Synesthesia, Part 2

"Synesthesia is a condition in which one sense (for example, hearing) is simultaneously perceived as if by one or more additional senses such as sight. Another form of synesthesia joins objects such as letters, shapes, numbers or people's names with a sensory perception such as smell, color or flavor. The word synesthesia comes from two Greek words, syn (together) and aisthesis (perception). Therefore, synesthesia literally means "joined perception."


I see music visually… 

To me everything, even improvisation, is made up of patterns. But not just patterns of sounds or notes, I tend to experience things as patterns of movement, geometric shapes in mid-air. I memorize my music as these shapes & patterns. Even my percussion and Gong set ups are organized in such a way as to facilitate these patterns.

I wrote a 3-part series on my idea of Percussion Maps, explaining how to play things based on your own personal geometric maps of sounds for Modern Drummer magazine years ago. Needless to say, it was never published—I naively believed everyone thought like I do! So it is only over time that I have come to realize that I see/experience the world differently than others (that explains my difficulty in traditional school settings). 

A good example of this map idea, is the written score for my Kulintang solo, Geometrica. In place of traditional notation, I use 3 basic geometric figures: the line, the triangle, and the square. The movement of the piece finds each hand playing a different pattern on the Gongs. In one sequence, the left hand is playing a square (4-notes), while the right hand is playing a triangle (3-notes). These patterns are then moved up and down the 8 Gongs. In another part, one hand plays a triangle, while the other plays a line (2-notes).

You can listen to this piece here.  Below is the graphical score:

Here are the Kulintang Gongs


Coming up will be the 3-part series on Percussion Maps.

~ MB

Geometrica © 2003 Michael Bettine. Published by Intuitive Arts Media (IAM), reprinted with kind permission.


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