Co.Design

What Is Synesthesia Like? Watch These Videos for a Taste

Israeli artist/musician Michal Levy is synesthetic: she sees sounds and hears colors. And through her spellbinding short films, she can replicate this experience for the rest of us.

The mental condition called "synesthesia" sounds like a bong-hitting undergrad's dream come true: crossed sensory wires in the brain can make a person involuntarily -- and literally -- hear sounds from images, see colors from music, even experience taste sensations when certain words are spoken (although that is rare). Sounds like a trip -- sign me up, dude!

But if you're not into channeling Hunter Thompson, you can watch Michal Levy's films instead. She's synesthetic, and creates delightfully designed animations based on the involuntary sensations she gets from jazz music. Here's her latest, in which an audio waveform becomes a pulsing, dancing skyline before morphing into a gorgeous riot of colorful audio-visual abstractions.

Interestingly, Levy's process materials and sketches offer an even more literal depiction of what synesthesia might feel like than the video itself. Rectilinear order collides with hallucinogenic chroma, and recognizable images co-mingle with purely abstract sense-impressions:

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In the sketch above, notes on musical rhythm are expressed in terms of geometric shapes. images © Michal Levy

Of course, one might say as much about a toddler's scribbles. What lifts Levy's art to the next level is her ability to transform these ineffable qualia into meaningful visual narratives using the basic principles of design: balance, proportion, scale, and variations on a theme.

Here's an earlier film called "Giant Steps," in which Levy applies her controlled-chaos synesthetic design to a John Coltrane song:

For those of us unwilling to take the necessary drugs to experience synesthesia more, um, literally, Michal Levy's films are the next best thing.

[Read more at Brain Pickings]

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