Skip to comments.Science says Kandinsky was right – paintings can be heard
Posted on 09/04/2006 7:37:26 PM PDT by Marius3188
We all link music and art, but only a tiny minority of us is aware of the crossover of senses in our brains, according to a UCL (University College London) neuroscientist, speaking today at the BA Festival of Science. New research has found that vision and hearing are inextricably interlinked in everyones brain, but only synaesthetes, who have a rare condition in which the senses mingle, are conscious of it.
The results show that most of us prefer image and sound combined, rather than either in isolation. We also tend to agree on which images match particular sounds. This could have implications for how we understand art and develop art forms that combine visual images with sound such as ballet, opera, visual jockeying and animation.
In his talk at the Beautiful Brains symposium, Dr Jamie Ward, of the UCL Department of Psychology, said: Kandinsky wanted to make visual art more like music more abstract. He also hoped that his paintings would be heard by his audiences. This seems more achievable now that we have found such a strong link between vision and hearing.
Although information from the world enters our heads via different sensory organs the eyes and ears in this instance once they are in the brain they are intimately connected with each other. Impressively, they are connected in non-random ways, so that some combinations of sound and vision go together better than others.
During a series of experiments, Dr Ward asked six synaesthetes to draw and describe their visual experiences of music played by the New London Orchestra. A control group of six people without the condition were asked to do the same. Animated films, combining the music and drawn images were created by an animator, Sam Moore of the University of Wolverhampton, and shown to the public visiting Londons Science Museum. A hundred images were shown to over 200 people and these visitors were asked to choose the image that provided the best fit to the music. Respondents consistently chose the images drawn by synaesthetes over control images. This shows that while people without synaesthesia are not able to hear a painting or see a piece of music in a literal sense, they are able to sense the crossover and tend to choose the correct image.
Dr Ward said: While some synaesthetes can actually hear a Kandinsky in a very real way, the rest of us dont have such a pronounced crossover of senses. But, this research shows that all of us have links between our hearing and vision even if we dont really realise it. We hope that understanding synaesthesia will enable us to understand more about how our senses are linked in our brains, and how this may help us create and appreciate works of art that combine music and sound.
Describing Composition VIII, 1923 by Kandinsky, one synaesthete said: The jumbled mass of lines gave various tones, which changed as my eyes travelled round the picture. When looking at the large multicoloured powerful circle at upper left, I get a pure tone which can be too much, so to relieve my mind of this I travel back to the cacophony of jumbled lines and shapes. This painting therefore is a good balance of contrasting noise pure tones and cacophony which was a delight to see. The more I looked at it, the more I came to appreciate the image and to like the music.
Another synaesthete, describes her experience of this painting: There is a huge splurge of sound left-hand top booming and vulgar! Below it is a mousy little meee sound which then translates into ohs and ahs and pops at the various circles. The lines are sharp and are moving to the right with the sound of steel like blades scraping against one another. The triangle and boomerang shape are surprised and pop up laughing with a whooo.
The next stage of the research will use brain scans to look at what happens in the brain of synaesthetes when Kandinsky triggers sound or when sound triggers a Kandinsky-like vision.
Source: University College London
That picture gives me the creeps. It's like the voice follows you wherever you go.
I gotta see this picture...
Supposedly shrooms help.
"Hey, I suck!"
Hillary's campaign poster???
"The Scream" is not exactly musical -- it's the sound of countless leftwing demagogues wailing at the universe.... that's why people like Howie Dean are so unbearable to anyone who's not already deranged.
That one quotes the counselor on South Park.
"Drugs are bad, M'kay?"
This puts new meaning into the phrase: "If these walls could talk".
How do we know they can't?
I don't know if this is a related topic, but I read a fascinating article a few years ago about the aurora borealis (northern lights). Many people who see them swear that they can hear hissing a crackling sounds emanating from the sky above, but these lights make no sound whatsoever.
"Swallowing colors of the sounds I hear..."
