While Daniel’s guitar gently weeps…

Greetings to one and all! A Reader recently asked me about the idea of “chromaticism” in music, and was wondering if this relates to synesthesia, for example in statements such as: “the bass in ‘Evil’ is very red” or “the rhythm of ‘C’mere’ is kind of orange and bright.” Dear Reader also mentioned a quote from URB magazine’s OLTA review:

“Daniel Kessler’s precision guitar weeps become borderline synesthetic.”

– Chromaticism is a music theoretical term with a centuries-long history, but the way it’s used today is fairly straight-forward: chromatic notes are those that lie outside of the diatonic scale being used in the piece. There is also something called the chromatic scale, which contains all of the notes (12 of them) that we here in the Western world traditionally use. So, chromatic notes add “color” to the 7 note diatonic scale.

– Though a direct connection between chromatic notes and synesthesia has not been made (to my knowledge), it would make sense to me that music that ventures here-and-there outside of its standard scale (a.k.a. diatonic) would sound more affective and therefore be more prone to produce vivid visualization (thus, synesthesia, or, sensation modality transfer).

– I relate this to another quote, made by Daniel Kessler, also sent to me by Dear Reader:

I’ve been learning to play [the piano] for some time already. It’s going pretty good, although I’ve neglected practice recently because of all the travelling. Still, it’s one of the most pleasant things that are waiting for me after I get back to NY. When playing a guitar, it’s all about conveying what and how I feel, my sensibility. The theoretical knowledge seems to have less significant meaning. To play a piano, you’ve got to have a good technique. Maybe someday I’ll learn to compose with it. I’m taking my time.

– Kessler makes it clear that for him, guitar = sensibility (expression), and piano = theory (technique). It is easier for him, when playing the guitar, to go outside the boundaries of standard chords and scales and create “guitar weepings” that are “borderline synesthetic,” while the piano requires him to be conscious of standard chords and scales.

– This makes sense to me, because on a keyboard you have the chromatic scale lined up key after key, and it’s very obvious where the pattern recycles—the piano, being a later invention than the guitar, is pretty much ready-made for diatonicism (i.e., the standard chords/scales) in its clear presentation of all the available notes. However, on a guitar, the pattern repetitions aren’t as clear, as you have strings that are laid out at not entirely consistent intervals (E up a 4th to A up a 4th to D up a 4th to G up a 3rd to B up a 4th to E) as well as all the notes that are contained on each string.

– Well, I know this was a bit theory-heavy, but I hope it made sense! Thanks for the question, Dear Reader. Next up, another selection from the “favorite seconds” thread. And remember, I’m always eager to get your questions/comments!

Much love,
Meg

P.S. Anyone out there experiencing synesthesia while listening to Interpol’s music? If so, let us know!

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~ by megwilhoite on July 20, 2008.

One Response to “While Daniel’s guitar gently weeps…”

  1. Yes, but then again it happens with most music.

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