One day when I was sixteen, I realized that I could see music. The saxophone I played and the jazz I loved listening to came to life before my eyes, or perhaps behind my eyes, in shape and color — little animated characters at first, then something more abstract. By the time I was nineteen, I perceived even letters, numbers, and days of the week to have distinct colors. 5 is blue, 3 is red, without a shade of doubt. It was years until I learned that I was not alone — I had a rare neurological condition called synesthesia, a sort of crossing of sensory channels in which stimulation in one channel produces a response in another. Synesthetes can thus hear colors, see sounds, or taste smells, depending on the variety of synesthesia they have.
As a child playing the piano, long before my first conscious synesthetic experience, I was fascinated by how even the tiniest alteration in the position of my fingers could change the harmony completely. These shape-shifting harmonies had emotional undertones for me – I felt like they were taking me on a journey, telling me a story, nowhere more powerfully than in the most famous Bach prelude. It became a dream of mine to create an animation that conveyed this emotional voyage of harmony.
From Israeli artist and musician Michal Levy, with the help of her friend, animator Hagai Azaz, this is Dance of Harmony, a short that connects chords to colors, shapes, and motions “for those who can’t experience synesthesia directly.” The visualization translates Johann Sebastian Bach‘s Prelude in C Major, The Well Tempered Clavier, performed on piano by Kwon Soon Hwon.
Next: René Jodoin’s Notes on a Triangle (1966), Cubits (1978) by Al Jarnow, and Bach, Prelude in C-sharp major, WTC I, BWV 848, animated.