Synesthesia is an idea beyond my grasp.
Somehow, the synesthesic’s sensory wiring is crossed in a way that allows shapes to have taste; or for them to hear colors or feel flavors. Is it even possible to smell a shape? Imagine serving dinner to a guest, only to have them explain that the carrots are too square, then ask for a combination of spices and condiments to adjust the flavor until they’re sufficiently round. An early work of American composer Michael Torke, “Color Music,” comes from his own synesthesia. Explaining this to someone with standard wiring—someone like myself—is akin to explaining ambidexterity to a double amputee. The degree and extent of my desire to “put this on” for a day can never be quenched.
But sound as a single sense, sound on its own, has the power to transport. Especially music. Just now I’m immersed in two pieces—one of them relatively old (from the soundtrack of a 1965 film); the other very new—each of which has had enormous effect on my emotional state. [And I should confirm right now that the effect has been positive, lest you call the paramedics.] The film score was written for “Bunny Lake Is Missing,” from director Otto Preminger. Anyone under thirty won’t recognize the actors’ names: Keir Dullea, Carol Lynley, Laurence Olivier, and even a cameo by Noël Coward. The plot’s been treated since but not as well—and in black-and-white, no less. And the opening theme by composer Paul Glass haunts me yet, from the evening I saw the film at Norman, Oklahoma’s Sooner Theatre. I was a sophomore and impressionable. [Glass’s theme plays to my wistful side and that’s always dangerous. I’m already thinking of ways to adapt it for an upcoming event.] But Friday’s mail brought a new CD and, with it, a new pleasure, one that triggers a feeling I don’t often recollect: outright, downright, unmitigated, unadulterated joy.
Imagine twenty-four hours in Miami, from dawn to early the next morning under the stars. Imagine twelve musical moments during that day. Now, imagine ten grand pianos playing Michael Torke’s “Miami Grands,” for whom it was written. Now, play Track #8. If your heart does not swell with life and your chest nearly burst with good will for your fellow creatures, then you have the heart of a Wall Street hedge fund broker and fully deserve the hell that must be your every waking moment.
In due course, I will link this piece with the moments that have surrounded its discovery. If you ever hear Track #8—and I hope you do—it may accomplish for you what it has for me this week of downcast spirit and bureaucratic malaise. But I offer it anyway this afternoon, like balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul.