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Synaesthetic music journalists

Get people who know what they're talking about when they talk about music, i.e. jam and socks.
  [vote for,

Music is a difficult thing to describe in words. Anyone who’s ever tried to classify their music collection by genre knows this – do the Beatles count as ‘rock’ or ‘pop’? Or ‘Rock/Pop’? Is Goldfrapp’s ‘Felt Mountain’ album Electronica, or Trip-hop? Or something else? So anyone trying to review music albums is on a losing wicket, as far as I can see. After all, if the words existed, we wouldn’t need the tunes, right?

The problem is a simple one of translating an aural experience into a visual one, something which most of us struggle with. We resort to using adjectives which aren’t designed for the purpose – I mean, music might be described as ‘smooth’, but ‘smooth’ is really a description of texture. And does music have a texture? Well, yes, people say it does… but it’s another appropriation! That’s exactly what I’m talking about. It’s a form of voluntary synaesthesia.

Hmm… Synaesthesia, eh?

Well, yes – it so happens that The Great Juju, in His Infinite Wisdom, bestowed upon some people the gift of innately (some might say ‘involuntarily’) translating sensations from one sense to another. So music, for them, will automatically manifests itself as a texture, or a colour, or a smell or who knows what. The point is, these are easier things to describe than the original music. Therefore, music journalists should be recruited only from the ranks of synaesthetics.

Music journalists should be synaesthetists. Synaesthetics. People who suffer from synaesthesia, you know what I mean. Then we can look forward to descriptions of, say, Verdi’s Rigolleto as being “slightly more corrugated than I expected” or Jay-Z as “enjoyably purple”. Personally, I’ve always thought of Jarvis Cocker as slightly rippled with a flat underside, in a sort of dirty pink. And what does Tom Waits smell like?

I think this will improve our understanding, both of the music, and of synaesthesia itself. The only slight downside is that, according to the sketchy knowledge of the condition which I picked up from half-listening to something on the radio about a zillion years ago, no two synaesthetics experience the world in quite the same way. This is unfortunate, but, well, if people were all equally wiggly with the texture of net curtain, we'd get tired of listening to one another, right?

moomintroll, Jun 24 2010

Where’s the testing, the measuring, the verification? http://brain.oxford.../abstract/118/3/661
Notice the third author [mouseposture, Jun 24 2010]


       Very interesting idea. I think it could work as a novelty type thing, but it won't be a real substitute for traditional music journalism which goes beyond merely pinpointing the genre and delves into who the band sounds like. I love hearing something like "a dark but lively mix between eminem and shakira", buying the record out of disbelief, and getting to grasp the comparison as I listen.
daseva, Jun 24 2010

       The part of your idea that works relies on shared culture, has nothing to do with synaesthesia and is quite brown and crispy.   

       But the actual synaesthesia part doesn't work. Bone.
FlyingToaster, Jun 24 2010

       To answer your question, [moomintroll], Goldfrapp is most definitely synth-pop.
DrWorm, Jun 24 2010

       Apparently Amazon thinks Portishead's "Dummy" is 'Dance & DJ'. I guess that's what comes of downloading music (itself probably frowned upon) from a bookshop.
moomintroll, Jun 24 2010

       Since when was "D.J." a genre of music? Anyway, this is a wonderful idea for a blog.
DrWorm, Jun 24 2010

       Pursue that line of reasoning far enough, and you arrive at solipsism, or at least disbelief in others' subjective experience.   

       I reject solipsism; from that premise, I arrive at the logical conclusion: "It is always right to accept what [Ian_Tindale] says."
mouseposture, Jun 24 2010

       Well, he is wrong. If you put a hundred 5s and only one S on a page and ask someone without the condition to find the S it will take much longer than a synesthete. This is because the synesthete sees the color difference between the S and the 5 and so it simply stands out blaringly for them.
daseva, Jun 24 2010

       That's an interesting distinction [IT]. My personal feeling on this is the same as my feeling about autism - namely, that it's one extreme of a normal distribution of behaviours. Maybe we're all a little bit synaesthetic, and that's why adjectives from one sense (touch, sight, etc.) are so often re-allocated to experiences in another (music, food, etc.). I don't think that invalidates synaesthesia as a description of behaviour, or even as a condition.   

       I would love to see that description of Slade's "My Friend Stan" printed in NME.   

       Anyway [daseva], there's no reason why synaesthetes wouldn't be perfectly able to do all the stuff that the current crop of music journalists do, in terms of comparing music. But they'd be able to bring a whole new dimension to the genre.   

       In the interests of honesty, I ought to say that my opinion of music journalism generally is roughly on a par with [IT]'s opinion of synaesthesia.
moomintroll, Jun 25 2010


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