is called a 'flat' or 'sharp' - C, C#, D, D#. In terms of chords, all are made up of a combination of notes played at the same time. Each has a major and a minor - usually the difference is one note within the chord being flat or sharp.

I start with this quick explanation because I want to focus on one particular note and chord. Every frequency generate a corresponding synesthetic response, of course, and when certain notes are used together - D major and A minor, for instance - a synesthetic context and feeling is generated. B major and minor stand above all others as having a specific context of compassion and love.

That's a big statement - to love is a deep feeling - but over the last six years or so, it's been very evident to me, ever since I came across a Madness song called 'Not Home Today.' If anything in this world causes me great emotion it's my synesthetic responses to music, and the use of that note or chord in context with what's around it gives me that deep reaction.

Lyrically, that song talks about wrongful persecution and the music is understandably sombre and doom-predicting. You get a feel of someone waiting for and expecting bad news, particularly in the song's bridge. From what I've read of that chord, it was regarded as the chord of 'utter despair' in the Baroque Period, and looked at as a key not recommended for music in good taste. The song uses two minors as the main piano chords during the verses - E minor and B minor. Both are sombre-sounding.

The element that really popped out at me in the song wasn't the chords exactly, but the one lone B note played almost randomly near the end of the first verse. You can't hear it very well. It's something you wouldn't notice at all unless you knew about it and when Mike Barson, the pianist, played it. It's buried underneath all the louder instruments, heard for perhaps hardly a millisecond. I discovered it after removing the centre channel extractor while listening to the song (a trick that removes the vocals, bass, drums and other dominant instruments). Immediately I saw a present deepness, or emotion. A present love of sort.

I've since noticed and elevated it in other songs. There's a musical bit during the song 'Wouldn't it be Good' by Nik Kershaw including a keyboard synth, bass, drums, and an underlying mellower synth. It plays B major while the bass and mellow synth plays E. Instant euphoria thanks to that feeling of passion or togetherness. That bit of music is hardly a second long. Interestingly, most of the songs these moments appear in are negative or almost depressing songs.

I've connected it to real life. Automatically, when I've had real deep feelings for someone, they show up in my thoughts, like a presence, when I hear an obvious B in a song. It's like they relate. Like I connect what I hear as an auditory love to an actual person I feel the same way for. This has happened only once.

I can't explain very definitely why I feel this way or synesthetically translate that sound, that frequency, that note, chord, into those feelings, but it's a very constant aspect of how I think and feel. If one thing in life makes me feel euphoria, it's synesthetic meshing or simply that way of thinking itself at work. My outlook on life or past experiences may have influence, and experiences with my paternal family definitely do, but in many ways - this is one of life's big, welcoming, enjoyable mysteries.

A larger, in-depth explanation of this (and my working it out) can be found on my blog.

 

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Justin Scott Campbell (born June 22nd, 1991) is a writer & photographer from Ottawa, Canada. He holds a diploma in Photography and is completing one in writing. His interests particularly include writing songs both lyrically and musically, archiving and taking aerial photos, keeping records, and sometimes researching human attraction. He was diagnosed at the age of twelve as high-functioning with Asperger’s Syndrome, an Autism Spectrum disorder, and was born with Synesthesia. He is an only child, left-handed, hates math and loves uniqueness, or originality.

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Point-Blank Meshing

To experience euphoria is a pretty amazing thing. It’s something, I think, that is difficult to experience in life. There’s happiness and contentment and that feeling of well-being, but euphoria is on a different level altogether.

With my synesthesia comes a whole lot of personification. Think of it as you like someone and certain things remind you of their idiosyncrasies, or their name or something about them. They like a band and you see a poster of that band, reminding you of that person and by extension their like of that band. As soon as I get to know someone, or I like someone or particularly have feelings for a person, the most minute characteristics and bits of their personality start being virtually ‘flung in my face’ via music.

