to hear the world
with new eyes:
a cultural history of the synesthetic
and cross-sensory arts
Synesthesia, a word derived from the Greek term meaning "unity of the senses," is a neurological condition that involves perceiving multiple forms of sensory information from one sensory input, such as "hearing colors" or "tasting sounds." Though only extant in a tiny portion of the whole human population, its influence upon the arts has been considerable, and this influence has increased exponentially as more accessible and powerful technological means have offered more convincing portrayals of the synesthetic state. Meanwhile, an uptick in the amount of serious neurological research on the subject has raised questions about the essentiality of synesthesia to the evolution of the human species, causing many to understand the synesthetic condition as a vestigial remnant that could sufficiently explain the development of all human expression. Unsurprisingly, synesthetic research has become one of the more reliable points of collaboration between artistic and scientific disciplines.
The discrepancy between artistic / idealistic interpretations of synesthetic phenomena and clinical synesthetes' phenomenological understanding of the world makes for an interesting friction, and for a state in which most "synesthetic" artworks do in fact fail to accurately simulate the condition of synesthesia. However, the failures to create an intellectually rigorous form of synesthetic art are still thoroughly investigated here, since both the artworks and the motivations behind them often point to a passion for reconciliation, e.g. between rational and irrational modes of thought. This book aims not to be a textbook on synesthesia proper, but a catalog of the different ways in which synesthesia has been used as either a metaphor for, or enabler of, a broader synthesis. From Richard Wagner to Iannis Xenakis, from the concept of the Gesamtkunstwerk to computerized instruments that interpret graphic data as sound, more of the radical creativity of the modern age has been bound up with synesthetic inspiration than is often realized.
Like TBWB's previous two volumes before it, To Hear The World With New Eyes aims to provide one of the most accessible English-language overviews of its subject. The first edition, graced with a handsome design and layout by regular collaborator Susana Lopez, features over 300 pages of information-rich material along with a complete bibliography and index.
This title is published via SONM in Spain and the Francisco Lopez Foundation, and distributed with the aid of the Puertas de Castilla cultural center in Murcia.
Please note that the original print run of this title (originally released in September 2016) is sold out. While preparations are being made for a re-print, I encourage anyone interested in a copy to contact me personally: core (at) tbwb (dot) net.