Diary of a Madman, 1981
Sorry, had to quote it, first thing that came to mind when I read the headline.
I can't help but love Ozzy.
My sis bought that one.
As long as I've known about synaesthetes, I've been jealous of them.
I have always been aware that I don't hear as well when I don't have my glasses on!
That's Hillary's voice.
That painting is so ugly.
As an aside, everyone try this...someone showed us this at dinner tonight and it is along the same lines of understanding how the brain works. While sitting in a chair, pick your right foot off of the ground and rotate it in a clockwise motion. While doing so, draw the number six in the air in front of you with your right hand. Your foot will automatically change direction. Tell me if it worked for you...it did for everyone at the table.
I believe in this stuff, and I find it fascinating. There was a book about this, The Man Who Tasted Shapes, or something. Interesting!
I think "Ancient Bells" is a better, if less literal, translation.
It's not as completely exotic as people might tend to think. Our language is full of synaesthetic concepts ... blue moods, loud colors, cold stares, etcetera. The cases that get written about take this sort of thing to an entirely different level, though. The one I recall was a man that consistently saw letters and numerals in specific colors. As a part of the testing he underwent, in page after page of dense text, he consistently zoomed in on the number "3" because to him, it was red and stood out vividly. He took next to no time to find them, when a control group, not synaesthetes, had to read the text to do so, and took a fair amount of time. They concluded that, for whatever reason, this man actually did see written symbols in the manner he described. It was one of the breakthroughs in studying the condition.
I can accept that perhaps they hear something. I am curious whether they all hear the same thing.
I seem to recall reading about a blind woman who could distinguish colors by feel-she would run her fingers over fabric swatches, and (correctly) identify the colors. I'm guessing hypersensitivity to the various dyes and pigments used, but it's been ages since I read about her-not sure what if any answer was given at the time.
Which begs the question:
"Is it still stolen if a famous painting is lifted from a museum and no one hears it Scream?"
I've been busy getting school materials together, but I hope to get back to a light ping habit. :)
I wish I even had time to respond to the comments on this fascinating article. But classes start tomorrow, and there is much to do....
It's interesting but not unexpected. Speaking for myself, I tend to "see" music in terms of shapes, motions, and colors. I also tend to see mathematics in a similar way.... I guess it just goes to show that the brain is pretty non-linear.
Sound recording is a two-edged invention, and it is most probable that its use will proceed along the line of least resistance, i.e., along the line of satisfying simple curiosity.
In the first place there will be commercial exploitation of the most salable merchandise, TALKING FILMS. Those in which sound recording will proceed on a naturalistic level, exactly corresponding with the movement on the screen, and providing a certain "illusion" of talking people, of audible objects, etc.
A first period of sensations does not injure the development of a new art, but it is the second period that is fearful in this case, a second period that will take the place of the fading virginity and purity of this first perception of new technical possibilities, and will assert an epoch of its automatic utilization for "highly cultured dramas" and other photographed performances of a theatrical sort.
To use sound in this way will destroy the culture of montage, for every ADHESION of sound to a visual montage piece increases its inertia as a montage piece, and increases the independence of its meaning-and this will undubtedly be to the detriment of montage, operating in the first place not on the montage pieces but on their JUXTAPOSITION.
ONLY A CONTRAPUNTAL USE of sound in relation to the visual montage piece will afford a new potentiality of montage development and perfection.
Eisenstein, Pudovkin, Alexandrov: A Statement (1928)
LOL! I didn't mean 'your' response. I was talking about liberals response in general. Sorry about the misunderstanding.
Great question. I would like to know the answer to that also.
In Germany, to be blue is to be drunk.
And every time I see that picture of Helen Thomas I always hear in the back of my head the Brown Noise from the recorder concert episode of South Park.
My son sees certain colors when he plays piano (especially Bach) so it shouldn't be so unusual, really.
Was it about Elton John?
no problem. Nothing except death will keep me from voting Republican...except if I'm in Chicago.
Anyone thqt would call that art should be locked up!
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