Visualize it this way: With the spatial context, instruments and cues ascending or descending in notes are literally going up or down or away or changing in space. Then imagery comes along almost as a backdrop, and the kind of textures or shapes I see that make up the structure of comprehension of their personality and traits mesh, and often it will adapt to those musical shapes perfectly. I suddenly ‘see’ a person and their personality meshing with what I’m enjoying, and often it gives me euphoria.

It says something about the thoughts and the feelings involved. ‘Echo Beach’ by Martha and the Muffins is a good example. In the chorus, the bass is ascending in notes quickly. GG-AA-BB-CC-DD-D…notice the separate ‘D’ note at the end that is played kind of extra and off from the other notes. It is in line with the guitar, which is sort of strummed once, quickly, at the beginning, fades…and then suddenly strums twice in staccato at the same time as the last two D notes of the bass. The chord at the beginning is different from the second two at the end, probably a G chord and then a D chord. Strummed twice in staccato. That’s an important aspect I’ll explain later. Alongside all of this plays an organ of sustained notes. F# (sharp). From the beginning to the second ‘D’ note, it stays there, and then goes to F. F#.....F-D-F-F#....

 

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This is a three-second piece of music of course. I added the lyric below the diagram to give it some context of how long this bit is. Very short. But add in the people. The literal bass line I added is just a kind of guideline for everything else to follow, I don’t really see anyone in particular (unless it’s me) when I hear it. But the guitar and organ are different stories altogether. My friend Arthur is a positive, enthusiastic person who will boastfully greet anyone that pays the smallest of attention to him. When I think of him I think of someone who enjoys fun and interaction. And when I hear the guitar as it strums those two staccato notes, his enthusiasm and interest suddenly becomes so instantly obvious that it makes me happy. It’s almost like hearing his loud, happy greeting (“Yes Boss!”). The organ has always been a feminine sound to me, and it has always made me think of certain female faces, a type that I tend to be attracted to. It’s a happy sound and it’s like things are moving smoothly and happily, the way the note is sustained while the bass changes notes alongside it. Perhaps the bass is like the movement of time, the way it ascends.

If I were to see Arthur and one of the girls I’ve known who has that face together wit that song’s chorus playing, it would mesh the positive attributes I see them them together perfectly and it’s like I have visual accompaniment with the two people actually near each other, so that perfection gives me that elusive euphoria. It matches. It’s perfect. It’s taking everything I like about them – and throwing it point-blank in my face, making everything just happy and awesome. Euphoria.

I have an entire article on my personal blog about synesthesia and how I see the B major/minor chord. 


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Justin S. Campbell

Justin Scott Campbell (born June 22nd, 1991) is a writer & photographer from Ottawa, Canada. He holds a diploma in Photography and is completing one in writing. His interests particularly include writing songs both lyrically and musically, archiving and taking aerial photos, keeping records, and sometimes researching human attraction. He was diagnosed at the age of twelve as high-functioning with Asperger’s Syndrome, an Autism Spectrum disorder, and was born with Synesthesia. He is an only child, left-handed, hates math and loves uniqueness, or originality.

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Recalling Shapes & Forms

I’ll be sitting on my computer doing something or other – writing, or reading – and the TV will be on in the background. At any point in the future, if I re-read what I was reading or writing, the background textures and colours will return and I’ll remember what was on the TV while reading what I was doing.

It’s a very normal thing for me. Everything I recall comes in an image form, or a textured form, the texture representing context. One day, I came to class and heard someone do a presentation on a certain literary figure; the night before, through complete coincidence, I’d read a Wikipedia article on the same figure. When the presenter gave information that was word-for-word from the article, every texture and spatial reference/scene immediately popped up in my mind as she spoke the words I’d read.

Everything I touch produces an image or texture, and everything I recall produces the same thing. You could call it a poor eidetic memory almost, because imagery is involved but in a very strictly focused way. Someone got down and looked up at me, about to give me words of support. The image I recall is brightness due to the sunny day and her bright green-hazel eyes. Some words she said, all verbal, the tone of her voice. Its colour and accompanying texture.

This whole memory recall is very temperamental. It’s probably the case for everyone that they will remember what they want to remember while disregarding other things. Like being told, last week, to clean the kitchen or the litter boxes. Certainly I’m similar. The thing I find makes my thinking different in part is its spatial awareness. Everything is facing a direction, and there’s a sort of backdrop. I even assign direction to what I’m looking at. For instance, looking at this page in Word on my computer prior to posting, I automatically assigned it a west direction, even though my screen is facing north and I’m looking south at it.

To conclude on this, the interesting thing I find with this is the complete randomness of imagery I’m able to recall. And I mean of the things I find interesting. There’s probably a level of interest to it as well that can be gauged, because I’ve forgotten things of mild interest to me as well as remembered things that were quite boring.


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Justin S. Campbell

Justin Scott Campbell (born June 22nd, 1991) is a writer & photographer from Ottawa, Canada. He holds a diploma in Photography and is completing one in writing. His interests particularly include writing songs both lyrically and musically, archiving and taking aerial photos, keeping records, and sometimes researching human attraction. He was diagnosed at the age of twelve as high-functioning with Asperger’s Syndrome, an Autism Spectrum disorder, and was born with Synesthesia. He is an only child, left-handed, hates math and loves uniqueness, or originality.

The Ottawan | Next | Twitter | Scribeslice | 

The Synesthetic Mindset

 I discovered I had synesthesia through a Wikipedia article. I was interested in what it had to say about the 2006 film Stranger Than Fiction, a film about an insurance auditor whose life is narrated by an omniscient voice, and the article had theories on where the character’s onscreen thought process came from. Synesthesia was a main suggestion, and I ended up discovering that my own thought process was not like everyone else’s.

 

There’s also the synesthetic one. And in that, you have even more different categories.

Synesthesia is a completely different mindset. It’s like a mash-up similar to what I mentioned above, but all via colour or texture. Some people have grapheme-colour synesthesia – words or meanings are coloured a certain way. One is orange, two is blue, three is violet and so on. The days of the week are categorized by colour. Others see a colour or texture – and it reminds them of a certain smell, or gives it to them. Or perhaps they see a purple shirt and it’s visually "loud" to them.

The type I’m going to focus on, the type I have, is sound-colour synesthesia. Some have very light perceptions through this – only certain sounds, or music, gives them a full colourful perception. My synesthesia combines sound-colour with spatial perception and mild imagery recall. It’s a mixture but I’ll be focusing more on the sound-colour aspect.

I use sound-colour synesthesia to comprehend everything in general, meaning it’s not merely dependent on sound and not just colours with a spatial sense. Textures are involved as well, combined with some imagery.

My own synesthetic 'backdrop' of the Phil Collins song 'Another Day in Paradise'

My own synesthetic 'backdrop' of the Phil Collins song 'Another Day in Paradise'

In general, it’s an extremely complicated yet vibrant way of thinking that enables me to think, to remember, to learn music by ear and to respond to things emotionally. In the next few posts I’ll be detailing and touching upon most facets of this mental comprehension, though to be honest it’s so deep and complicated that I’ll be barely scratching the surface. I have many other posts, however, on my other personal blog, The Ottawan (see posts tagged with ‘synesthesia’) if anyone is interested in delving further than what I have to offer here.

Blog Portrait.jpg

Justin S. Campbell

Justin Scott Campbell (born June 22nd, 1991) is a writer & photographer from Ottawa, Canada. He holds a diploma in Photography and is completing one in writing. His interests particularly include writing songs both lyrically and musically, archiving and taking aerial photos, keeping records, and sometimes researching human attraction. He was diagnosed at the age of twelve as high-functioning with Asperger’s Syndrome, an Autism Spectrum disorder, and was born with Synesthesia. He is an only child, left-handed, hates math and loves uniqueness, or originality.

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